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Griffith Stadium

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Home of the Washington Senators (the future Minnesota Twins), 1911 to 1960

Home of the Washington Senators (the future Texas Rangers), 1961

BUILT: 1911

LOCATED: corner of Florida Avenue and 7th Street, NW

CAPACITY: 32,000 (1921); 27,550 (1961)

LAST GAME: September 21, 1961, vs. Minnesota Twins (Twins 6, Senators 3)

  • Interestingly when the expansion Senators played the Twins at Griffith Stadium in the 1961 season, the Griffith family owned the Twins and the park, thus the home team was paying rent to the road team.

OTHER OCCUPANTS: Washington Senators (NFL), 1921; Washington Redskins (NFL), 1937 to 1960; Homestead Grays (NNL), 1940 to 1948, (NAA), 1949 to 1950.

[edit] Description

Griffith Stadium shown prior to the 1941 season home opener.

Griffith Stadium was the long-time home of the first Washington Nationals -- and yes, the American League franchise was, officially at least, called the "Nationals" until 1956 - was the most difficult park in Major Leagues in which to hit a home run.

From 1915, four years after the ballpark opened, until 1955, the year Clark Griffith died and a year before the fences were moved in, very few hitters drove the ball out of the park at Griffith Stadium.

Over that 41-year span, the Washington ballpark yielded the fewest home runs among the sixteen Major League venues in 34 different seasons. From 1933, the last year Washington won the American League pennant, until 1953 - 21 years consecutive years - Griffith Stadium yielded the fewest home runs in the Majors.

Only in 1918 (when Washington hit just 2 homers at home), 1921 and 1927 did Griffith Stadium not lead the league in either fewest home runs by the home team or fewest by the visiting team.

Even in the live ball era, Griffith Stadium yielded an amazingly few home runs, the tops for a season before 1956 being 60 in 1938 - at that, it was still the lowest total in the Majors. The second highest total was 47 in 1932.

In 1945, a year when Washington finished a game and half behind the pennant-winning Detroit Tigers, the team hit just a single home run at home - and it was an inside-the-parker. Opponents hit just 6. In 1924, the year Washington won its only world championship, the team clubbed a single home run in their home park. In 1920, when Babe Ruth alone hit 54 homers, Griffith Stadium yield just 12, 5 for the home team and 7 for the visitors.

Just two players are known to have hit a fair ball out of Griffith Stadium - Mickey Mantle, who hit the famous "565-foot" blast off Chuck Stobbs in 1953, and Josh Gibson, who reportedly did it twice in the 1940s as a member of the Washington-based Homestead Grays.

Clark Griffith, late in his long run as Washington owner, was quoted as having said; "The fans seem to enjoy home runs, so we've assembled a pitching staff to give them what they want."

In fact, however, that never happened in his lifetime.

A Wonder Bread factory was on Georgia Avenue right by the ballpark. Everyone has different memories of the various players and feats at the Stadium, but every Washingtonian who attended games at Griffith Stadium will mention the smell of the baking bread.

Joe Louis defended his World Heavyweight boxing title against Buddy Baer at Griffith Stadium in 1941.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Brett L. Abrams: Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, D.C., McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2009.

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