Griffith Stadium Meets the Wrecking Ball

The site of so many wonderful baseball and football memories, Griffith Stadium, had its life ended by the brutal swings of a wrecking ball in 1965. The hapless doormat of the American League, the Washington Senators stopped playing in there after the 1961 season, after which, the days were numbered.

Howard University was looking to acquire the site for their planned expansion, and they did so for the price of $1.5 million in 1964. The 8 1/2 acre D.C. landmark, which was the site of three World Series‘, two All-Star games, an NFL championship, the longest home-run in Major League history and played host to eight U.S. Presidents, was now destined to become Howard’s new hospital.

A neglected Griffith Stadium in 1965 (source: Flickr user Photoscream)
A neglected Griffith Stadium in 1965 (source: Flickr user Photoscream)

This sad article from the Washington Post on February 12th, 1965, mourns the death of the stadium.

They started knocking the last legs out from under Griffith Stadium yesterday.

Workmen began toppling the eight 150-foot light towers which surround the abandoned ball park and after they’re cut down to size the wreckers’ ball will eat into the bleachers and grandstand.

It was a “ticklish business,” said foreman Roscoe Springer of the General Wrecking Company, as his giant crane maneuvered for elbow room behind the bleachers on narrow 5th st. yesterday.

The crane jockeyed for position most of the morning. Finally, a 20-foot jib was added to the 160-foot boom and work on the first tower progressed quickly after that.

One of the second-story men was forced from the stanchion because its gentle swaying made him dizzy, Springer said.

Another worker, armed with an acetylene torch, sliced the tower in half and the crane delicately lifted the 6-ton top section, which support the lights, free of its legs. Treating it like a giant egg, the boom deposited its lead atop the bleachers.

The metal towers will be sold as scrap metal.

Stripped of its seats and with shoulder-high weeds, the interior of the stadium looked like a disaster area.

Of course the stadium couldn’t stay. All old stadiums have to die eventually (except for Wrigley and Fenway — I can’t believe Yankee Stadium is no more). But, the ghosts of Griffith Stadium are numerous and have a very important connection to the core of this city.

R.I.P. Griffith Stadium (1911 – 1965).

Griffith Stadium from the air in 1960 (Wikipedia)
Griffith Stadium from the air in 1960 (Wikipedia)

Below is a great YouTube video you should watch if you have an interest in learning a little more about the stadium. If any GoDCers were fortunate enough to see a game at the stadium, can you share your experiences with the rest of us in the comments below? We are (finally) experiencing a baseball renaissance in this city and it’s always good to remember the past and connect it to the present.

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  • Jack

    Brotman is confused. The last game at Griffith Stadium was played without incident.

    He is thinking about the last game at RFK before the team moved in 1971.

  • I wish there was more mention of the stadium or the Grays at the location now. There used to be a “Griffith Stadium” location in Foursquare but it appears HU merged that into their campus entry. Sad.

    As for Yankee Stadium; the one recently torn down wasn’t the original and was falling apart. There’s now an NYC park at the location so anyone can play center field in the same spot as Joe D and Mickey Mantle.

    • Ron

      Yeah, I think that most would say that the original Yankee Stadium has been gone since 1973, since so much of it was unceremoniously torn out and replaced during those renovations.

  • Jack

    After I got my drivers license I more or less drove anywhere I wanted to. I explored the city and one day in 1965 I stopped at the stadium. There was nothing to stop me from walking in and I was shocked to see that the field looked like the beginnings of a forest. The weeds were waist high and small trees had already taken root and were growing. It was so shocking to my senses after years of seeing pristine green grass that I occasionally dream about that day.

    It must have been right before they started the demolition. Of course I did not have a camera but who carried a camera in those days?

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  • Jim Casey

    I was born in DC in 1950 and saw my first baseball games there. Sometime my father, brother, and I took the streetcar, sometimes my father drove. I got to see Harmon Killebrew, Jim Lemon, Roy Sievers, and other good players. It was never very crowded except for opening day. One day my older brother and I took the streetcar to the stadium to watch the Redskins practice. At one end, Sam Baker was practicing field goals, and most of the balls were landing in the bleachers, and when he ran out of balls, Sam Baker boosted me up into the bleachers so I could get the balls back for him. My brother was about 13 at the time, and I was 7, and no one thought it was a big deal that we had gone to the stadium by ourselves.

  • Andrew O’Hanlon

    Only hapless post WW 2…..I only remember DC Stadium and Frank Howard was my fav..