MUSIC - The unforgettable fire by U2
Photographed in 1976, 1991 and 2005 using film.
RFK Stadium - Opened in 1961 and is still in use. Known as District of Columbia Stadium (D.C. Stadium for short) 1961 - 1968, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium 1968 - present (R.F.K. Stadium for short).
Location - 2400 E. Capitol St. SE Washington, D.C.
I despised the big 3 of the cookie cutter stadiums, the Vet, Three Rivers and Riverfront. I actually have a soft spot for RFK stadium. It was the first cookie cutter.
"First in war, first in peace, and LAST in the American league." Such was the state of the old Washington Senators baseball team. They were the butt of an old vaudeville joke.
Born on October 1, 1961, as District of Columbia stadium, it replaced the antiquated Griffith stadium as home to the Washington Redskins and the "new" Washington Senators. The stadium is located at 2400 E. Capitol Street, NE. It is also directly in line with the Capitol building and the Washington monument. It was also the first of the God awful "cookie cutter" designed stadiums. Actually, from the air, the roof looks like a semi bent potato chip. The stadium was renamed RFK memorial stadium in January of 1969, after the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. From 1983 - 1984, RFK was home to the Washington Federals of the short lived USFL. It was also home to several pro soccer teams, and is now home to the DC United soccer team. Baseball was brought back to RFK in 2005, when the Montreal Expos relocated to DC. They played here for 3 seasons as the Washington Nationals. In 2008, the Nationals move in to their new, as yet unnamed, park down at the navy yards.
In 1961, the original Washington Senators had moved to Bloomington Minnesota to become the Twins. The American League granted a new Senators franchise to DC, and they were born in 1961. They played their first season in old Griffith stadium. The site for Griffith stadium is now Howard University hospital. The new Senators lasted in DC only 9 seasons. Due to dwindling attendance, and the fact that the new Senators were as bad as the old, Senators owner Robert Short accepted a deal to move his mediocre ballclub to Arlington Texas. The final Senators game played at RFK was on September 30, 1971. The Senators led the Yankees 7-5 with two outs left in the top of the ninth. Fans storm the field and tear up bases, grass patches, and anything else they can find for souvenirs. Security could not stop the fans from tearing apart the stadium, so the Senators had to forfeit the game, 9-0. The only real big stars the new Senators had were massive outfielder Frank Howard, and their last manager, hall of famer Ted Williams. Gil Hodges also managed the Senators before moving on to New York and the Mets. Several seats in the upper deck of RFK are painted white in honor of Hondo Howard's blasts.
The team with the best home field advantage for 36 years had to be the Washington Redskins. Starting in 1961, the Skins were bolstered by their hard core fans. RFK used to literally shake during Redskins games. I saw one game in 1991 and the upper deck was shaking. After a touchdown or a victory, the band would play "Hail to the Redskins." Tickets for the Redskins were and are still hard to get. If you get on a season ticket waiting list, be prepared to wait YEARS to get your seats. Redskin greats such as Sonny Jurgensen, Larry Brown, Billy Kilmer Art Monk and the over the hill gang of the early 70's all played at RFK. After the 1996 season, the Redskins abandoned their home and moved 5 miles to the East to FedEx field in Landover Maryland.
The future may be gloomy for RFK stadium. The Nationals have left after this past season, and now DC united will leave after the 2010 season for their new home. There are rumors that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will sell his FedEx field site (it will be demolished to make room for a housing development), then RFK will be demolished and a new domed stadium will be built on the site. Nothing like WASTING billions of dollars on another new stadium.....
Here are some firsts and lasts for RFK stadium. Starting with the original Washington Senators, they won the first ever baseball game played at DC stadium. On April 9th, 1962 they defeated the Detroit Tigers 4 - 1. Shortstop Bob Johnson hit the first ever home run at DC stadium off Tigers pitcher Don Mossi, and Bennie Daniels got the complete game win. The last ever game for the Senators at RFK was the forfeited game of September 30, 1971. Fittingly, Frank Howard hit the last ever Senators home run off Yankees pitcher Mike Kekich. The last Senators victory at RFK was 2 days earlier as Joe Grzenda got the 4-2 win over the Yankees.
The Nationals began play in 2005, and on their opening day of April 14, 2005, at RFK, defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3. Livan Hernandez got the victory, and Diamondback first baseman Chad Tracy hit the first homerun in the "new" RFK. The first Nats home run was hit that same day by Vinnie Castilla. The lasts for the Nats at RFK took place on September 23, 2007. The Nationals defeated the Phillies 5-3 with Luis Ayala getting the win in relief. The final home run hit at the old yard was launched the day before by Phillies second baseman, Chase Utley. D'Angelo Jimenez had the distinction of hitting the final Nationals home run. On September 18th, he had a pinch hit homerun off Mets reliever Scott Schoeneweis. In the final 3 seasons, RFK stadium was not considered hitter friendly. Deep power alleys, and symmetrical dimensions, plus heavy air kept the home runs down.
The Redskins lost the inaugural event held at DC stadium. On October 1, 1961, the New York Giants defeated the Redskins 24 - 21. The Redskins would not taste victory at the new digs until the final Sunday of the 1961 season. On December 17, 1961, they beat their eventual arch rival Dallas Cowboys, 34 - 24. Ironically, 36 years later in the final NFL game played at RFK, the Redskins defeated ... the Dallas Cowboys 37 - 10 to bring down the curtain on one of the noisiest NFL stadiums ever.
RFK stadium has seen its day. It was hell for opposing NFL teams when they came in to play the Redskins. As a baseball stadium, it was mediocre. Multi purpose stadiums were all the rage in the 60's and 70's, but quickly fell out of favor. In its reincarnation for the Nationals, RFK was cleaned up and made baseball ready. But it was like putting makeup on a 90 year old. RFK has served DC proudly for over 50 years now. The last seasons of sport here will be with DC United soccer, and the occasional rock concert. If what I read comes true, RFK will meet the wrecking ball sometime after 2012. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!
RFK Stadium from 22nd St. N.E. June 2002
Map of where RFK Stadium is. From internet.
Washington Redskins vs. Phoenix Cardinals. You can tell by the picture that the stadium looks like a bent potato chip. Sept 1991
The upper deck that SHOOK. It was a hazy hot, humid day. Sept. 1991
This would be from the right field upper deck looking towards home plate and the third base line. If you look close enough, you will see NO third base dugout. They removed it in the 70's after the Senators left. Sept. 1991
RFK stadium is in a direct line with the Capital and Washington monument. Due to that, some of the light towers must be below the roof line. Sept. 1991
A muuch better shot of the pressbox. Sept. 91
The old football pressbox is to the right in the upper deck. Sept. 1991
Inside the concourse of RFK. Sept. 1991
This is directly behind what was and is now, home plate. It is the baseball pressbox and luxury suites. Sept. 91
A view of the DC armory just south of RFK stadium. Sept. 91
The Redskins were basically unbeatable at RFK for years. The fans were literally right on top of you. RFK was one of the loudest stadiums in NFL history. 9/91
The main entrance to RFK stadium.
Walking into RFK for a Nationals game. May 2005
The ring of honor is gone now, and it had been replaced by a wall of honor in right field. May 2005
Inside the main concourse. May 2005
RFK stadium was the first of the original cookie cutters, and now it is the last. It served the Senators, Redskins and Nationals well. It wasn't very comfortable at the end. Being a multipurpouse facility, it didn't have the charm of some of the other ballparks. We don't know what will happen to RFK after 2010. There are rumors of demolition. But for over 47 years, RFK gave DC lots of thrills. If you close your eyes, you can still here 55,000 people singing "Hail to the Redskins".