Thursday, September 6, 2007

Griffith Stadium Field design
The distance fences were no problem for sluggers like Josh Gibson, Mickey Mantle and the Senators' own youngster Harmon Killebrew. Gibson is reported to have hit baseballs over the left field bleachers twice. Babe Ruth hit near-500 foot drives over the center and right-center walls on consecutive days in May, 1921. Mantle hit one that was so impressive that someone tried to determine its flight with some precision, thus popularizing the term "Tape Measure Home Run". It was alleged to be 565 feet, although it bounced off the top of the back wall of the bleachers, adding some distance to its flight path.
Aside from some championship seasons in the early 1920s and 1930s, the Senators teams that played at Griffith Stadium were legendarily bad. The hapless Washington team became the butt of a well-known Vaudeville joke, "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League," a twist on the famous "Light Horse Harry" Lee eulogy of George Washington: "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen". (A similar phrasing was once used for the St. Louis Browns: "First in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American League.")
Supposedly, Senators groundskeepers ensured that it was actually slightly downhill towards first base in order to give sluggish Senators players an extra step.
The stadium was still called Griffith Stadium in 1961, even though the original Senators club had become the Minnesota Twins and been replaced by an expansion team, also called the Senators, in Washington.

Final Years
The stadium played hosted to the 1940 and 1942 NFL championship games. The 1940 game was the stunning 73-0 win by the Chicago Bears, the largest shutout game in the history of the National Football League. The 1942 game was essentially a rematch, and this time the undefeated Bears were upset by the 'Skins. According to Richard Whittingham's history of the Chicago Bears (ISBN 0671628852), 'Skins owner George Preston Marshall's pregame "pep talk" to his team consisted solely of Marshall writing "73-0" on the chalkboard.
During a Redskins game against the Philadelphia Eagles, an announcement came over the public-address speakers, informing all generals and admirals to report to their duty stations. The date - December 7, 1941 - the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. The bombing was not explicitly announced over the PA system, leaving the thousands in attendance among the last Americans to learn of the attacks. The Redskins won that final game of the 1941 season by a score of 20-14, and finished with a record of 6-5, third in the NFL East.