Tag Archives: RFK Stadium

Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington D.C. is the current home of DC United soccer and previously the Washington Nationals, Redskins and Senators. Opened in 1961, it saw 36 seasons of Redskins football and 13 seasons of major league baseball.

A new DC United home may be near (and not a moment too soon)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but there may be a new stadium for D.C. United in our time:

Sources: D.C. United and District government finalizing stadium dealThe Post

And not a moment too soon:

Well done X-Men moviemakers, I guess. You just destroyed the most all-time beloved venue of sport in the nation’s capital. There’s no way RFK Stadium would have held up that well in real life too.

In all seriousness, I hope DCU finally gets a new home; I’m withholding any significant emotional investment until I know they’ll be here for the duration. I suppose the Baltimore/Washington/Chesapeake Bayhawks might be interested in that venue as well.

H/Ts

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A fantastic RFK Stadium appreciation in this week’s CityPaper

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Brokedown Palace: RFK Stadium Is a National Treasure, Cracks and AllCityPaper
Robert F. Kennedy Stadium was the home of three Washington teams – Redskins (1961-1997), Senators (1962-71) and Nationals (2005-2007) and is still the home of DC United (1996- ). The “second act” of its life has been as a soccer stadium and that will be its final act as well. When, we’re not sure as DC United tries to get a soccer specific stadium built somewhere. It is a different soccer team though, the U.S. Men’s National Team that is bringing the multi-purpose stadium prototype its final glory.

What newer stadiums have in modern amenities and creature comforts, they frequently lack in atmosphere and character that can only be attained with age. The dented metal floor that makes up much of the 100-level stands is an outdated relic, with an almost unintentional steel drum appearance (and sound). The construction-orange seats, with terrible sight-lines for football but great for soccer, rise and fall at the whim of the excited fans with a soft boom. So many rowdy fans over the years have stood on the seats that they occasionally come crashing down, cracked from more than 50 years of stress. The arc lighting that’s hung at roof level around the stadium gives it a Latin American feel, a rarity in American sports stadia. Many of the bulbs are out, but even those sway ever so slightly when fans go crazy. A broken digital clock hangs over what was home plate for baseball. The awesome creakiness of the place makes RFK feel like an extension of the emotions of the spectators.

A co-worker was at that USMNT win over German on Sunday. He had never been there when it was truly rowdy, so I enlightened him on how it used to rock for Redskins games:

I can still her Pat Summerall saying “RFK STADIUM IS ROCKING” in my head.

In Barry Svrluga’s National Pastime about the 2005 Nats, he mentions that the broadcasters were caught off guard by the press box shaking.

As lovable as RFK is, the facility is simply falling apart. I am still holding out hope that a new DC United stadium can happen soon. When RFK’s time is done, I hope a great sendoff can be given that celebrates all the sports that were played there. That’s an idea for another post.

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Emmett Ashford, first black MLB umpire, made debut at RFK Stadium on this day in 1966

On this day in 1966, the first black umpire made his debut, nearly 19 years to the day after Jackie Robinson made his playing debut. Emmett Ashford umpired third base in the Cleveland Indians vs. Washington Senators Opening Day game at RFK Stadium. Cleveland would defeat Washington, 5-2 before 44,468. BoxscoreBaseball Reference. D.C. Baseball History has more about that game.

The SABR History Project feature on Ashford recalled his first game:

Emmett Ashford’s regular season debut took place on April 9, 1966, in Washington’s D .C. Stadium, the traditional American League opener. His first major league hurdle was getting into the ballpark. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was in attendance to throw out the ceremonial first ball, and the secret service needed to be convinced that a black man was there to umpire the game. Humphrey later kidded Ashford, who had worked at third base, that he hadn’t had any plays to call. “No plays, no boots,” responded Ashford, “but it was the greatest day of my life.” Joe Cronin told his new employee, “Emmett, you made history today. I’m proud of you.”

Ashford’s first home plate assignment came on April 17, 1966 in New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles game (Baseball Reference Boxscore) at Memorial Stadium.

Ashford had been an umpire in the Pacific Coast League for many years and was 51 when his contract was bought out by the American League. From the L.A. Times article Emmett Ashford made history; will he make Hall of Fame?:

Ashford’s dream was to be a major league umpire, a commitment he made when he heard Branch Rickey had signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. But first Ashford had to break the minor league color barrier for umpires, which he did.

There was no mistaking Ashford had style — French cuffs, gleaming cuff links and shoes buffed to a pristine shine. And he always brought a typewriter with him on the road so he could answer fan mail. He signed autographs before and after games.

Ashford stayed on one year past the suggested retirement age, ending his career after the 1970 World Series.

HAT TIP

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My top five baseball games

A while back, Tom Bridge listed his top five baseball memories. I thought, hey, that sounds like fun. Then I got sick, so I’m not just getting back to it. These are all games that I attended. Here they are in no specific order:

Opening Day 2005 Washington @ Philadelphia

I lived in Northern Virginia since before I turned two, but we never had a D.C. baseball team. Five days before the very first Nats game, on a whim, I check Opening Day ticket availability. They had some, but a little pricey. I went on to ebay and found four together at or below face — hit Buy It Now. I called up a friend here and he was in. Then I called a fan in South Jersey who was a Phillies fan and he responded with my invitation wtih “is the Pope German?!” My wife bailed out because she got a job interview that day (got the job). I got to see the first Washington baseball game of my lifetime.

Opening Night 2008 Atlanta @ Washington

Tickets were scarce, but there were ticket lotteries. My family all got in so I could get a chance. My father wound up winning it and he gave me tickets. Walking into brand new Nationals Park I had a feeling that the Nats were finally here for good. The Nats scored early, but a blown save left the game tied. Then Ryan Zimmerman homered off of Pete Moylan and I started screaming “RYAN ZIMMERMAN IS MR. WALKOFF!” I gave him the nickname that night. I felt like a dawn of a new era and an ascending Nats team. They started off 3-0 and after Jesus Colome blew a save in Philly, lost over 100 of their next 158 games.

Strasburg’s debut Pittsburgh @ Washington

In 2010 we all hoped to see Stephen Strasburg’s debut, but I decided I wasn’t going to worry about when it would be and try to get a ticket for it. By chance, a Pirates fan was convinced to go to a Tuesday game with me and another friend and his girlfriend. It turned out to be Strasburg’s debut.

Nationals Park was electric in a way I hadn’t seen it, hanging on every pitch. Sure, Opening Night 2008 was like that at the start and end, but in the middle (a long middle with no Nats hits) it was just another game. Another cold game. But for Strasburg’s debut, every pitch was a moment of breathless anticipation. Fourteen strikeouts later he was done, an incredible debut. The best debut in D.C. sports history? I’ll say it was better than Alex Ovechkin’s first game and that was really good.

Nationals Park 2012 final game

The season finale, the Nats had clinched and were just tuning up for the playoffs. Teddy finally won. The Nats won. It was the last baseball game I saw with my dad – he was gone a month later.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Any game at Yankee Stadium. I went to four of them between 1989 and 2008. The Yankees split with the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals in those games.

Final Nats game at RFK Stadium

The exhibition game that didn’t happen — Yankees vs. Mets in 1993. My dad took us out of school to go to RFK Stadium. Frank Howard’s number was “retired” and then the game was called.

Bachelor Party in 2005 — Nats overcame Tony Armas Jr. pitching and won their 10th in a row or something. Ah, June 2005.

The Memorial Day game in 2005 where Frank Robinson got a Brian Jordan home run overturned.

July 4, 2006 Ryan Zimmerman walk-off

I’m probably forgetting some, but at some point, you have to close up. I could put together a “vicarious” list with games I watched on TV too and maybe I will.

Also, The Post has a good feature about baseball memories from Nats players, fans, George Will, etc.

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