On Oct. 27, 1955, barely a month after his Washington Nationals ballclub had finished their season with three straight losses to the Orioles, Clark Griffith passed away at 85. He'd been associated with Washington baseball since he was named manager in 1912; by the early 1920s, he was the majority owner of the franchise.
Washington was hosting the 1956 All-Star Game, and dedicated the contest to Griffith's memory. In addition, a monument to "The Old Fox," as he was affectionately known, was erected at Griffith Stadium, a four-sided obelisk with an engraving of the man himself, noting his accomplishments in baseball and as a humanitarian.
You know most of the rest: His nephew (and adopted son) Calvin inherited the ballclub, and following the 1960 season moved it to the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where it has resided ever since. Washington received an expansion American League team in 1961, and it played its first season at the old park. The new District of Columbia Stadium opened for baseball in 1962, and when Griffith Stadium was razed in 1964 to make way for Howard University Hospital, the Clark Griffith monument was relocated to the sidewalk in front of the newer ballpark.
The expansion team left following the 1971 season, and the big leagues didn't return for real until the Nationals came to town in 2005. For three seasons they played at now-RFK Stadium, where fans could use the Griffith monument as a meeting place; a landmark, if you will.
The current Nationals have been at Nats Park since 2008, but the Griffith monument is still at RFK, where a lot of soccer fans must wonder what it is. I guess it must weigh a couple of tons, and moving it would cost more than few dollars, but I still have to ask the obvious question: Are there any plans to move it to 1500 South Capitol St. SE?
I get it that Clark Griffith had nothing to do with the re-launch of Major League Baseball in D.C., but it's safe to say that had he lived, the original club would never have left town. But c'mon, there are three other Washington baseball icons commemorated by statues in the center field plaza who also had nothing t do with baseball coming back. You're telling me there's no place to put Clark Griffith, inside or out?
He's been outside of RFK for almost 50 years. The day is coming when that edifice will come down, presumably as soon as D.C. United finds a new home field. Would they consign the Griffith monument to a landfill somewhere? I just don't believe the Lerner family would allow something like that to happen.
Maybe there's an industrial mover out there who would volunteer to move the monument for the good will it would create. It would be a heckuva story for the local TV news crews, and I bet MASN would cover it as well.
Bring the Old Fox to Nationals Park in 2012.