Growing Up at Griffith Stadium

In keeping with our theme of ‘timeless baseball” I thought it might be of interest to remember some of my childhood days as the son of a major league baseball player.

I was very fortunate to have literally “grown up” at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC, where my dad had patrolled the outfield for the Washington Senators from 1937-45 and again in 1947.

As a baby (I was born in 1940), my mother would take me to ball games and I would fall asleep in her arms. As I grew older, I couldn’t wait to got to a ball game – the players whom I all knew – Mickey Vernon, Walter Masterson, Buddy Myer, Rick Ferrell, Stan Spence, Buddy Lewis, Cecil Travis, Dutch Leonard, Sid Hudson, Ray Scarborough, Early Wynn and other Washington baseball “legends” including Bucky Harris, Ossie Bluege, Nick Altrock, Bennie Bengough, Clyde Milan, and of course, Mr. Griffith were all like family to me.

To this day, I can still see the green grass, hear the noise of the crowd, see the light towers during a night game against a blackened sky and recall the wonderful smell of baking bread – all part of my “growing up at Griffith Stadium.”

I also remember taking a trolley with my mother right to the ballpark. As a player, my father would have to go to the stadium early. After the game, I often would go with my dad into the Washington clubhouse and then we would go to our car, parked just outside the clubhouse, where many fans would be waiting for autographs of their favorite Washington players – after a win, no problem, although after a tough loss or a particularly bad game, many players were not inclined to spend a lot of time “signing”!

In 1961, the last year Griffith Stadium would be used for baseball, prior to the completion of DC (RFK) Stadium, I had the opportunity to “work out” with the “expansion” Senators at Griffith Stadium. At that time, I was a 20 year old student at Rutgers University and my dad was the third base coach for “Uncle” Mickey Vernon – of course, Mickey Vernon is widely regarded as the finest first baseman in the long history of Washington baseball and two-time AL batting champion.

I will never forget the thrill of putting on a Senators uniform and being on the same field where my father had played for so many years and where so much of Washington sports history had actually happened – Clark Griffith, Walter Johnson, Goose Goslin, Joe Judge, Sam Rice, the 1924-25, 1933championship years, Harmon Killebrew – the opposing players – Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Williams, Mantle, Berra and many, many others – all had played on this very field – in this very stadium! At that point, I knew how fortunate I was to have had that wonderful opportunity!


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