Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Father of D.C. baseball in danger of being forgotten

Fans entering Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., through the center field entrance are greeted by statues honoring three of the area's greatest players, Walter Johnson, Frank Howard, and Josh Gibson. The Big Train is an easy choice as the face of Washington baseball, having spent his entire 21-year career in the nation's capital. Howard crushed 237 home runs in his seven seasons with the Senators, topping 40 three consecutive years, from 1968-70. While Gibson's ties to Washington aren't nearly as deep, his legendary achievements in the Negro Leagues earned him a spot among game's all-time greats.

Miles away, a long-forgotten hero stands sentry outside RFK Stadium, the Nationals' former temporary park. This memorial to Clark Griffith, longtime owner and manager of Washington's team, was erected in 1956, one year after the Old Fox died and four years before his nephew Calvin moved the team he so loved to Minnesota.

Ted Leavengood, managing editor of the popular Seamheads.com website, is waging a one-man campaign to return Griffith to a place of prominence in the city for which he did so much for so long. His biography, Clark Griffith: The Old Fox of Washington Baseball, tells the story of a baseball lifer, who literally mortgaged his own home to invest in his dream of bringing a title to D.C. My review is now available on BaseballAmerica.com.

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