Seamheads: The Clark Griffith Monument

From SABR member Ted Leavengood at on June 30:

In 1956 a monument was dedicated to Clark Griffith outside old Griffith Stadium just months after the former owner of the team and stadium died. His passing was marked by every major newspaper, his funeral attended by every official of the game. He was recognized as a giant of the game whose place in Cooperstown was richly deserved, based on an amazing lifetime of toil dedicated to making baseball the “National Pastime.”


By contrast, there are three brand new statues that were commissioned for the new Nationals Park and they greet fans as they come through the main gate in center field. Walter Johnson is there–the Big Train whose career reached the heights after Clark Griffith became his manager in 1912. Griff made Walter Johnson the leader of a winning team, not the best player on a perennial loser. He led him to a World Championship and two American League pennants.

The other two statues are of Frank Howard and Josh Gibson. Howard is a sentimental favorite in Washington. He was the last hero, the warm and personable home run leader who was still playing when Bob Short moved the team a second time. Josh Gibson played in Washington only briefly at the end of his amazing career, just a few seasons before his tragic death.

Brad Snyder, in his book, The Homestead Grays, Playing in the Shadow of the Senators, said that Griffith could have signed Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard in 1943 and changed the course of baseball history, made winners of the Washington Nationals in Griffith’s last years. It is a sentimental view of a deeply complex period in our nation’s history. While I have great respect for Snyder and believe his book on Curt Floot to be one of the best books on baseball, I believe his book on the Grays has done a great disservice to Clark Griffith.

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Originally published: June 30, 2011. Last Updated: June 30, 2011.