Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington played host to its final Major League Baseball game on Sunday with a contest between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer was there and has a report.
The 56,000-seat RFK Stadium was built in 1961 as the home stadium for both the National Football League's Washington Redskins and baseball's Washington Senators. The owner of the Senators moved the team to Texas after the 1971 season and the nation's capital had no professional baseball team until the Montreal Expos moved here in 2005. But the league agreed to the move only if a new stadium would be built and it will be ready for next season.
The original name of the 46-year-old facility was D.C. Stadium, but it was renamed RFK Stadium in January 1969 to honor U.S. Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy who was assassinated seven months earlier.
Sunday's final baseball game at RFK Stadium drew the Nationals' largest crowd of the season, 40,519. And the home team, which is near the bottom of the standings, gave the fans a winning sendoff. Washington scored a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, a team in contention for a playoff berth.
Fans shared some of their thoughts with VOA Sports.
"A lot of great memories here. I know that a lot of people don't think it (RFK Stadium) is great for baseball, but I've had a lot of fun here. I kind of hate to see it go, but I can't wait to see the new ballpark," said one man.
A woman added "RFK has been a great place for us. I watched the Senators here when I was a little kid. It was great to see baseball come back to Washington. I look forward to going to the new ballpark, but I'll have fond memories of RFK."
Team owner Mark Lerner said it was an emotional day for him and his family. "The place means a lot to me, but you know we're moving on to bigger and better things and we're going to have a great (ball) park next year and we're anxious and very excited about that too," he said.
The Washington Nationals' new stadium, being constructed in a different part of the city closer to the Capitol building and the National Mall, is expected to be completed in time for the 2008 baseball season next April.
RFK Stadium, which has also played host to many concerts through the years and staged some matches during 1994 World Cup football tournament, will continue to be the home of Major League Soccer's DC United. The NFL's Washington Redskins moved to a much larger stadium in suburban Maryland in 1997.