Correction to This Article
In some Sept. 24 editions, a Metro article incorrectly said that the Washington Senators last played at RFK Stadium 26 years ago. The team's final game at RFK was 36 years ago.

Tip o' the Cap to RFK

A fan shares the sentiments of many of the 40,000-plus spectators who turned out for the Nationals last game at RFK Stadium.
A fan shares the sentiments of many of the 40,000-plus spectators who turned out for the Nationals last game at RFK Stadium. (Photos By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By David A. Fahrenthold and Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 24, 2007

It's a relic, a dinosaur, a throwback that's finally being thrown back. It's an old concrete doughnut, with bathrooms too scary, an outfield too big and concourses so narrow that the concession lines jumble into a mob.

But does this really have to be the end?

Washington baseball fans said a conflicted goodbye yesterday to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, as the Nationals played their last home game in the 46-year-old ballpark. After a three-season interlude at RFK, the team will move next year into a stadium on the Anacostia riverfront.

Yesterday's contest had little of the raw emotion that marked RFK's last two goodbyes. Nobody dug up the field, unlike the departure of the Redskins in 1996, and nobody rioted, unlike the chaotic exit of the Senators in 1971.

But many fans said they felt a loss even though moving to a new park would bring spectacular views, better seats, maybe even cup holders. They said it was hard to lose a hometown institution that was the scene of so many shared memories.

"There's something about RFK," said Glenn Doerrman, 44, of Rockville, who grew up going to Senators ballgames with his dad. "There are no amenities, but there's something to be said for atmosphere."

The Nationals won RFK's 1,046th regular season baseball game, beating the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3, on a sunny afternoon. The team will close the season on the road and has no shot at the playoffs.

D.C. United will still play soccer at RFK, although that team also has expressed interest in leaving. But in all likelihood the stadium is done with big-league baseball.

RFK hosted the Senators from 1962 to 1971, when they relocated to become the Texas Rangers. For three years, it has been a temporary home for the Nationals, who moved from Montreal before the 2005 season. Attendance yesterday was 40,519, which the Nationals said was their largest crowd of the year.

Even so, there were empty seats in the upper deck and less euphoria than on Opening Day in 2005. The reasons might have included a late-afternoon Redskins game at FedEx Field. Baseball still hasn't broken football's dominance of the Washington sports scene.

Before the game, the Nationals held a brief ceremony to honor the park and Washington's baseball history. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) asked fans to applaud RFK, though in the heat of the moment, he seemed to forget one key fact: "It has served this great city for the past -- so many years!"

The loudest and longest cheers came for former Senators slugger Frank Howard, some of whose titanic home runs are marked with seats painted white in the upper deck to show where balls landed. He and other Senators took the field with their Nationals counterparts, allowing for the kind of cordial send-off the Senators didn't get 36 years ago. "Let's go, Senators!" one fan yelled as they jogged off.

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