Did you see the picture at the bottom of last Saturday's sports page? "Griffith Stadium Still Green and Alive," said the headline, and there above it was Joe DiMaggio at bat under the arcs, as they used to say, the pitcher's arm cocked, the fielders up on the balls of their feet in that second of high tension when anything can happen, and behind them the covered double-deck stands, bleachers and light towers of what used to be Washington's answer to Fenway Park.
It was a painting, of course, a beautiful reminder of what we're missing. Griffith Stadium has long since been demolished, replaced by RFK. It was an old-fashioned place, its comfortable stands arranged close around a field whose shape, like Fenway's, was to some extent a creature of the surrounding neighborhood: so they couldn't have right field as deep as left? Just make the right-field fence a lot higher.
Marjorie Phillips, age 90, whose late husband, Duncan, was the founder of the museum that houses the Phillips Collection, caught that night in 1951 with DiMaggio at bat against the Washington Senators. She hadn't been much of a fan, she told William Gildea of The Post, but if she wanted to spend some of those summer evenings with her husband, she pretty much had to spend them in a box seat behind the first-base dugout. In time, of course, she too became a fan, and it's lucky for all of us in this city that she did. That painting is as strong a reminder of what it's like to have baseball as anything we have, a reminder of how much Washington needs the game back.
In the meantime, there's the consolation of baseball in Baltimore, launched yesterday in the face of the usual April gale with a 4-2 Orioles victory over the Texas Rangers. A lot of Washingtonians have already marked their schedules and planned their trips to Memorial Stadium. But here's a suggestion: one day when you're up for baseball but not quite enough so to truck yourself and your equipage to Baltimore, make a trip to the Phillips Collection and take in Mrs. Phillips' "Night Baseball." Stand there long enough looking at Joe DiMaggio poised to start his swing, and within the hour you'll probably be on your way north to see Eddie Murray complete his.