His name is synonymous with baseball in our nation’s capital. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. But how many know that Clark Griffith spent parts of six seasons with the New York Yankees?
After serving as player/manager of the White Sox in 1902, American League president Ban Johnson convinced him to take the same jobs with the Highlanders, the Yankees’ former name. In his first five years, the team recorded second-place finishes in 1904 and 1906.
Despite this, a growing animosity developed between Griffith and team owners Bill Devery and Frank Farrell. The breaking point came after the team traded second baseman Jimmy Williams to the St. Louis Browns in February of 1908 for a player who didn’t pan out.
After a good start, the team was at 24-32 when a managerial change was made as Griffith was replaced by Norman “Kid” Elberfeld. The team said that he resigned; it was later learned that he was in fact fired.
After managing the Reds from 1909-1911, Griffith-at the behest again of Ban Johnson-took over the ailing Washington Senators, where over time as manager bought a 19% stake in the team in 1920.
Griffith to his dying day still harbored ill will towards the Yankees, as he would not make any deals with them unless he had no other choice.
Without Clark Griffith, baseball may not have survived in Washington. Then again, had he stayed in New York, maybe Clark Griffith could have led the Yankees to a World Series title or two and have a plaque or monument in Monument Park in his honor. Makes for an interesting game of “what if”.
CORRECTION: In a previous post, it was stated that the Yankees had a pair of second-place finishes under Bill Devery and Frank Farrell. In fact, it happened three times. The author of the post regrets that egregious error.