Congressional Baseball Game
The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity is an annual baseball game played each summer by members of the United States Congress. The game began as a casual event among colleagues in 1909 and eventually evolved into one of Washington, D.C.'s most anticipated annual pastimes, according to the House of Representatives Office of the Historian. In the game, Republicans and Democrats form separate teams and play against each other.
The game raises money for three local charities: The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, and The Washington Literacy Center. The game is usually attended by crowds of congressional staffers and, occasionally, even dignitaries and presidents.
Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania, a former professional baseball player, organized the inaugural baseball game in 1909. The Boston Daily Globe observed, "The game was brewing for weeks and the members of the house were keyed up a high pitch of enthusiasm. Deep, dark rumors were in circulation that 'ringers' would be introduced, but when they lined up at 4 o'clock the nine Republicans were stalwart, grand old party men, while the Democrats were of the pure Jeffersonian strain."
The Democrats drubbed their Republican opponents, 26–16 in the first game and continued their winning streak for the first six games. Republicans won their first game in 1916. Due to its growing popularity, the Congressional Baseball Game was first covered via radio in 1928. The radio broadcast continued in succeeding years.
The event has at times interrupted the work flow of Congress. In 1914, Speaker James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark of Missouri became frustrated with the Congressional Baseball Game interfering with legislative business. An Appropriations bill on Civil War cotton damage was to be debated on the House floor, but a quorum was not present because of the game. Speaker Clark sent the House Sergeant at Arms to American League Field to return the Members to the House chamber. When the Sergeant at Arms Charles P. Higgins arrived, rain had already canceled the game. The House eventually achieved a quorum, but adjourned without making progress on the bill because Members remained preoccupied with their unfinished work on the baseball diamond.
Despite its appeal, the annual game occurred intermittently because of interruptions due to the Great Depression, the Second World War, and intervention by the House leadership. For a while the game was held biennially, until the Washington Evening Star newspaper sponsored it annually from 1946 to 1958. Despite the sponsorship, Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas ended the game in 1958, saying it had become too physically straining on the members and was causing injuries. Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts revived the game in 1962 with the support of the then-new Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and the game has been held every year since. With the new sponsor, the Roll Call Trophy was created, for the team that wins each best-of-five series. It was first awarded in 1965—to the Republican team, which was the first team to win three games since Roll Call had begun its sponsorship. Since 1965, a new trophy is awarded to the next team to win three games (over the next three, four, or five years), following the year in which the most recent trophy was awarded. As of the 2017 game, 14 trophies have been awarded—ten to the Republicans' team and four to the Democrats' team.
On June 14, 2017, one day before the annual event, a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress who were practicing for the next day's game. Four people were shot including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. The gunman was himself shot by Capitol Police and died at a nearby hospital later that day. Despite discussions about postponing the game, officials said the game would be held as scheduled. The shooting resulted in a dramatic increase in interest for the game; it was reported that revenue from ticket sales and online donations had exceeded $1 million, and organizers stated that 24,959 people were in attendance C-SPAN also announced that it would televise the game.
Games were initially held at American League Park, and later Griffith Stadium in Northwest Washington, D.C. In 1962, the game was moved to the new District Stadium (later known as Robert F. Kennedy Stadium), where it remained until 1972, with the departure of the second iteration of the Washington Senators to Texas and RFK therefore no longer needing a long-term baseball seating layout or field. For the next two decades, the teams played at the Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland; one year (1977) at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia; and Four Mile Run Park in Alexandria, Virginia. From 1995 to 2004, the game was played in Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Maryland. From 2005 to 2007, the event temporarily returned to RFK Stadium—following the move of the Montreal Expos to Washington as the Nationals—while they awaited construction of Nationals Park, which opened in 2008.
In the late 1960s, Sears, Roebuck and Company established and sponsored a post-game reception for members of Congress and their staffs. Member attendance was very low until 1972 when the management of the event was taken over by Sears' Washington office Public Information officer, Larry Horist. He established the Most Valuable Player awards to be voted by each team and presented by the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate. In addition, Horist obtained photos of the players in their hometown uniforms and produced thousands of baseball cards packaged in gum wrappers. A limited number of autographed master sheets of the cards occasionally appear for sale on Internet auction sites. The cards included such personalities as Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), Barry Goldwater, Jr. (R-AZ), and professional player "Vinegar Bend" Mizell (R-NC). The cards received notable publicity in the Washington Post and were accepted as part of the permanent collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- For the 2017 team rosters, see footnote.
While the modern Congressional Baseball Game comprises both House and Senate Members, this was not always the case. From 1909 to 1949, House Members exclusively filled the rosters—although there appears to have been no prohibition against Senators. Bicameral baseball was inaugurated in 1950, when Senator Harry P. Cain of Washington joined the Republican team and Senator-elect George Smathers of Florida, a former Representative, joined the Democratic team.
In a few cases, former professional baseball players were elected to Congress and had a large impact on the game. In the case of Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell of North Carolina, a former professional pitcher, the Republican team was victorious for each year that he played. Fielding a once-a-year team presented some problems for members, who often grew rusty when it came to batting. Strong pitching proved decisive in most games but, in 1963, neither team could field a pitcher. As a result, relief pitcher George Susce of the Washington Senators pitched for both teams.
In 1917, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana tossed out the first pitch and kept score, becoming the first woman to participate in the annual event. More than 70 years later, in 1993, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas became the first women to break into the starting lineup.
In 1971, the first African Americans joined the game. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy of the District of Columbia and Rep. Ron Dellums of California joined the Democratic roster. Despite Fauntroy's hitting prowess, the Democrats lost their eighth straight annual game, 7–3.
In 1909, Rep. Joseph F. O'Connell of Massachusetts hit the first home run, gaining three runs for the Democrats. In the same year, Republican Rep. Edward B. Vreeland of New York was the first player to be withdrawn due to an injury. In 1957, Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan hit the first known grand slam, while playing for the Republicans. In 1979, Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas hit what was believed to be (at that time) the first home run hit over the fence. Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois is the only other player to hit an out-of-the-park home run, doing so in 1997. Paul was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame prior to the 2012 game.
Hall of Fame
- For a brief description of each of the 1993–2011 inductees, see footnote.
|1993||John Tener||Organized the first Congressional Baseball Game|
|William M. Wheeler|
|Robert H. Michel|
|1998||Sid Yudain||Founder of Roll Call|
|2004||Charlie Brotman||Helped Sid Yudain revive Congressional baseball in the 1960s|
|2012||Ron Paul||Hit first over-the-wall home run in 1979|
|2015||Skip Maraney||Pioneered Roll Call's sports coverage|
Uniforms and fanfare
In the early years of the game, each team wore a uniform that was either plain or had the words "Republicans" or "Democrats" embroidered on it. In modern games, members typically have worn uniforms of the professional baseball teams or college baseball teams in their congressional district or home state. In the 1920s, pomp and fanfare preceded each game. The United States Navy Band and United States Marine Corps Band traditionally kicked off the festivities with patriotic tunes. In 1926, the Republicans paraded into American League Field on a live elephant, while in 1932 both teams had costumed mascots entertain the crowds. During the 1960s, the teams had cheerleaders dressed in uniforms.
|1909||American League Park II||Democrats||26–16|
|1913||National Park||Democrats||29–4||Game was called due to rain in the 4th inning. Members disputed whether it counted as a full game.|
|1920–1925||No information||–||–||Newspaper accounts refer to the 1926 game as the first game in years.|
|1930||No information||–||–||Newspaper accounts refer to the game during this period as "biennial."|
|1932||Griffith Stadium||Republicans||19–5||The official score of this game is disputed. Umpire Tunney ruled a high fly ball hit in the last inning by Republicans an out instead of a home run.|
|1934–1944||No information||–||–||In lieu of a traditional Congressional Baseball Game, ballgames between members and the press were played in 1935, 1938, 1939, and 1941.|
|1953||June 5||Griffith Stadium||Democrats||3–2|
|1965||D.C. Stadium||Republicans||3–1||Roll Call Trophy|
|1968||D.C. Stadium||Republicans||16–1||Roll Call Trophy|
|1971||RFK Stadium||Republicans||7–3||Roll Call Trophy|
|1974||Memorial Stadium||Republicans||7–3||Roll Call Trophy|
|1977||Langley High School, McLean, Virginia||Republicans||7–6||A rainout forced the game to an alternative field.|
|1978||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||4–3|
|1979||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||7–3||Roll Call Trophy|
|1980||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||21–9|
|1981||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||6–4|
|1982||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||7–5||Video of the entire 1982 game, C-SPAN|
|1983||Four Mile Run Park||Tied||17–17||Called after 9 innings.
Video of the entire 1983 game, C-SPAN
|1984||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||13–4|
|1985||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||9–3||Roll Call Trophy|
|1986||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||8–6|
|1987||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||15–14|
|1988||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||14–13|
|1989||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||8–2|
|1990||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||9–6||Roll Call Trophy|
|1991||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||13–9|
|1992||Four Mile Run Park||Republicans||11–7|
|1993||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||13–1|
|1994||Four Mile Run Park||Democrats||9–2||Roll Call Trophy
Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH) broke his arm when colliding with Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) at first base.
Highlights of the 1994 game, C-SPAN
|1995||August 1||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||6–0||Highlights of the 1995 game, C-SPAN|
|1996||Prince George's Stadium||Democrats||16–14|
|1997||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||10–9|
|1998||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||4–1||Roll Call Trophy|
|1999||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||17–1|
|2000||Prince George's Stadium||Democrats||13–8|
|2001||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||9–1|
|2002||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||9–2||Roll Call Trophy|
|2003||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||5–3|
|2004||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||14–7|
|2005||RFK Stadium||Republicans||19–10||Roll Call Trophy|
|2008||Nationals Park||Republicans||11–10||Roll Call Trophy|
|2010||June 29||Nationals Park||Democrats||13–5|
|2011||Nationals Park||Democrats||8–2||Roll Call Trophy|
|2014||Nationals Park||Democrats||15–6||Roll Call Trophy|
|2015||June 11||Nationals Park||Democrats||5–2||Interview with team managers Joe Barton (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) about the tradition of the Congressional Baseball Game, Washington Journal, C-SPAN|
|2016||June 23||Nationals Park||Republicans||8–7|
|2017||June 15||Nationals Park||Democrats||11–2||Shooting occurred at Republican practice on June 14
Video of the entire game, C-SPAN
- "The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity homepage". congressionalbaseball.org. The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
- "History of the Congressional Baseball Game". congressionalbaseball.org. The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
- "What's the history behind the annual congressional baseball game?". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
- "What's the history behind the annual congressional baseball game?". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
- "The Congressional Baseball Game: Statistics". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "History of the Game". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved June 17, 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Congressional Baseball Game: History". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "GOP baseball shooting: Lawmaker Scalise wounded, one person in custody". Washington Post. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
- Tovey, Josephine. "US Congressman Steve Scalise hit in shooting in Washington DC suburb". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
- Stein, Sam; Fuller, Matt (June 14, 2017). "Congressional Baseball Game Will Go On After Shooting". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- "Congressional Baseball-related donations exceed $1 million". ESPN.com. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "C-Span To Air Congressional Baseball Game For Charity On Thursday". Deadline. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "Congressional Baseball Game Location". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- Stern, Seth (July 12, 2011). "Hall of Fame: Mel Watt Lives His Dream". Roll Call.
- "2017 rosters". congressionalbaseball.org. The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
- "Congressional Baseball Game: Rosters". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "Baseball Firsts & Notables". U.S. House of Representatives: History, Art, and Archives. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
- Meyers, David (June 27, 2012). "Home Run Lands Ron Paul in Hall of Fame". Roll Call. CQ Roll Call. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
The Texas Republican is believed to be the first person to hit one out of the park in a Congressional Baseball Game.
- Rivera, Francis (June 28, 2012). "Ron Paul inducted into Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame – in Astros garb". The Houston Chronicle.
- "Congressional Baseball Game: Fanfare". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "Wins & Losses Through the Years". History, Art & Archives / U.S. House of Representatives. Office of the Historian, Office of Art & Archives, and Office of the Clerk / U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
- The official website of the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity seemingly does not count three of those Republican wins, because its History page listed (in 2017, but prior to the 2017 game) the series record as 39–39–1 (in a blue, red, white, and black bar near the bottom of the page). The same page, however, states—in reference to the Roll Call Trophy—that "[t]o date, 10 of these coveted trophies have been awarded, eight to the Republicans and two to the Democrats." History of the Congressional Baseball Game (The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Retrieved 2017-06-16). That statement indicates that the paragraphs of the History page were probably written after the 2002 game and before the 2005 game, because the tenth trophy was awarded in 2002 and the eleventh trophy was awarded in 2005. The Republicans won their 35th game in 2002 and then won seven more games thereafter (in 2003 to 2008, plus 2016). As of 2002, the Democrats had won 32 games; from 2003 to 2016, the Democrats won seven more games, for a total of 39 wins (as of the 2016 game). Although the series record that is set forth in the bar near the bottom of the page includes the Democrats' seven wins between 2003 and 2016, the bar includes only four of the Republicans' seven wins during that same time period. Wins & Losses Through the Years (History, Art & Archives / U.S. House of Representatives. Office of the Historian, Office of Art & Archives, and Office of the Clerk / U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2017-06-16.).
- When Roll Call assumed sponsorship of the game in 1962, a best of five game trophy series was created. Roll Call awards a trophy when a team wins 3 games of a series.
- Terris, Ben (11 June 2013). "The Fiercest Battle in D.C. Is on the Baseball Diamond". The Atlantic. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- SB Nation DC, The 2010 Congressional Baseball Game, Starring Older Gentlemen In Ill-Fitting Jerseys And Pitching Miscues, June 30, 2010.
- WTOP, Democrats snag series lead in Congressional Baseball Game, June 12, 2016.
- Roll Call, Republicans Turn Back Democrats in Thriller, 8–7, June 23, 2016.
- CNN, The Congressional baseball game is a long-running, bipartisan tradition, June 14, 2017.