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.
Democratic Party |
1909: American League Park II |
1911: Georgetown Field
1912–1919: National Park
1926–1957: Griffith Stadium
1962–1968: D.C. Stadium
1969–1972: RFK Stadium
1973–1976: Memorial Stadium
1977: Langley High School
1978–1994: Four Mile Run Park
1995–2004: Prince George's Stadium
2005–2007: RFK Stadium
2008–present: Nationals Park
|Most wins||Republicans: 42|
|Largest victory||1928: Democrats (36–4)|
|Smallest victory||1983: none (17–17)|
Today, 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 US Presidents.
The 1909 game was organized by Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania, a former professional baseball player. 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 beat 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.
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. 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.
The Game was originally played at the American League Park. However, after the park's destruction in a fire, it was played at the Griffith Stadium built on the same site in Northwest Washington, D.C. In 1962, it was moved to the new District Stadium (later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium). It remained there until 1972, when the Washington Senators moved to Texas becoming the Texas Rangers as RFK did not need a long-term baseball seating layout or field. It moved for the next two decades to the Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, then to Langley High School in McLean, Virginia for 1977; 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 returned to RFK Stadium when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington to become the Washington Nationals. In 2008, Nationals Park was completed and the Nationals moved there along with the Congressional Baseball Game.
In the late 1960s, a post-game reception for members of Congress and their staffs was organized and sponsored by Sears, Roebuck and Company. However, attendance was very low until 1972 when Sears' Washington office Public Information officer, Larry Horist took over the management of the event, and 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. He also obtained photos of the players in their hometown uniforms, producing 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 were publicized in the Washington Post and became 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 FameEdit
- 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 fanfareEdit
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||July 16 ||American League Park II||Democrats||26–16||'Sunny Jim' Sherman was the umpire for the Republicans. As of July 11, it was not clear who the Democrat umpire would be.|
|1911||August 7||Georgetown Field||Democrats||12–9||Game ended in the fourth inning by unanimous consent. Most players were sore.|
|1912||June 22||National Park||Democrats||21–20||Scheduled for Saturday June 15, 1912 , it was re-scheduled to the following Saturday June 22, 1912.|
|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. Congressman Victor Murdock(R) was to umpired. Game benefiting the Washington Playground Association.|
|1914||August 1||National Park||Democrats||16–9||Originally scheduled for June 27, it was rescheduled to August 26, 1914 due to rain. In the end it was played on August 1, 1914. Congressman "Walt" Elder(D) of Louisiana lost his shoes and pitched in his socks.|
|1917||June 30 ||National Park||Democrats||22–21||President Woodrow Wilson had to through the first ball twice as Washington Senators Owner, Clark Griffith was unable to catch it. Suffragettes were in the stands but no banners were displayed. Sydney Mudd(R) of Maryland scored the only home-run of the game. |
|1918||June 9||National Park||Republicans||19–5||President Woodrow Wilson, Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall were present. The President tossed the first ball to Congressman James V. McClintic(D). Speaker Champ Clark was honorary umpire wearing a beaver hat of the seven-inning game. Sales of tickets and flowers were expected to bring in $1,200 for the Red Cross to provide bandages to the soldiers.|
|1920–1925||No information||–||–||Newspaper accounts refer to the 1926 game as the first game in years. Photos dated 1923 (see Uniforms) suggest a game was held that year at Griffith Stadium.|
|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|
|2012||June 28||Nationals Park||Democrats||18–5|
|2013||June 14||Nationals Park||Democrats||22–0|
|2014||June 25||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
|2018||June 14||Nationals Park||Democrats||21–5||House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) returned to the field after being critically injured from a gunshot at a practice in 2017.|
Roll Call Trophy
- "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.).
- The Washington times - July 16, 1909 - Last Edition - Page 10
- The Washington times - July 11, 1909 - Sunday Evening Edition - page 5
- The Washington times - August 08, 1911- Last Edition - page 3
- The Washington herald - June 23, 1912 - Page 2
- The Washington times - June 17, 1912 - LAST EDITION - page 5
- "Wins & Losses Through the Years". An Annual Outing: The Congressional Baseball Game. United States House of Representatives, Office of the Historian. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
- The Washington times - May 02, 1913 - LAST AND HOME EDITION - Page 8
- The Washington times - August 02, 1914 - SUNDAY EVENING EDITION - Page 4
- The Washington times - June 28, 1914 - SUNDAY EVENING EDITION - Page 3
- The Washington herald - July 01, 1917 - Front Page
- The Washington times - June 09, 1918 - NATIONAL EDITION - Page 3
- 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.
- Mershon, Erin. "Congressional Baseball Game Ends In Republican Slaughter". HuffPost. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- Vitali, Ali. "GOP loses congressional baseball game in 22-run shutout". MSNBC. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- Varner, Kasey. "Republicans Lose To Democrats For Sixth Straight Year In Congressional Baseball Game". HuffPost. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- 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.