Congressional Baseball Game
|Party||Number of Wins|
The Congressional Baseball Game 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. In the game, Republicans and Democrats form separate teams and play against each other.
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, for the first of six consecutive wins. 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. With the new sponsor, a best-of-five game trophy series was created, awarding a trophy to the team that won three of the five games. To date, 13 trophies have been awarded, ten to the Republicans and three to the Democrats.
Games were initially held at American League Park in northeast Washington, D.C., and its successor Griffith Stadium, which was built at the same location. In 1962, the game was moved to the new District Stadium (later known as Robert F. Kennedy Stadium), where it remained until 1972. 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 returned to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium while awaiting construction of the new Washington Nationals stadium in the District of Columbia. In 2008, the game moved to the newly built Nationals Park. The game raises more than $100,000 annually for local area charities.
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 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.
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. Ronald Dellums of California joined the Democratic roster. Despite Fauntroy's hitting prowess, the Democrats lost their eighth straight annual game, 7–3.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was on the Republican team in the 1980s and was the first to hit a home run over the fence. Rep. John Shimkus in 1997 is the only other player to accomplish that feat. Paul was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame prior to the 2012 game.
Hall of Fame
The Roll Call Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame was founded in 1993.
|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|
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.
Scores, locations, and other details of past games are available here to the extent they are known.
|1909||American League Park||Democrats||26–16|
|1911||American League Park||Democrats||12–9|
|1912||American League Park||Democrats||21–20|
|1913||American League Park||Democrats||29–4||Game was called due to rain in the 4th inning. Members disputed whether it counted as a full game.|
|1914||American League Park||Democrats||–|
|1915||American League Park||Democrats||–|
|1916||American League Park||Republicans||18–13|
|1917||American League Park||Democrats||22–21|
|1918||American League Park||Republicans||9–5|
|1919||American League Park||Republicans||–|
|1926||American League Park||Democrats||12–9|
|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.|
|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, VA||Republicans||7–6||(Two rainouts forced the game to the 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|
|1983||Four Mile Run Park||Tied||17–17||Ended after 9 innings|
|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|
|1995||Prince George's Stadium||Republicans||6–0|
|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|
|2011||Nationals Park||Democrats||8–2||Roll Call Trophy|
- "The Congressional Baseball Game: Statistics". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- "Congressional Baseball Game: History". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- "Congressional Baseball Game Location". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- Stern, Seth (July 12, 2011). "Hall of Fame: Mel Watt Lives His Dream". Roll Call.
- "Congressional Baseball Game: Rosters". history.house.gov. Office of the Historian, and Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- Meyers, David (June 27, 2012). "Home Run Lands Ron Paul in Hall of Fame". Roll Call.
- 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 2013-06-13.
- Newspaper accounts refer to the 1926 game as the first game in years.
- Newspaper accounts refer to the game as "biennial."
- When Roll Call newspaper 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.
- Elliott, Rebecca (June 13, 2013). "Dems win big at Hill baseball game". Politico. Retrieved June 13, 2013.