Hotline OnCall's Reid Wilson catches this fun fact, from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): the last two times the House of Representatives changed hands in a wave election, the party that took the majority elected a former athlete as a freshman Rep.
In '94, ex-Univ. of OK QB J.C. Watts and ex-Seahawks receiver Steve Largent won seats in the new GOP class. In '06, ex-Redskins QB Heath Shuler came to Congress.
So if the GOP is serious about taking back the House, they need an athlete, right? How about MLB pitcher John Smoltz, who played 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves and who has demonstrated a predilection for GOP politics?
"That is not in my plans," Smoltz texted MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman.
Plenty of people have denied wanting to run for office before, and then turned around and run anyway. But here's something to keep in mind: Smoltz still has some arm left. Spring training has been underway for pitchers and catchers, and, while Smoltz doesn't have a job, it is by no means beyond the realm of possibility that he'll get invited to camp with an MLB team and return to pro baseball for another year.
Smoltz performed effectively for the St. Louis Cardinals down the stretch last season--he was lights out in at least one start--after heading there from the Boston Red Sox, where he had gotten torched in a few outings and was not, it seemed, considered a viable asset on the mound. His 1-3 record and 4.26 ERA in seven games for St. Louis underrepresented how dramatically he bounced back from his situation in Boston.
Smoltz would be a good option for many teams as a reliever, but was reported to be seeking a starting role. The Cardinals may not want to hire him back in that capacity (they're auditioning a slew of candidates for the 5th starter role, and Smoltz isn't among them, as of yet).
But Smoltz is by no means done in MLB, and apparently he still has the competitive drive to start games in a major-league uniform. The GOP may have to find another athlete to retake its majority.
UPDATE: An astute reader points out that I foolishly overlooked the candidacy of former NFL tight end Jay Riemersma, who is running for Congress as a Republican in Michigan's 2nd district, currently represented by retiring Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R), who is leaving the House to run for governor this year. Riemersma played six seasons with the Buffalo Bills from 1997-2002, before finishing his career in Pittsburgh in 2003 and 2004.
UPDATE 2: Riemersma wasn't the only Republican athlete I left out: yet another astute reader reminds me that ex-Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Jon Runyan is considered a frontrunnter to challenge freshman Rep. Jon Adler (D) in New Jersey's 3rd district. Runyan played 13 NFL seasons, the last nine of which were with Philadelphia
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