There's no crying in congressional baseball. It's a rough-and-tumble game, which requires our legislative leaders to wake up for 6 a.m. practices at school yards, scout freshmen upon their arrival to D.C., and play past-their-prime in front of hundreds of onlookers.
Tonight's scheduled game at Nationals Park may be the first time in three years the Republicans stand a chance against the Democrats and their all-star pitcher, Cedric Richmond. That's because they have Ron DeSantis, a freshman and former captain of the Yale baseball team, who was hitting homers during practice like it was nothing.
"The annals of sports are filled with names conjoined by epic rivalries," writes Ben Terris in this week's National Journal, "Magic and Bird; Ali and Frazier; Palmer and Nicklaus. For the most obsessed members of the congressional baseball teams — of which there are plenty — that list, they hope, could include Richmond and DeSantis."
The stakes are high, and the game also has a history of injury, as Terris reports:
And it's not just the players' work that takes a backseat to baseball; it's their health as well. The first injury came two days before the first game in 1909, when Edward Vreeland broke his collarbone at practice, and recent examples abound. In 1994, Rep. Mike Oxley shattered his arm running into Sen. Sherrod Brown at first base; in 1996, Rep. Tim Holden collided mouth first with Rep. Bill Jefferson in foul territory, leaving tooth marks in his fellow Democrat's forehead and sending them both to the emergency room; and in 2008, Rep. Louie Gohmert tore his ACL and meniscus on a play at the plate.
Yup, you heard it here first: Congressional baseball is the most intense contest in the world of sport. Digging through the historical record, we've found some more reasons why:
Congressmen are easily roused to fisticuffs.
In 1911, James Byrnes, who in his career was a representative, Supreme Court justice, secretary of State, and governor of Virginia, and Billy Wilson duke it out. (Library of Congress)
In 1926, in what appears to be an act of intimidation (or animal cruelty), the Republicans rode in on an elephant.
(Via Ghots of DC)
Oh, who is that sitting in the front row? It's just the leader of the Free World. No pressure, guys. Seriously.
In 1917, President Wilson and the first lady come to enjoy the game. ( Library of Congress) Also from 1917, the great uniforms. (Library of Congress)
The physical prowess, the roaring crowd.
Rep. George Rauch of Indiana takes a swing in 1911. ( Library of Congress)
The team pictures look NOTHING LIKE Little League portraits.
The 1912 Democrats were a fearsome group.
Smack talk abounds. From The New York Times' account of the 1913 game:
(New York Times)
Remember that time Ron Paul hit a double?
And the cheerleaders ...
The 1965 game saw these "bipartisan cheerleaders." They were very good at leapfrog. ( Househistory.gov)