Last year’s game raised $516,000 for DC-area charities
In a time of rampant partisanship in Washington, D.C., there aren’t a lot of events left that bring together Republicans and Democrats alike. The annual congressional baseball game is one that still does.
The game is a tradition that began back in 1909, when professional baseball player-turned-congressman, John Tener from Pennsylvania, organized the inaugural edition. With congressional business, the Great Depression and World Wars getting in the way, the game was played off and on until 1962, when it became an annual fixture, that Congress and staffers look forward to each summer.
"It's one of the best things we do," Sen. Rand Paul told CNN.
All-time, the Republicans lead the series with 42 wins to the Democrats 39 victories. The Dems have caught up in recent years, winning seven straight games, until the GOP snapped their losing streak with a victory last year.
More importantly, last year’s game raised $516,000 for charity, including the Boys & Girls Club and the Washington Literacy Center.
That’s not to say the game hasn’t gotten a little chippy over the years. Legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn (he served in the position for 17 years) ended the game in 1958 because, as the official history states, “it had become too physical.” The game resumed in 1962 and injuries have been part of the game, according to The Atlantic:
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. A and in 2008, Rep. Louie Gohmert tore his ACL and meniscus on a play at the plate.
That butcher’s bill from the game may sound a bit brutal, but the weekly staff basketball games we played when I worked for the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics had its share of ACL blowouts and Achilles tears over a much shorter time span. And we were younger and presumably in better shape than a group of middle-age representatives and senators.
It’s clear both sides know it’s fun, but they still want the bragging rights from a victory. So in the days leading up to the game, the Democrats and Republicans alike get in some early morning practice. With the charity game tomorrow at Nationals Park, the GOP had gathered to get in a tune-up when a shooter approached. When the Democratic team heard what had happened, they gathered in their dugout to pray for the GOP counterparts. It’s an image that Speaker Paul Ryan took to the House floor today to implore Americans to remember in our divided era. Hopefully we can heed that call.
As for the game tomorrow, organizers have decided to not let this act of violence deter them.