Remember all that talk in 2009 about Red Sox World Series hero Curt Schilling running for the Senate in Massachusetts? For the GOP baseball team, it might be time to revisit that idea.
The Republicans are going to need some help if they hope to reclaim the coveted Roll Call trophy during what appears certain to become known in Congressional baseball lore as the Cedric Richmond era.
GOP manager Rep. Joe Barton (Texas) went so far as to suggest that he could help Richmond with a career change.
“I do want to point out to Mr. Richmond that the Congressional salary is $175,000,” Barton said on the House floor the day after the game. “The major league minimum salary is $350,000, and I know the owner of the [Houston] Astros and the Texas Rangers.”
Richmond, who played for Morehouse College in the 1990s, pitched a complete game one-hitter, struck out 13 and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in an easy 8-2 Democratic victory Thursday night at the 50th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, which benefits local charities.
Richmond also went 4 for 4 in batting, making him a two-way threat in the mold of, dare we say it, Babe Ruth.
“Everything he does looks easy,” Democratic manager Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) said.
After Richmond blew away the Republicans in the first inning with a pair of strikeouts and a weak ground ball, the feeling at Nationals Park began to take on the air of that evening in June 2010 when Stephen Strasburg whiffed 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in his Major League Baseball debut.
Heads were turning toward the field and away from conversations. Several “whoas” were heard. By the fourth inning, with the no-hitter intact, people long associated with the game were trying to remember whether they’d witnessed anything like it before.
“He’s throwing harder than we’ve ever seen,” Doyle said.
Richmond’s performance was not a complete surprise, although perhaps the magnitude of the dominance was.
Before the game, Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), the Republicans’ third baseman, said that based on what his teammates had heard from people who saw Richmond at Democratic practices, “we’re in trouble.”
Flake proved to be a prophet.
One measure of the Republicans’ futility was the celebratory reaction to their one hit of the night, a bloop single to right by Rep. Steve Pearce (N.M.). He tweeted on the topic multiple times and posted a video of the moment.
Republicans had hoped to turn their 2010 electoral successes into victory on the diamond, and the team sported an expanded roster that filled the dugout to overflowing, like a September call-up run amok.
But their numbers proved ineffective — call it the power of one, a force that has been felt before in the D.C. version of the midsummer classic.
NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver and then-Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) dominated from the mound in the 1990s, compiling a 5-1 record for the GOP and winning three MVP awards.
But their current pro football alum, Rep. Jon Runyan (N.J.), like North Carolina Democrat (and former Washington Redskin) Heath Shuler, is apparently a one-sport star. An offensive lineman, Runyan’s skill set doesn’t readily translate from the gridiron to the diamond. (For more differences between football and baseball, please refer to George Carlin.)
While Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) might someday exceed his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), in legislative accomplishments, he does not seem likely to surpass his Senate predecessor, Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning (R), as a contributor on the field.
So if Richmond, who is only 37 and hails from a solidly Democratic district, stays in Congress and stays healthy, Democrats could be poised to enjoy a Largent-like golden age.
“For the last four weeks, they’ve been saying, ‘Oh we have this kid that’s going to really help us win.’ So, by today, I was really feeling it,” Richmond said after the game.
Having won the two most recent games even before Richmond arrived in Congress, Democrats get to keep the coveted Roll Call trophy this year, as it stays with the team that wins three out of five games.
A new series will begin in 2012. Short of Richmond resigning, perhaps the Republicans’ best chance for victory in the near future would be for Sen. John Kerry (D) to be named secretary of State, opening up a Massachusetts Senate seat. Or Schilling could move to Arizona, where he also won a World Series, and wait for Sen. John McCain (R) to retire.
Richmond was Ruthian, and Schilling has experience breaking Ruth-related curses.
Barring those contingencies, Democrats can dream that their prospects in next year’s national election are as bright as their prospects in the national pastime.
Erin Mershon, Niels Lesniewski, Jessica Estepa, Dan Peake and Neda Semnani contributed to this report.