Congress

Meet some of the former pros who’ve played in the Congressional Baseball Game

Bunning, Largent, Ryun and Shuler all had varying degrees of success on the diamond

Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent is greeted by his Republican teammates before the 2000 Congressional Baseball Game. Largent led the Republicans to victory in five of his seven games. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Reps. Colin Allred and Anthony Gonzalez won’t be the first former professional athletes to compete in the Congressional Baseball Game. Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats have looked to other ex-pros turned congressmen and their athletic talents in hopes of scoring on the diamond.

The late Sen. Jim Bunning is the only baseball Hall of Famer to come to Washington. Over a 17-season pitching career from 1955 to 1971, the Kentucky Republican won 224 games and had an earned run average of 3.27. Bunning won election to the House in 1986 and made his Congressional Baseball Game debut the following year. He was part of the winning GOP team at least three times as either pitcher or pitching coach. After two terms in the Senate, Bunning opted against re-election in 2010. He died in 2017 at age 85.

Baseball8(DG)072600 -- Steve Largent, R-Okla., takes a swing at home plate during the 39th Annual Congressional Baseball Game.
Largent takes a swing at home plate during the 2000 Congressional Baseball Game. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent’s election to the House in 1994 launched an era of GOP dominance in the annual baseball game. The NFL Hall of Famer came with the reputation as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time over 14 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He led the Republicans to victory in five of his seven games. Largent left Congress in 2002 for an unsuccessful bid for Oklahoma governor. He later served as president of wireless industry trade group CTIA.

Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa., and Jim Ryun, R-Kan., throw foam balls to the crowd at the 45th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball game played at RFK stadium.
Reps. Jim Ryun and Melissa A. Hart throw foam balls to the crowd at the 2006 Congressional Baseball Game at RFK Stadium. Ryun is one of the few Olympic medallists to have served in Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Jim Ryun was the first high schooler to run the mile in under four minutes. The Kansas Republican is also among a select group of Olympic medalists elected to Congress — he won a silver in the 1,500 meters in Mexico City in 1968. Ryun was on the winning Republican team from 2002 to 2006 amid an eight-year winning streak for the party. He lost re-election in 2006 and another bid to reclaim his seat two years later.

Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., talks with his daughter Island, 2 1/2, and son Navy, 6, after the 46th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler talks with his daughter, Island, and son, Navy, after the 2007 Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

On the Democratic side, former North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler was a star college quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers in the early 1990s. But he had a shortened NFL career after disappointing stints with the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints, plagued by unfulfilled potential and a career-ending foot injury. Shuler was on the winning Democratic roster in 2009 and 2010. He decided against a fourth term in 2012 after his seat was redrawn, and he has since gone on to work at Duke Energy and BakerHostetler.

Also watch: The history of the Congressional Baseball Game

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