How Life Imitates the Congressional Baseball Game

The annual classic brings out a softer side of the legislative branch

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., escorted by U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday. Scalise was shot and injured last year at a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game. Bailey was also injured in the attack. Unable to play last year because of his injuries, Scalise will be on the field at Thursday’s game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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“This game is a situation of which, you’re a product of your political success, so if you have a good political year, you have a good recruiting year for this game.” So said former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., many years ago about the Congressional Baseball Game and the teams each party gets to field. 

Washington is host to the 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, known among fans as the midsummer classic. But Capitol Hill has staged its own midsummer classic every year for more than five decades, the Congressional Baseball Game. 

The annual slugfest, held on Thursday with the opening pitch at 7:05 p.m., is more than just an opportunity for professional politicians to get their ya-yas out on the grand stage of Nationals Park, running the bases at a place where somewhat more talented athletes typically ply their trade. 

Politics finds its way into the proceedings, in sometimes funny, sometimes serious ways, especially in an election year like the one under way. 

Nathan Gonzales, Roll Call’s elections analyst and editor and publisher of Inside Elections, goes through some of the way politics has crept into the Congressional Baseball Game, such as when a marquee Senate candidate took his turn pitching for the Democrats’ squad a few years back.

Have a listen to the latest Political Theater Podcast, where we discuss the game and the politics around it, including Bonior’s prescient point about how elections affect rosters. 

For Love of the Game

Roll Call’s history with the game dates back to 1962, when the newspaper’s founder and editor, Sid Yudain, teamed up with congressional leaders to bring back a game that had been on hiatus for several years. 

The 50-plus years of bonhomie were violently interrupted by last year’s June 14 shooting at the Republicans’ practice in Alexandria, Va., which injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., staffer Zack Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika, and Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey and jarred not just the Capitol community but the nation.

UNITED STATES - JUNE 14: Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, center, and his sons, board the Rayburn subway in the basement of the Capitol after a shooting at the Republican's baseball practice in Alexandria on June 14, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, center, and his sons board the Rayburn subway in the basement of the Capitol after a shooting at the Republican's baseball practice in Alexandria on June 14, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

But far from casting a pall over the game, the incident brought Congress together in a way that transcended everyday partisanship, adding a complicated chapter to a longstanding story. 

Watch: The History of the Congressional Baseball Game

The Sports Page

Roll Call has put together a veritable sports page of stories about the game, from a profile of Scalise by Alex Gangitano to a breakdown of the midterm races that could affect next year’s roster by Nathan Gonzales to marking the 25th anniversary of women first taking the field for the game in a story by Robin Opsahl.

The Kicker

Wet and muddy baseballs sit in the grass as the Democrats baseball team practice in the rain for the Congressional Baseball game at the Hamilton School in NE Washington on Wednesday, April 22, 2009.
Play ball! (CQ Roll Call file photo)

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