House Democrats may not be able to reclaim the majority for another decade because of redistricting, but for as long as Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., is an elected official, they're certain to reign supreme on the baseball diamond.
Richmond, donning an old-school Brooklyn Dodgers No. 42 jersey in honor of the late Jackie Robinson, dominated the game, pitching 7 shutout innings, notching 4 hits and driving in 2 runs, to lead the Democrats to the most lopsided win in 52 years of CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball, 22-0. The Louisiana Democrat told teammates and reporters he was sick before the game. Yet he recorded a Michael-Jordan-in-Game-Five-Of-The-1997-NBA-Finals-like performance, making everyone else on the field look like the out-of-shape congressional amateurs that they are.
"If it was high school or college, I wouldn't dare try to get away with it," Richmond told Roll Call before the game at Nationals Park.
Richmond said there was a lot of pressure being the best athlete on the field, but he was sure to point out fellow Democrats who also know how to play ball. In particular, he said, freshman Patrick Murphy of Florida, a former varsity high school baseball captain, was a "true story." "He can play and he can hit," Richmond said.
Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., no relation, overhearing a claim of Patrick as "the better Murphy" outside the dugout pregame, bristled at such a designation.
"He hasn't even played a game, how can you say he's the better Murphy yet?" the Democrats' catcher quipped. While the senator might not be the better player, he impressed this reporter by passing my baseball trivia test, knowing that former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona was Jordan's manager at Double-A Birmingham (See? And you thought I wouldn't tie all my obscure sports references together?).
With their victory Thursday night, Democrats took their fifth straight win from Republicans, a small solace for being the House minority for three years and counting. The previously most lopsided win was a 17-1 GOP drubbing of the Democrats in 1999.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, dressed in a casual light-pink dress shirt, tried to rally his troops in the dugout before first pitch. True to form, the speaker's effort was valiant but ultimately futile.
"Keep your eye on the ball. When it comes to you in the field, just keep your eye on it," Boehner said, his voice raised. "Let's go out there and kick their ass!"
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., the only female player, was a fan favorite, getting to first base twice and taking second base on an error in the 5th inning after notching a single.
Roll Call's most quotable player award, however, goes to Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. Crowley, dressed head-to-toe in Mets gear, warmed up before the game on the third-base line with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who once mulled challenging the New Yorker for his leadership post.
Crowley said he's "still a Mets fan" despite the recent demotion of family friend Mike Baxter to Triple-A Las Vegas. Roll Call asked if he would play better than the last congressman to wear a full Mets uniform in the game, current New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, Crowley brought the quintessential Empire State lawmaker sass.
"I don't know that I'm going to play better than him, but I'm definitely going to use the Internet better than him," Crowley said.
When pressed on whether there was a "Sports Illustrated"-like Congressional Baseball Game cover jinx, given that this year's program featured defeated Republican Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois in a Cubs jersey, Crowley had an answer for that, too.
"They had a hard time finding a decent picture of a Republican with a smile on his face, so that's all they could come up with. it was a rough night for them," Crowley said.
If only he knew there would be even fewer smiles this year, and more Republican staffers hitting the exits early.
But as the image of a smiling defeated congressman in a Cubs jersey reminds everyone, there's always next year.