Former Rep. Zach Wamp’s baseball career included an MVP award, an inside-the-park home run, a hitting streak that spanned the length of his tenure on the diamond and a batting average better than .500. Not bad for a self-described “B-minus athlete.”
In fact, those credentials have earned Wamp induction into the CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame. Now imagine what else he could have accomplished with an earlier debut.
The Tennessee Republican spent 1995, his first year in Congress, focused on being home in his district as much as possible. The following year, he watched the game from the stands and realized, “I can play baseball, too.”
In his second term, the former high-school basketball star went out for the baseball team and started a 13-game run comparable to any other in the 52-year history of the game.
Wamp debuted as the starting center fielder that year and filled up the box score: two hits, two runs scored, one run batted in. If it wasn’t for a home run by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., Wamp might have won MVP as a rookie.
But that accolade was only two years away. In 1999, settled in as the team’s regular shortstop, Wamp batted 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI — both coming on the same hit. Batting in the third inning, Wamp drove the ball all the way to the wall on a few hops.
“I ran track in high school and still had a little bit of juice in my legs,” Wamp said of his race around the bases. “They were playing in on me. I hit a good shot perfectly between left and center. They were just getting to the ball when I made the turn at second base.”
Although piecing together correct statistics from every game is nearly impossible given the constant in-game player substitutions and inconsistent record-keeping, we know Wamp hit safely in at least 11 games, but more likely 13. The box score published after the 1998 game shows Wamp going hitless in one at-bat, but later coverage and interviews suggest he did record at least one hit that year, giving him a hit in every game. That is “almost certainly a record only matched by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” according to Wamp’s former manager, then-Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.