Oxley Makes History as GOP Completes Sweep
Rep. Mike Oxley (Ohio) became only the second manager to retire more than one coveted Roll Call trophy, as he led the Republicans to a 19-11 thrashing of the Democrats on Thursday evening at the 44th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
“This is going on my dashboard,” Oxley said to his players as he posed with the hardware after his team’s victory, in which the Republicans closed out a 3-0 series sweep. With Oxley’s second series victory, he joins former Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.) as the only manager to retire multiple trophies (Conte won five). Being in such rarified company has special significance for Oxley.
“Silvio Conte was a legend,” Oxley said in an interview after the game. “Silvio was the manager of the Republican team when I was an intern in 1965. … After my special election, the first guy to call me was Silvio Conte, saying he wants me to play baseball for the Republican team.”
In addition to their multiple trophies, Conte and Oxley are also the only managers to close out a series at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The game was played at RFK from its inauguration through 1972, after which it moved to various area venues. Thursday marked the game’s return to RFK, and the stadium’s expansive outfield contributed to the offensive explosion.
Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) captured the Most Valuable Player award for the Republicans, going 2-for-3 with a double and a triple and playing solid defense at second base.
“It felt really good,” Brady said of the triple he smacked deep into the left-field corner. “But then you start running and you don’t know where it went, they were just waving me around, and it felt great. I knew it was going far.”
Oxley was thrilled with his second baseman’s play.
“He had a couple of nice hits, and he’s a class act. We’re glad to have him,” the manager said, adding that it was good to see the oft-injured Brady have “a little longevity for a change.”
Brady had suffered injuries in the first inning each of the previous two years. After making it through the whole game this year, he was glad to put that curse behind him. “It will feel even better to have those comments stop,” Brady said. “Every inning, it was like, ‘Hey, it’s the third, you’re still in. Hey, it’s the fourth, you’re still in.’”
Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) took over the title of “most badly injured” this year, as he had to leave the game after hurting his knee in the sixth inning. “When I stole second,” Pickering explained, “I debated whether to slide or go in standing up. … When I planted my right foot, my cleats caught the ground and my weight shifted through my knee and I heard a pop.” The extent of the injury will not be known until Pickering goes in for an MRI.
The GOP effort was led by a strong outing from their starting pitcher, Sen. John Ensign (Nev.). Ensign began the game with great stuff, striking out Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. He took a no-hitter into the fourth, when it was broken up by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
“It had to be done,” Smith later said. After the game, Ensign said that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) broke the cardinal rule when your pitcher is throwing a no-hitter: Santorum mentioned it to Ensign when they were sitting on the bench during the top of the fourth. The very first hitter the Democrats sent up in the next inning, Smith, got a single.
Ensign and Santorum were both whisked away after the fifth inning, as the pair of Senators had to vote on the energy bill. When the first-time starter left, a grizzled vet came in to hold the lead: Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), three months removed from open-heart surgery.
“Officially, the docs said no baseball or basketball for three months,” Shimkus said. “Three months was the 21st, so officially, by the rules set up by my cardiologist, I was legally qualified to play.”
When Ensign returned to the stadium, Shimkus told him to finish the game. “It was really his game, so I told him to go back out there. The rest must have been good for him, because he was back to his old form.”
After the Republicans jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, the Democrats started to climb back into it, culminating in a four-run fifth to bring the score to 12-8. That was as close as the Democrats would get, as the GOP scored five in the next inning to seal the series victory.
The Democratic manager, Rep. Martin Sabo (Minn.), was understandably disappointed by the result, but still enjoyed himself.
“The game was competitive; we started off behind, rallied and made them nervous, but couldn’t quite come all the way back,” Sabo said. “It was an exciting game, and we raised a lot of money for a good cause.”
As in the past, the game benefited the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington’s Metropolitan Police Clubhouses. By moving the game to RFK this year, organizers estimate that they raised more than $100,000 (surpassing previous years’ totals) to be divided between the two groups.
While the charities were nothing new, the GOP’s starter was.
Democratic first baseman Rep. William Jefferson (La.) said that his team was fooled by Ensign at the start of the game, but had him figured out in the later innings. “They hit the ball pretty well early, though,” Jefferson said, and by the time the Democrats got going “it was just too much to overcome.”
Rep. Jay Inslee (Wash.) took home the MVP award for the Democrats, going 3-for-3 with three runs batted in.
“It felt unusual,” Inslee replied when asked about the MVP award. “As Mel Watt said, ‘If Jay Inslee is named the MVP we have real problems on our team.’”
The cheering section for the Democrats remained in good spirits. Despite being outnumbered by Republican fans, they were quite active in the stands, vociferously booing Santorum every time he stepped to the plate and chanting “A-bra-moff” when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) was shown on the big screen.
“It’s amazing how much noise is out there,” Shimkus said. Pickering added that “the crowd was intense. We couldn’t even hear each other out on the field.”
First-time participant Rep. Tom Price (R-N.C.) said he had a good time and looks forward to doing it again next year. “It is a real treasure to be able to participate in a bipartisan activity that allows Members to get to know one another a little better,” Price said. “All in all, it was a great experience.”
The announced attendance at RFK was 5,622, surpassing the record set last year at the game’s final year in Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Md.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) threw out the first of three ceremonial first pitches as she welcomed the game back to Washington. Following Norton were Washington Nationals infielder Jamey Carroll and Washington Senators great Mickey Vernon. Luke Mullins, Matthew Murray and Jared Allen contributed to this report.