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Annual Congressional game chance to let loose

Democrats, Republicans take the field after historic day for Supreme Court

Special to
WASHINGTON -- On the day the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling on health care and a sitting attorney general in the Cabinet was held in contempt by the House for the first time, a bunch of Congressmen did the only thing they could afterward.

They went to play baseball at Nationals Park.

The 51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game took place Thursday night. The historic events of the day loomed in the background, but when the Democrats and Republicans took the field, they were all little kids again for a few hours. And this mighty group that's spent so much time disagreeing on issues lately easily agreed on one thing -- they loved playing baseball.

"I felt like a Little Leaguer coming in the stadium," said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), wearing a Rays uniform. "After a day like today, this is a great relief -- especially in light of the fact that we're the underdogs."

They were the underdogs mainly due to the fact that Rep. Cedric Richmond was pitching. The hard-throwing right-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of last year's game and earned the nickname "Franchise" from his Democratic teammates. He pitched well again this year as the Democrats rolled to an easy 18-5 victory before an estimated crowd of 8,000-10,000.

The Republicans worked hard on their hitting in the days and weeks leading up to the game to prepare for Richmond. They brought in younger folks who could throw the ball hard, and hit off pitching machines. Some of that work paid off as they finished with nine hits, but Richmond still controlled things -- earning chants of "M-V-P, M-V-P" from the Democratic faithful behind their dugout as he went the distance again.

"Cedric is a really good pitcher," said Republican manager Rep. Joe Barton (Texas). "He's the best in the 20-something years I've been involved in this game."

The Democrats wiped out any thoughts the Republicans had of a victory with an 11-run outburst in the top of the second. Some Republican miscues helped the cause. Barton estimated his Republicans let the Democrats get seven outs in that very long inning.

But that outburst was more than enough for Richmond, even though he did get hit some this time. Still, after the game, it looked like friends getting together to play a game in the park.

They all milled around home plate and the two dugouts and spent time talking, laughing, shaking hands and swapping war stories.

"You need more things when Republicans and Democrats come together outside of the Capitol," Richmond said. "Because when you know somebody and you play against them and you really get to know them, it's hard to call them evil."

This was a true baseball night. Players were all kinds of different uniforms -- professional, collegiate and others. They wanted to look and feel like ballplayers and put the pressure of political life away for a few hours. There was a PA announcer, the video board and scoreboard. It looked a lot like a Nationals game.

Proceeds from this event go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Literacy Center. Democratic manager Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) and others affiliated with the event said they set a record and raised about $250,000, something they clearly took pride in. This is an event they all love to do.

"We like those guys," Doyle said. "They're good guys, and we know them pretty well. There's a lot of friendship between the two baseball teams."

The House of Representatives took its historic vote to hold attorney general Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on charges that he withheld documents Republicans had asked for as part of an investigation very late in the day, around and after 5 p.m. Several came right over to the ballpark after that and went directly to the field.

The game represented the finale to a wild, historic day, one that ended on a baseball field.

"We won early this morning with the Supreme Court decision," Richmond said. "They won this afternoon with the content of Eric Holder. So this was the rubber match. So we had a better day than they had, since we pulled this off."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to