WASHINGTON – Republican congresspersons took their third win in a row Wednesday night in the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity.
The GOP won 16-6 in the seven-inning game between Democratic and Republican congresspersons that raised $1.8 million for 44 charities in and around the D.C. area. The charity game takes place in the Major League Baseball stadium where the Washington Nationals play.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who was clad in a LSU Tigers baseball uniform for practice, said Wednesday before the game that he expected about 23,000 fans to show up. Stadium administrators announced that 26,663 tickets were sold. Nationals Park seats about 41,300 people.
For the game, the Republican team wore red identical uniforms with elephants on the breast though Scalise, 57, kept his purple LSU cap. He played first base for a short time and was the lead-off batter for the GOP.
Scalise, who can't run because of the injuries he suffered six years ago, had a designated runner, Rep. William Timmons, R-South Carolina. Scalise hit to the third baseman but Arizona Democratic Rep Greg Stanton's throw was way off the bag and Timmons made first base easily.
Timmons quickly stole second and eventually scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. He later left the game with a pulled hamstring, one of many that afflicted players of both parties.
The Republicans were ahead 11-2 at the end of the 4th inning.
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Florida and a 45-year-old U.S. Army veteran had pitched a tight game until the 5th inning when he gave up back-to-back-to-back hits to the Democrats, who scored three runs. Steube was moved to third base and replaced on the mound by Texas Republican Rep. August Pfluger, a 45-year-old Air Force veteran and Eagle Scout who played high school football in San Angelo, Texas. He finished the game.
The contest was not your best baseball. Many of the players have military experience, but few played organized ball. The pitches were a little slow and only sometimes crossed the plate in the strike zone. Luckily for the pitchers, the home plate umpire had a very liberal strike zone. Fielding was clumsy and running was wonky with lots of flapping arms.
When Pfluger nailed Democratic North Carolina Rep. Don Davis, the Presbyterian lay minister who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy playfully rushed the mound and, all smiles, hugged the GOP pitcher who had hit him with a pitch. There were almost as many hit batters as there were hits in the game. Republicans had 15 hits and the Democrats had 10.
But the crowd was enthusiastic and nearly filled the bottom part of the stadium. Republican rooters sat on the first base side. Democratic fans were on the third base side. Behind the plate was reserved for independents who backed neither Democrats nor Republicans. While the partisan sections were packed, plenty of good seats were available for the middle-of-the-roaders.
Democratic representatives wore blue caps but their jerseys were from local high school, college or professional teams in their individual districts.
Former New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond, who now works for the Democratic National Committee, coached first base for the Democrats. But he also stalked the dugout offering advice to the Democrats. In the GOP dugout, he shook hands with Republicans, including Scalise. Richmond was Scalise's first visitor when the New Orleans suburban representative was shot in 2017.
An athlete at Morehouse College, Richmond had been the Democrats ringer in past games and his pitching was the reason the blue team won consistently. He left Congress in 2021 to join the White House and Republicans have won every Congressional Baseball Game since. Republicans joke that hiring Richmond was the only decision Democratic President Joe Biden ever made with which they agreed.
Wednesday is the sixth anniversary of the 2017 shooting that nearly killed Scalise during a Republican team practice for the game. Many of the players Wednesday wore bracelets with that date engraved.
“For me, this year’s Congressional Baseball Game is especially meaningful as it marks the sixth anniversary of the shooting,” Scalise said Wednesday before the first pitch. “By God’s grace and the incredible heroism of our Capitol Police officers, first responders and my teammates, I am lucky to be alive today to play another game and I look forward to defending our title as champions.”
Six people were shot at a YMCA diamond practice field in suburban Alexandria on June 14, 2017, including Scalise, who was House Minority Whip at the time. U.S. Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, a congressional aide and a lobbyist also were shot. Scalise was life-flighted to a nearby emergency room, underwent surgery and was in a coma for three days. The shooter, James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old critic of then President Donald Trump, was shot by Capitol Police and Alexandria Police. He died later that day.
Scalise acknowledged that the shooting focused attention on the game, which has led to larger crowds and more money raised.
Capitol Hill is known for its often-dysfunctional operations in which angry partisans call each other names and fail to get much accomplished. Scalise said the game is an opportunity for representatives from both parties to get to know one another. And from those bonds they can build relationships that allow the usual political opponents to work together in Congress, he added.
“Even in Washington, sports inspire people to put aside their differences and come together for a good cause,” Scalise said. “That’s the purpose of this game —we’re showcasing friendships on both sides of the aisle, leading by example in demonstrating sportsmanship and raising nearly $2 million dollars for youth charities.”
Republicans hold the advantage over Democrats with a 45-42-1 record after Wednesday night's game.