The game must go on

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­COLE AULT

Shoot­ing will not halt ven­er­a­ble Con­gres­sional Base­ball Game.

The har­row­ing ri­fle at­tack Wed­nes­day as Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors pre­pared for the Con­gres­sional Base­ball Game won’t stop a ven­er­a­ble, bi­par­ti­san Capi­tol Hill tra­di­tion from go­ing for­ward.

Though the shoot­ing at an Alexandria ball field left House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise and four oth­ers in­jured, the an­nual char­ity fundraiser will be held as sched­uled on Thurs­day night at Na­tion­als Park, an emo­tional Speaker Paul D. Ryan an­nounced to cheer­ing law­mak­ers in the House cham­ber.

The an­nual event was founded in 1909 by Rep. John Tener, Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can and a one­time pro­fes­sional ballplayer who later served as pres­i­dent of the Na­tional League. Pit­ting Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors against each other in a more ami­able set­ting than the Capi­tol, the game quickly grew pop­u­lar.

The com­pe­ti­tion has been held al­most ev­ery year since its found­ing, with a few ex­cep­tions. In 1914, for ex­am­ple, leg­is­la­tors were called from the field be­cause a quo­rum wasn’t present in the House to de­bate an im­por­tant bill. In 1958 Speaker Sam Ray­burn of Texas put a stop to the game, claim­ing it was too phys­i­cal, but the tra­di­tion re­sumed in 1962 with the spon­sor­ship of Roll Call, a Capi­tol Hill news­pa­per.

The qual­ity of play can be patchy at times, but a num­ber of law­mak­ers have man­aged to dis­tin­guish them­selves on the field. Rep. Sil­vio Conte hit a dou­ble while on crutches in 1986. Rep. John Shimkus pitched three months af­ter hav­ing open-heart surgery in 2005. And Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, has played ev­ery year ex­cept one dur­ing her con­gres­sional ca­reer, and is the only fe­male to play in the past sev­eral years.

In ad­di­tion to Mr. Tener, par­tic­i­pants have in­cluded some pro­fes­sional “ringers” in­clud­ing Rep. Wilmer “Vine­gar Bend” Mizell of North Carolina and Sen. Jim Bun­ning of Ken­tucky, a Hall of Fame pitcher who passed away late last month.

The par­ti­san record is re­mark­ably close, ac­cord­ing to the game’s web­site, with each party claim­ing 39 vic­to­ries in the se­ries. Democrats won the first games, keep­ing Repub­li­cans from a win un­til 1916. Repub­li­cans won last year’s game, break­ing a los­ing streak that be­gan in 2009. Law­mak­ers say the event is a wel­come break from the bit­ter par­ti­san­ship that can en­gulf most as­pects of con­gres­sional life.

The game has long been a char­ity event, chan­nel­ing funds to the Red Cross War Ser­vice Fund in 1917 and to the Com­mu­nity Chest for Re­lief of the Un­em­ployed in 1933. Pro­ceeds now sup­port the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Wash­ing­ton, the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als Dream Foun­da­tion and the Wash­ing­ton Lit­er­acy Cen­ter.

While col­leagues on both sides of the aisle ex­pressed re­lief that Mr. Scalise was merely wounded by the shoot­ing, Mr. Ryan ac­knowl­edged there were re­grets.

Mr. Scalise “is re­ally likely frus­trated that he can’t play in the base­ball game,” Mr. Ryan said on the House floor.

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