Monday, July 21, 2008

Washington Social Diary

The board, the teams, and the National Anthem, before the game.
CONGRESS AT PLAY
By Carol Joynt

On the sidelines in his bright blue and white Dodgers uniform, pitcher, and Democratic California Congressman, Joe Baca, explained the players’ exuberance at the 47th Annual Congressional Baseball Game.

“This is good because, since the era when Newt Gingrich was Speaker, it’s the only time we’re like this any more.”

Like this meant bipartisan camaraderie among House and Senate democrats and republicans. Fifty of them got out of one kind of pinstripes and into another to “play ball” for charity before an estimated 5,000 partisan fans late last week at Washington Nationals Stadium. A ballpark employee, surveying the stands, said the Democrats’ fans outnumbered the Republicans. “Let’s hope the number is this lopsided in November, too,” he laughed.

Before the game, the fans sat behind their teams’ dugouts, waving signs, stamping their feet and hollering – unleashing fervor not permitted in the House and Senate chambers.
Whatever happens in the Presidential election, in Congressional baseball, at least, the Republicans have the power, coming into Thursday’s contest with a win record of 32 to 15. The game has been played on and off since 1909. It’s a five game series, with one game a year, and when the series is swept by one side or the other, they start over.

If it seems drawn out and confusing, a young Congressional aide on the sidelines, who demanded anonymity, agreed: “Nothing moves fast in Congress and it’s always complicated.”

While we waited out a rain delay I asked him to point out the star players. “Oh, they all think they are star players. Congress is Hollywood for ugly people.”

Okay, only two senators from each party. Why not more players from the Senate?

“Because they’re just old.”

Which is why we love anonymous Congressional aides.
Just like real players in a real game, the Congressional teams got introduced and lined up before the action. Here, Joe Baca joins his fellow democrats.
The storm that hit just before game time did not cause the usual lull, because politicians know how to put a rain delay to good use. While the grounds crew dried out the field, the extra hour went to stretching muscles more accustomed to desk work, to meeting and greeting friends and family, to media interviews, photo ops, phone calls, back slapping, eating hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and chips, and to good natured taunting about baseball skills. The Capitol Police performed the requisite sweep with a bomb-sniffing dog. The Nats famous giant “Racing Presidents” – Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and T. R. Roosevelt – wandered the stands.

The first pitch was thrown at dusk, and the crowd roared. Believe it or not, these lawmakers can actually hit balls and run bases. For a contest between a bunch of mixed-age and mixed-gender players, it was lively, with 15 runs scored in the last two innings, including a homer from republican Congressman Chip Pickering of Mississippi. The final score was close, but the republicans again came out on top, 11-10, winning the series and the Roll Call Trophy.

With the rain, and temps in the 90s, the stadium was a steam bath. Nobody seemed to mind. It’s baseball, after all, and produced less hot air than a day’s worth of floor proceedings.
A moment of silence for the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The roster for the Democrats, from the House: Michael Arcuri, Joe Baca, Brian Baird, Tim Bishop, Bruce Braley, Russ Carnahan, Christopher Carney, Ben Chandler, William Lacy Clay, Joe Donnelly, Mike Doyle, Brad Ellsworth, Jay Inslee, Jim Marshall, Mike McIntyre, Christopher Murphy, Patrick Murphy, Bill Pascrell, Ed Perlmutter, Linda Sanchez, Heath Shuler, Bart Stupak, Mell Watt, Anthony Weiner, John Yarmuth; and from the Senate, Sherrod Brown.

The roster for the Republicans, from the House: Gresham Barrett, Joe Barton, Kevin Brady, Steve Buyer, Mike Conaway, Tom Davis, Jeff Flake, Phil Gingrey, Louie Gohmert, Virgil Goode, Sam Graves, Kenny Hulshof, Jack Kingston, Connie Mack, Thaddeus McCotter, Steve Pearce, Chip Pickering, Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Steve Scalise, Pete Sessions, John Shimkus, Bill Shuster, Todd Tiahrt, Zach Wamp; and, from the Senate, John Ensign.
A 20 minute rain storm cause an hour's delay in the game, but the Nationals grounds crew were on it.
Politician-baseball players know how to make good use of a rain delay.
Meet and greet friends and fans.
The republican dug-out.
Talk game, rather than political strategy.
The democrats take direction in their dug-out.
No one, not Congressional baseball players or their fans, can resist ballpark food.
A rain delay provides a great opportunity for old-fashioned bi-partisan political camaraderie.
The Capitol Police, and their bombing sniffing dog, were on duty but relaxed.
The fans did what fans do: cheer for a favorite and have fun.
Clockwise from top left: George Washington took a seat in the stands; Someone's making good use of the House gym; Regardless of his day job, North Carolina democrat, and second baseman, Mike McIntyre shows good form; While he may be accustomed to the spotlight of the House floor, New York Congressman Michael Arcuri savors the thrill of the ballpark. The Baseball Hall of Fame is in his home district.
For this game, at least, the republicans were on the left and the democrats on the right.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.