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The First Congressional Baseball Game

In the summer of 1909, the U.S. Congress was in a contentious battle over tariffs. To lighten the mood, a congressman who was a former professional baseball player suggested a friendly game between Republicans and Democrats. A game was set up, open to the public with proceeds going to fund Washington playgrounds, and a thousand people showed up to watch. But the politicians were not the athletes spectators were used to watching.  

The first inning went relatively smoothly for both sides as they each put up two runs and avoided major gaffes. The errors soon piled up, though, beginning with the Democrats cracking the game open with a 10-run second inning. The Republicans responded with a 10-run fifth inning that featured one of the most bizarre plays of the game not involving an error. Rep. Howland hit a soft liner to left that looked like an easy catch for anyone other than to whom it was hit. In an effort to preserve life and limb, Democratic left fielder Thomas Heflin ducked, letting the ball land softly and roll to the left field wall, giving Howland an opportunity to round the bases. However, the out-of-shape congressman barely made it to second base before collapsing and asking for a replacement runner.

And that was just the beginning. The crowd loved watching their representatives' incompetence on display, and laughed at the their eventual exhaustion. The game ended with 36 runs, 43 hits, and 14 errors, and gave the newspapers a field day. Read a full account of the first congressional baseball game at The Hardball Times. -via Digg

The Congressional Baseball Game has become an annual event, which now includes senators and raises more than $100,000 for local charities.   


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