Congress Plays Ball

11 Mar

On July 16, 1909, the United States Congress took over Washington’s American League Park.  More than 1000 Washingtonians paid 75 cents to watch Democrats and Republicans in, what The Washington Post called an “affair (that) was advertised as a ball game.”

The Washington Herald said:

 “Hurrah for the Democratic party!

”No joking—the faithful followers of Jefferson, or whoever it was that gave (William Jennings) Bryan’s friends their principles, certainly did do things to the tried and true lieutenants of Speaker (Joseph Gurney) Cannon at the National Park yesterday afternoon, when two baseball teams composed of members of the House of Representatives fought it out for seven innings in some of the hottest rays Old Sol has dealt out to Washington this summer.”

[…]

“Republicans and Democrats alike were free traders, so far as errors and two or three base hits were concerned.”

The game ended after seven innings, the Democrats winning 26-16.

The Democrats

The Democrats

The Associated Press (AP) said:

“More varieties of baseball were played in that game than ever crowded into seven innings before and strange as it may seem not all of the varieties were bad.  The Democrats put up a rattling good game in the field—sometimes.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

The AP said one of the highlights of the game was the collision between Republican catcher James F. Burke (PA) and pitcher Joseph H. Gaines (WV) in front of home plate on a pop up, “While (Burke) and the pitcher were doing the ‘Alphonse and Gaston,’ three Democrats with a warped idea of chivalrous courtesy raced home.”

The Republicans

The Republicans

The Washington Times was more critical of the abilities of the lawmakers, singling out several:

“Before going further it is necessary to state that for the Democrats the man who attracted the most unfavorable notice was Handsome (James Thomas) Heflin of Alabama, who, with the help of a collie dog, covered left field for his party in a lamentable, sad and sorrowful style.  Heflin is tall and stout, and not to say sebaceous, and he and the dog went on the principle that they could catch every fly and stop every grounder by simply staring the ball out of countenance.  Heflin played the position like a merycotherium.  He probably does not know what that mean, but a glance at the dictionary reveals it to be an animal like a rhinoceros, ruminant, contemplative and far from agile.”

Nick Longworth (OH), who was dressed in a golfing suit, and hit at the ball as if he thought it had been teed for him (he struck out twice) is suffering this afternoon from a wrenched erector spinae muscle, caused by continually looking up and seeing flies, which he had misjudged go sailing over his head in center field.”

congressman Longworth at the plate.

Congressman Longworth at the plate, Congressman Kinkead is the catcher

The Times said, in general:

“Most of the players in trying to catch the ball held up their hand as if they expected someone to place in them very gently a salary check or a piece of pie.  On grounders they all had holes in their legs and could not stop a thing.”

Despite the overall criticism, the paper did mention three players on each team for being, at least, passable on the field.

Among the three Republicans was former big league pitcher, turned Pennsylvania Congressman, John Tener who played shortstop and had two hits and made just one of his team’s nine errors.  The other two Republican standouts were Albert F. Dawson of Iowa and Leonard Paul Howland of Ohio.

The three ”best fielders” among the  Democrats were Eugene F. Kinkead and William Hughes  of New Jersey and William Oldfield of Arkansas.

Congressman Hushes at the plate.

Congressman Hughes at the plate.

The game raised $320.55 to for the Washington Playgrounds Association “for the benefit of the children of Washington.”

The nation’s biggest baseball fan, President William Howard Taft skipped the game to play golf with Vice President James S. Sherman.

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One Response to “Congress Plays Ball”

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  1. “It smacks of Old-fashioned Common Sense” | Baseball History Daily - June 26, 2015

    […] said former pitcher and current National League President John Tener was “(C)onvinced that the public wants more […]

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