This has been a Republican town for almost seven years now, and on Saturday, we at last found out why.

The GOP plays a wicked game of softball.

On a scorching day that would have made anyone wilt, regardless of party affiliation, the Republican National Committee captured the Second Annual Think Tank Softball Tournament by beating the Brookings Institution, 8-1, in the final game.

The Think Tank Tournament is sponsored by yours truly each year in an effort to raise money for Send a Kid to Camp, the charity we support in this corner of the comics at this time of year. When day was done, the tournament had done its job in fine style.

More than $3,000 in entry fees and supplementary contributions poured into the camp treasury from the 24 teams and their supporters. That sum will send 10 underprivileged Washington area kids to camp this summer -- good news, indeed.

The victorious RNC squad could not have traveled a tougher road to the 1987 title.

In the first round, RNC met last year's losing finalist, The Heritage Foundation, and squeaked out a 3-2 victory.

In the second round, RNC defeated last year's champions, the Environmental Policy Institute, in another nailbiter. Final score: 4-2.

In the semifinals, RNC knocked off a 1986 semifinalist, the Congressional Budget Office, 7-2. But the game was much closer than that for four innings.

And in the finals, RNC fell behind Brookings, 1-0, before roaring back with four runs in the top of the second inning. The big hits were two-run doubles by Rod Myers and Diane Greenspun. RNC coasted home from there.

The final game was rich with political possibility. It pitted the reigning party of consummate conservatism against one of the most liberal think tanks in all of Beltwaydom.

It didn't take long for the Brookings folks to apply the needle.

Before the first pitch of the final game, the Brookings team huddled beside its bench. Was this a seance? Was this a pep talk? Was this a lost contact lens?

No. It was political chain-yanking.

From the huddle came the roar: "Gipperdammerung!" Loosely translated, that means, "Twilight for the Gipper!"

The RNC replied by keeping upper lips stiff and by refusing to adopt a team nickname.

"No, we don't have one, and I don't think we ever will," said RNC coach Rocky Vaughn.

Then he added:

"I'm sure lots of people have nicknames for us already."

Actually, there were more nicknames for the heat than for any softballers who happened to wear elephants on their shirts. The mercury was above 90 for much of the day, and the only hint of a breeze came when a batter decided to swing.

Perhaps the best measure of the heat was the can count. The sweating assembled multitude consumed more than 1,000 cans of beer and soda -- before the tournament was two-thirds over.

Brookings had a rough road to the finals, too. It won its first game by forfeit, and its second by nine runs. But Brookings barely squeaked past the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in the quarterfinals, 2-1. And it had to hold on to beat Hogan and Hartson in the semifinals, 4-1, after H&H twice brought the tying run to the plate.

Brookings captain Elizabeth Schneirov was philosophical in defeat. "Oh, well, next year," she said.

No doubt she was speaking of the White House as well as of softball.

RNC skipper Vaughn said his squad had played with "a lot of heart. We won despite our coach." But the coach was plenty capable of hefting the spoils of victory -- the coveted Think Tank Trophy, which is a reproduction of Rodin's famous statue, "The Thinker," and which was provided by the Wallace Wentworth Gallery of Dupont Circle.

To St. John's College High School, which donated its playing fields for the day, heaps of thanks. To all the participants, the same. To an excellent crop of umpires, a tip of the cap. And to the winners from the RNC, hearty congratulations. Besides Rod, Diane and Rocky, the team members were:

Phyllis Berry, Chris Reilly, John Kendrick, Lisa Burgess, Dan Steadley, Rich Hansen, Chris Reed, John Guzik, Paul Boanton, Mary Alice McNamara, Bob Wolf, Kim Tisdale and Stan Grubman.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.


In hand as of June 16: $62,788.11.

Our goal: $220,000.