The 29th Congressional Baseball Game between the Republicans and the Democrats may not have been hardball politics -- Capitol Hill style -- but it was not a whole new ballgame either. In a hotly contested softball game, marked by seesaws of fortune and a rambunctious, partisan display of emotions from the fans, the Republicans won 9-6.
"It gives us a right to brag for the next 24 hours," gushed an exhausted Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) as his ear-to-ear smile was echoed by 200 boisterous supporters at the Four Mile Run Park in Alexandria last evening. Benefits from the game, sponsored by the Roll Call newspapers and Miller Brewing Co., will go toward the treatment of disabled children.
In the other camp dejected Democrat supporters stared vacantly at Rep. Carl Pursell (R-Mich.), coach and manager of the Republicans, as he lifted the glittering Roll Call Trophy triumphantly above his head.
"We beat ourselves," said a stoic Rep. Marty Russo (D-Ill.) as he greeted consolatory outbursts from the diehard Democrat fans with a wan smile. "We'll work harder now to defeat them on the legislative front. There, we will show them no mercy," said Russo, apparently seized by a belated burst of inspiration.
But politics had taken the backseat the whole afternoon, starting with near-90 temperatures and a pre-game party where Republicans and Democrats forgot their rivalry in the idyllic smoky haze of the barbecue grill and the pungent smell of mustard and ketchup.
"It will be a nice, quiet evening," said Detective Bill Scott of the Alexandria Police Department's homicide squad. "There will be no homicides," he smiled reassuringly.
Before the game, both parties were equally optimistic, though Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) confessed that "there is a big tongue in my cheek when I say that though we may not do well in electoral games, the ballpark is another matter." Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.), the star of the Republican team, was busy doing limbering-up exercises and appeared confident though reserved. "Basically, we try not to get hurt and not to make a fool of ourselves. Each side will try to win the game."
"We play very well together. The sum of the parts is better than the whole," said Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) as he entered the park accompanied by his press secretary. "The game is very partisan. We hold tight to the party line," said Mfume.
It was love that held the party line for Will Langhorn, a Washington-based construction superintendent. "I am a Democrat because my girlfriend works for Mel Levine," the California congressman. Romance had also prompted him to wear a paint-streaked T-shirt he had prepared for the game with the unequivocal message, "Give 'em Hell, Mel."
Mel didn't exactly give them hell, though aided by his effective pitching, the Democrats bounced back into the game after a scrappy start, tying 3-3 at the bottom of the second inning. The Republicans smartly stole bases, prompting a Democrat in the stands to remark, "That's typical of Republicans -- stealing. History repeats itself."
There was some scintillating hitting and fielding by Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), who often garnered bipartisan applause. It was Rep. John Kasich's (Ohio) base-running that gave the Republicans the lead. The Democrats, through sporadic burts of brilliance, managed to breathe down the Republicans' necks at the bottom of the sixth inning when the score was 7-6. But they never came back and when Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.) was out in the seventh inning, ending the game, the Democrat stands were full of Coke cans and some scattered supporters.