Congressional Baseball in Hot, Wet Summer

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THE Republicans were resurgent. The Democrats were shut out. GOP freshmen took control of the game, running wild on the base paths. Dems played defense and dreamed of triumphs past.

Bad sports analogies describing last week's legislative action? Nope. We're talkin' actual hardball.

Once a year, Congress gets together and plays a baseball game to benefit charity and award cloakroom bragging rights for another year. Last Tuesday night, as Washington's heat pressed down like a wet, hot thumb, the Republicans beat the Democrats, 6 to 0, at Prince George's Stadium in suburban Bowie, Md.

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Unlike last November's elections, the Democratic team expected this defeat. Former Dem star pitcher Rep. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma was gone this year, a victim not of arm trouble but electoral misfortune. The Republicans, meanwhile, had acquired Rep. Steve Largent, a fellow Okie who just happens to be a former standout NFL wide receiver.

Putting Largent on the mound was a little bit like sending Nolan Ryan out to pitch a high-school game. He struck out nine. ''We were praying for rain,'' said Rep. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico.

THIS game, the 34th in the annual series, is taken very seriously on Capitol Hill. Teams trained for two hours each morning leading up to the match. Some members slipped in trips to the batting cage between speeches and voting on the floor.

Republican members were so interested, in fact, that GOP leaders had difficulty winnowing down their prospects to a manageable number. The influx of GOP freshmen brought not only Largent but a host of other athletic semi-talent as well. Take GOP outfielder Ed Bryant from Tennessee. A former Little League coach, he reportedly said before the game, ''I'm quick-footed and I've got a gun.'' He meant his throwing arm.

Sponsored by the newsletter Roll Call, the game had an announced attendance of 2,616. It raised around $50,000 for charitable causes.

The series total so far is GOP 22, Democrats 8. Whether this imbalance carries any larger political point is unclear. For all their faults, the Democrats have yet to ask for runs as an entitlement. Republicans just seem to be able to block-grant hits at crucial times.

Combining politics and baseball does raise some interesting questions, however. Who should get TV rights, ESPN or C-SPAN?

Finally, a great idea: scrap the major league All-Star Game. Once a year, have baseball stars pass appropriations bills for charity, instead.

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