6-17-10 Congress vs Media Softball

Congressional Women’s Softball Game

Given that it was nominally a sporting event, the slow-pitch softball game June 16 between Members of Congress and  Capitol Hill Women’s Press Corps ended with a 13-7, come-from behind victory for the media, their second win in a row.

But, the event was more than just a softball game.

The game was a charity event which raised thousands of dollars for the Young Survival Coalition, a global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.  YSC, through its interactive web site and 30 affiliates across the United States, offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.  Funds raised at this game last year helped create and introduce new initiatives, such as a tool called the Treatment Navigator.  During last night’s game, the dozens of very helpful volunteers, all wearing pink T-shirts, as did the team, raffled off many items to raise funds.

One player, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), is a breast cancer survivor.

Fundamentally, the game was a Washington happening.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner,  Ways and Means Chairman, Sandy Levin, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, headlined a large group of Members of both Houses in attendance – in addition to the 20 Senators and Representatives on the field.  NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, usually so somber in her nightly diplomatic reports, showed a lighter, very enthusiastic side as an announcer, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe, the latter two acting as spotters – identifying the players who were not wearing numbers.  (A task compounded by the fact that the lineups were not accurate).  Also in the crowd, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, also known as Mitchell’s husband.

In addition to the 19 press corps members on the field, many of whom you see on the news or read in the print and Internet media, there were media heavies like John King of CNN and Kelly O’Donnell, NBC.  And, given the luminaries, there was a phalanx of Secret Service, Capitol Hill and DC police, as well as Georgetown University’s security force, all carefully monitoring the large crowd at Guy Mason Park in Georgetown.  And, there was a swarm of Capitol Hill staffers, many of whom were taking videos or photos, some of which will surely end up in campaign material.  One bright young thing rushed up to the press table, informed me she had seen SPY interviewing and photographing her boss, and asked to see the photos.

There were numerous photographers as the event, taking both still and video photos, but a scan of the Internet today did not reveal where they are published.  (Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, did publish a story, but SPY declined the offer to subscribe at $500 a year.)  SPY published several dozen photos it took; log on to www.spysoftball.com.  Click “photos.”

If there was an off-field star attraction, it was Nancy Pelosi.  For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding her high office – the highest ranking female Member of Congress in history, third in line to the presidency, the absolute voice in House decisions – Nancy Pelosi is a surprisingly approachable, affable personality, who shook hands, signed autographs, and chatted with absolute strangers, as well as colleagues and friends.

At one point during the game, Paul Pelosi, with whom I had chatted before and during the game, brought his wife to the press table.  The Speaker asked me about SPY Softball and my background at State; informed me that she had watched parts of the College World Series, and expressed pride (she’s from San Francisco) in UCLA winning the WCWS – and bringing the trophy back to California.  She called the Bruins “a very good team – very competent – very dedicated – very competitive.”  Pelosi then revealed that when she was Nancy D’Allesandro, growing up in Baltimore (her father was the Mayor), she played softball, and remains a fan.

Then, the Speaker of the House metamorphed into mother of five, grandmother of eight, and announced proudly that her 11-year old granddaughter in Phoenix is a softball player.  Pelosi showed me the glove she won at raffle which will be given to her granddaughter.

(Wish that acerbic critic from the Gay Alliance who started all the ruckus about Elana Kagan could have been there to see all the players with their husbands and children, part of a large crowd enjoying the camaraderie and good times we associate with the genderless, ageless sport of softball. This same week, coed teams from the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee were playing, as were teams in the Congressional League.)

Other sidebars:  brief exchanges with Wasserman Schultz about Florida’s Gators and their defeat at the World Series, and with Kucinich about keeping  Lebron in Cleveland.

The Game

The combination of out-of-order lineups and constant interruptions at the press table makes it impossible for SPY to render its usual batter-by-batter, or play-by-play scenario.  But, some observations.  First, note that there were no ringers; none of the players on either side had major college ball experience. (Kara Scannell, WSJ, played one year at Fordham)  Second, note that the average age of the Congressional team was 56, according to the Washington Post.  There were some very good plays, some critical errors;  some solid hits, and some whiffs by a few on both teams.

She may have been a surprise choice to replace Hillary Clinton, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was no surprise as the Congress starter; she holds her own in the slow-pitch circle, and defends her position with skill.  So too did Rep. Grace Napolitano, 75, a great-grandmother.  Carrie Budoff  Brown, Politico, and Emily Ortman, Roll Call, were also credible in the media circle. In the field, the most impressive players were Rep. Linda Sanchez at short  and Debbie Wasserman  Schultz at 2nd who collaborated on several forceouts and a double play.  Also worth noting at catcher, Rep. Betsy Markey who made accurate throws to 2nd.  Media catcher Trish Turner, cute as a button, does not throw well, but her enthusiasm is fetching.  Sanchez is probably the best player on either team; she attended Valencia CA highschool, a contemporary of Michelle Grainger who also competed against Lisa Fernandez.  Enjoyed remembering Orange County players and teams with her.  Rep Shelley Moore Capito made some nice plays at 3rd.   Rep Laura Richardson made unassisted outs at 1st.

The media spent most of the night catching up, until they took the lead in the 6th.  Congress scored in the bottom 1st when Schultz doubled and scored, and again in the 2nd on an rbi by Rep. Debbie Halvorson.  CNN’s Dana Bash, almost waif-like in size, scored in the 3rd and Kasie Hunt, Politico, scored the tying run in the 4th.  Schultz walked, scored again in the 4th, and a hit by Rep. Shelley Capito brought home a run, 4-2 Congress.  But, Turner singled, and scored in the 5th, and Amy Walker, National Journal, tied the score with an rbi.  4-4.

In the Congress 5th, Halvorson and Rep Jean Schmidt walked, Rep Laura Richardson had a single, Sen Kay Hagan had a hit, and when the smoke cleared, Congress led 7-4.  (There was such a crowd around the press table, SPY could not see every play, and some plays which he would have called errors were counted as hits, etc.)  More, while the bases were loaded, Speaker Pelosi came over to chat.  Couldn’t very well tell the Speaker of the House that I was trying to watch the ball game; thanks to a Congressional aide, I knew afterward that Congress muffled a double play, and  that the media now had an 8-7 lead. 

Top of 7th, while SPY talked to the Speaker, Media racked multiple hits – including Turner showing some speed beating out an  infield hit — and scored five runs to lead 13-7 – and a long but polite debate ensued as to whether Media had won by the mercy rule.  (Folks, this was their game, not the World Series, the ladies were having fun, the announcers had no clue about the mercy rule, nor was I about to enlighten them.)  Finally, the home plate umpire prevailed, and Congress was allowed its final at bat.  Shultz singled, Gillibrand doubled, a walk loaded the bases, with one out, but the Media prevailed for two outs, game over.

The end gave a new dimension to “friendly.”  The conventional wisdom in Washington is that the Congress and the press are adversaries, and on the Hill, there are ample vestiges of that.  But, on this softball field, they were friendly competitors giving their all for a common cause.

A very pleasant evening with friendly folks on both sides of the wire!

Congress: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kay Hagan, Lisa Murkowski, and Jean Shaheen; Reps. Kathy Castor, Kathy Dahlkemper, Susan Davis, Donna Edwards, Jo Ann Emerson, Debbie Halvorson, Betsy Markey, Shelley Moore Capito, Grace Napolitano, Laura Richardson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Linda Sanchez, Jean Schmidt, Betty Sutton, Nydia Velazquez, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Media: Dana Bash, CNN; Jen Bendery, Roll Call; Jessica Brady, Roll Call; Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico; Leigh Ann Caldwell, Pacifica Radio; Julie Davis, AP; Lisa Desjardins, CNN; Kasie Hunt, Politico; Jill Jackson, CBS News; Brianna Keilar, CNN; Stephanie Kotuby, CNN; Jackie Kucinich, Roll Call; Shailagh Murray, Washington Post; Emily Ortman, Roll Call; Emily Pierce, Roll Call; Kara Scannell, Wall Street Journal; Trish Turner, Fox News, and Amy Walter, National Journal.

Wish SPY could have peeked at the scorebook to confirm hits and runs by name but couldn’t find the guy who had it; again, this was not your typical game; the object was to win and have fun doing it while supporting a charity.  Both teams achieved those goals.  RFH


Coming tomorrow: a comment on the Kagan issue.


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