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Puns, politics and... oh yeah, baseball

From NBC's Carrie Dann
Sportswriting legend Grantland Rice once famously opened his story about a 1924 football game with the line, "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again."
 
He was definitely not describing any members of Congress.
 
Last night's annual Congressional baseball game -- won by the Republicans (for the seventh straight year) 5-2 -- definitely didn't feature any athletic performances of Horsemen-like proportions.

After all, Washingtonians don't pile in to DC's RFK stadium -- the temporary home of the washout Washington Nationals -- because they expect no-hitters or grand slams from their elected officials. There's a certain undeniable fun to be had in watching our nation's revered officeholders drop a pop-up fly or wildly overthrow to second base.  With apologies to MLB Hall-of-Famer Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY-3.27 ERA), we didn't elect them because they can play baseball.

The Dems actually had a 1-0 lead, but it all went south for the Donkeys in the third inning. They committed five errrors in the inning -- three by shortstop Rep. Adam Smith (WA) -- which led to four GOP runs. Rep. John Shimkus (IL) then shut down the Democrats, tossing a complete-game, five-hitter. He struck out four and walked just two. Zach Wamp (R-TN), who was solid at shortstop, was tough to stop at the plate, going 2-for-3.

Although he wouldn't have been wowed by the athleticism on the field, however, the notoriously literary Rice would have been floored by the game's metaphorical undertones.

Wonky sports analogies flowed as freely as Miller Lite into the cups of the young Hill-types who came to cheer on their party-of-choice. The Democrats sported impressive new talent and a meticulous game plan, but suffered embarrassing individual errors and disorganization on the field. The Republicans, for their part, sustained their early victories with tough defense and a deep team-wide understanding of the rules of the game. Runners frequently got burned when they tried to steal a base. And so on, and so on...

(For those gleefully imagining the likes of Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton at the plate, a clarification: with the exception of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and frosh Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the rosters of both teams were filled out entirely by House members. So if you want to see highly recognizable "heavy-hitters" who "go to bat" for their "base" you'll have to settle for First Read's analogy-laced coverage of today's immigration debate.)
 
Even more than the knickerbocker-clad members of Congress on the diamond, the fans provided plenty of fodder for metaphor-lovers. With the trash-talking GOPers crowded along the first-base line, and the vengeful Dems packed on the left-field side, only a sliver of seats remained behind home plate for the few clusters of bipartisan colleagues.

When a Democratic loss began to look inevitable, more moderate fans quietly left to beat the rush back to their home districts -- uh -- Metro stops. Dueling choruses of cheers and profanity erupted when the Jumbotron zoomed in on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appeared in the stands mid-game to observe her team.

"Wow," observed one Republican staffer. "We can't even get The Wave to go across the aisle."
 
Republicans have been dominant ever since Hill rag Roll Call started the annual tradition in 1962. But compared to the double-digit routs during their years in the majority, a game that looked dicey after a line drive by the diminutive Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) might have come a little too close for comfort for the GOP.

Pelosi, for her part, appeared smilingly unfazed by a Republican victory. Perhaps she was busy wondering who will be the victors outlined against a blue-gray November sky next year.