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2008 Game Had a Wild Conclusion

With “44— in the White House, 59 in the Senate and plenty in the House, Democrats are now hoping for just one — one win, in tonight’s 48th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

After all, this is about as clean as the slate gets. The Democrats dropped a heartbreaker last year, 11-10, for their eighth-straight loss to the formidable Republicans, who swept the best-of-five series.

But hope springs eternal, and a fresh series, that fleeting glimpse of victory, Congressional power unrivaled in recent history and a fresh crop from the electoral farm team have the Democrats optimistic again for their shot at a coveted Roll Call trophy.

Last year’s disappointment hit home along with Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), who scored the game-winner as the Democrats were about to close the door on Rep. Connie Mack IV’s (R-Fla.) grounder to Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), the pitcher. After the throw home to Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) for the inning’s second out, Murphy’s attempt at a double play sailed over the first baseman’s head, scoring two for the GOP win.

“When it counted, we came back, just on true grit, really,— Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), the Republican manager, said at the time. “We won this game more on heart than on talent.—

Despite the hot and humid evening at the sparkling new Nationals Park, 6,124 attended with signs of partisanship in tow, including several bearing “Change— and “Yes We Can— themes. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made an appearance to cheer on her Caucus members.

The Democrats also led in the sixth inning, 4-3, but they gave up seven hits including an inside-the-park home run by Rep. Chip Pickering (Miss.). That yielded a seemingly insurmountable 8-4 GOP lead heading into the seventh and last inning. But the Democrats struggled back when Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and his wild arm took the mound, surrendering four walks and a single. The Republicans had soon had enough, however, and sent Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) back in to stanch the flow. Shimkus retired two Democrats but then gave up four runs on two hits by Baca and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.).

However, once again relief spelled anything but. Leading 10-8 with three outs between them and their first win since 2000, the Democrats sent to the mound Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.), whose ill-conceived hidden-ball trick helped load the bases. Baca became the second starting pitcher to re-enter the game but couldn’t save the party, giving up a walk and a wild pitch, setting up the dramatic finale.

Republicans are returning Putnam, pitcher Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) and last year’s most valuable player, Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), who scored one run and covered second base like his re-election depended on it. Freshman Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Tom Rooney (Fla.) appear to be the standout recruits. Barton, a 22-year veteran of the GOP team, is managing again, but he must be feeling anxious with the retirements of stars Kenny Hulshof (Mo.) and Pickering.

Returning for his fourth stint as Democratic coach, Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) is hoping for good things from freshman Rep. John Boccieri (Ohio), who played baseball at St. Bonaventure University. Co-MVPs Murphy and 62-year-old Baca return, as well as former Redskins quarterback Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.).

The annual Roll Call baseball game benefits the Washington Literacy Council’s adult literacy programs and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Last year’s contest raised more than $140,000, a record.

The Republicans have won 33 of the 47 games and have 10 trophies to the Democrats’ two. The GOP won 5-2 in 2007, thanks in part to nine Democratic errors, and demolished the Democrats in the 2006 series opener, 12-1.

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