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The Congressional Baseball Game and the Spartans at Thermopylae

To the victor go the 'Spartans at Themopylae' bragging rights? (Mickey Senko/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
To the victor go the 'Spartans at Themopylae' bragging rights? (Mickey Senko/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Here’s something you don’t see every day in the Congressional Record: a subhead titled, “The Spartans at Thermopylae.”  

The occasion? No less than the annual gloating of the victorious team in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, this time in floor remarks on Sept. 25, 1980.  Reveling in his team’s 21-9 victory, the Democratic manager, Rep. Bill Chappell, held court on the House floor to do a little bragging. “Mr. Speaker, our great Democratic team, in its usual good way, rose to the challenge of a brave and courageous Republican team last night at Four Mile Run Ball Park during the 19th Annual Congressional Baseball Game. It is with a feeling of both admiration and sadness that I recount this great contest. My admiration for such courage is real. I always feel heartened by the spectacle of men facing hopeless odds. The Spartans at Thermopylae, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie at the Alamo. Those images do stir the blood of any patriot,” the Florida Democrat said.  

Not content with comparing his GOP colleagues’ chances to two of history’s great slaughters, Chappell continued, deciding to get medieval on his cross-aisle foes: “It was more like the attempt of the medieval English King Kanute to stop the oncoming tide by lashing the waves. This causes me much sadness. I am very saddened to see a once worthy opponent so hopelessly felled in battle.”  

Chappell went on a bit more before submitting the box score for the Record, something our tipster, game scorer Joe Foley, said is mighty rare indeed. It’s an ugly tale.  

The Democrats scored their 21 runs on 18 hits, and had 41 at-bats to the GOP’s 24, suggesting the Republicans had trouble getting outs. The Republicans scored their nine runs on seven hits.  

There were six errors in all, with five charged to the Republicans. Three batters, including a future Defense secretary, Rep. Leon Panetta, D-Calif., as well as Reps. Toby Moffett, D-Conn., and Donald Clausen, were hit by pitches.  

The Republican opposition took Chappell’s zingers in stride, with Rep. Silvio Conte, R-Mass., characterizing the battle a bit differently, with Democrats having “barely eked out a victory” and alluding to what sounded like a fairly physical contest. “You know the game was really exciting because the commissioner of baseball, Mr. Bowie Kuhn, said after the game that he had never seen anything like it. In fact, he suggested that if the game goes on like this next year, we should invite Pete Rozelle,” Conte said, referring to the long-time commissioner of the National Football League.  

Wrapping up, Conte, the GOP team’s general manager, said his players were just too far above reproach to win: “My ball players as usual were too honest and refused to steal bases.”  

The 54th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled for June 11.

Congressional Baseball Game Scheduled for June

Congressional Baseball Game Players Designated for Assignment

Congressional Baseball Game Box Score Tells a Tale

Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat

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