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Retired Reps. Mike Doyle, Kevin Brady win their greatest elections yet — into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame

The longtime stalwarts of their teams join 30 other legends of the annual game

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., holds the Roll Call Trophy at Nationals Park on July 14, 2011 after Democrats won the 50th Annual Congressional Baseball Game.
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., holds the Roll Call Trophy at Nationals Park on July 14, 2011 after Democrats won the 50th Annual Congressional Baseball Game. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call)

It’s every baseball-playing kid’s dream to play in the Big Leagues for their favorite team, win a World Series ring and then, one day, earn a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

Likewise, it’s every baseball-playing congressman’s dream to play for their partisan team in the Congressional Baseball Game, win the trophy and then, one day, earn a trip to the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The dream is coming true for former Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who will be inducted into Capitol Hill’s version of Cooperstown in a ceremony before Republicans and Democrats square off once again in the annual matchup on Wednesday night.

First played in 1909, the Congressional Baseball Game has been a welcome distraction from lawmaking labors each summer since 1962 (except for 2020’s COVID-19 cancellation), when Roll Call founder Sid Yudain brought it back after a three-year lapse (with then-Speaker John McCormack’s blessing).

Roll Call created a Hall of Fame for the game in 1993 which is also still going strong, though the game is now independent of the paper. Doyle and Brady will be the 31st and 32nd inductees. 

While making it to the Hall in Cooperstown requires a full career of impressive stats, pennant wins, and — crucially — the votes of the Baseball Writers Association of America, you can make it to the Hall of Fame on Capitol Hill based off of a single play: the first home run in the modern history of the Congressional Baseball Game stamped Rep. Ron Paul’s ticket.

But for Doyle and Brady, longevity was the key. Both were stalwarts of their respective dugouts: Brady played in 25 games, while Doyle played in 11 and then managed the next 16.

In addition to his similarly long career, Doyle said his “good friend” Brady got the nod for his big bat. “One of the best hitters that the Republicans had on their team,” Doyle said.

Doyle won his team’s MVP honors twice as a player, but, in an interview ahead of his induction, he gave most credit for the honor with his winning record (10-6) as the Democrats’ skipper. “I was fortunate enough to have good players and was able to amass a pretty damn good record against the Republicans, which I enjoyed immensely,” he said.

As the Democrats’ coach, Doyle departed radically from his predecessors’ management philosophy by implementing a new “let’s try to win” strategy. “I loved the guy dearly… so I’m not criticizing the guy,” Doyle said of the late Rep. Martin Sabo of Minnesota. “It’s just that Martin tried to get everybody in the game.”

Doyle benched the Dems’ worst players — and himself, to stave off criticism — and kept them out unless the team had either a big lead or insurmountable deficit. Despite some grumbling, the team of elected officials quickly backed Doyle. “They’re type A personalities,” he said. “They didn’t get there by not wanting to win.”

Taking over as the Democrats’ manager this year is Rep. Linda Sanchez of California. Doyle says he’s left her to lead the dugout “without too much interference,” but that he still talks to his old teammates about the rookies on the squad and prospects to win this year after losing two straight to the GOP.

While Rep. Summer Lee took over Doyle’s House seat following his retirement in December, redistricting means Doyle is now represented by Democratic Rep. Chris Deluzio. The freshman representative and baseball game rookie praised his predecessor. “[Doyle] was a giant of the game, both as a player and a manager, and he always made Western Pennsylvania proud in his Pirates jersey,” he said.

A representative’s prior prowess on the mound is no guarantee of dominance once they get to Capitol Hill: An actual Baseball Hall of Famer, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., threw a perfect game against the New York Mets in 1964. But by the time the former Philadelphia Phillies ace faced off against the Democrats in 1987, he’d lost his stuff, and the Republicans lost 15-14 (more proof that right-handed pitchers like Bunning have trouble against lefty batters?).

To excel at the congressional level takes a combination of athletic ability and relative youth. Some of the top players played college ball — like Doyle’s fellow Democrats in the Hall of Fame, former Reps. Bill Richardson and Cedric Richmond — or demonstrate natural talent — like NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent of Oklahoma, who ushered in an era of GOP baseball dominance in the mid ‘90s.

Officially, the game is played to raise money for local charities, and it raised more than $1.5 million last year. But players will admit — off the record, of course — that bragging rights matter more.

“It’s all good natured. I was just as gracious and happy in defeat as we were in victory,” said Doyle, who then paused for a second. “That might be a lie,” he said.

Doyle credits his success to the grit and competitiveness as a Pittsburgh kid who grew up playing the game until college and never stopped watching the Pirates, even when they were unwatchable. When he played, Doyle would wear a Bucs jersey with either 14 — for his old congressional district — or 21 — Roberto Clemente’s number — on the back.

“It’s the great American pastime and you get to relive your childhood — actually wearing your home team’s uniform in a major league baseball park,” he said. “I mean, what’s better than that?”

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