History of the Game

John Tener, Chicago White Stockings Baseball Card/tiles/non-collection/c/cbg_john_tener_baseball_player_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress John Tener, Chicago White Stockings Baseball Card

Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania, a former professional baseball player, organized the inaugural baseball game in 1909. The Boston Daily Globe observed, “The game was brewing for weeks and the members of the house were keyed up a high pitch of enthusiasm. Deep, dark rumors were in circulation that ‘ringers’ would be introduced, but when they lined up at 4 o’clock the nine republicans were stalwart, grand old party men, while the democrats were of the pure Jeffersonian strain.” Democrats drubbed their Republican opponents, 26-16, for the first of six consecutive wins. Republicans won their first game in 1916. Due to its growing popularity, the Congressional Baseball Game was first covered via radio in 1928. The radio broadcast continued in succeeding years.

The event has at times interrupted the work flow of Congress. In 1914, Speaker James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of Missouri became frustrated with the Congressional Baseball Game interfering with legislative business. An Appropriations bill on Civil War cotton damage was to be debated on the House Floor, but a quorum was not present. Speaker Clark sent the Sergeant at Arms to American League Field to return the Members to the House Chamber. When the Sergeant at Arms arrived, rain had already canceled the game. The House eventually achieved a quorum, but adjourned without making progress on the bill because Members remained preoccupied with their unfinished work on the baseball diamond.

1953 Congressional Baseball Ticket/tiles/non-collection/c/cbg_05_05_1953_ seat_ 548_ 11_hc.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
A heartbreaking loss for the Republican team, the June 5, 1953, Congressional Baseball Game at Griffith Stadium attracted celebrated athletes, Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Grove, as spectators.
Despite its appeal, the annual game occurred intermittently because of interruptions due to the Great Depression, the Second World War, and intervention by the House leadership. For a while the game was held biennially, until the Washington Evening Star newspaper sponsored it annually from 1946 to 1958. Despite the sponsorship, Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas ended the game in 1958. Rayburn contended that the game should be discontinued because it had become too physical. Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts, revived the game in 1962 with the support of a new Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call. With the new sponsor, a best-of-five game trophy series was created, awarding a trophy to the team that won three of the five games.

The Trophy

Learn more about winning the coveted trophy from an oral history conducted with Representative Mike Oxley of Ohio.

The Honorable Michael G. Oxley, U.S. Representative of Ohio Interview recorded May 22, 2012