While the modern Congressional Baseball Game comprises both House and Senate Members, this was not always the case. From 1909 to 1949, House Members exclusively filled the rosters—although there appears to have been no prohibition against Senators. Bicameral baseball was inaugurated in 1950, when Senator Harry Cain of Washington State joined the Republican team and Senator-elect George Smathers of Florida, a former Representative, joined the Democratic team.
In a few cases, former professional baseball players were elected to Congress and had a large impact on the game. In the case of Vinegar Bend Mizell of North Carolina, a former professional pitcher, the Republican team was victorious for each year that he played. Fielding a once-a-year team presented some problems for Members, who often grew rusty when it came to batting. Strong pitching proved decisive in most games but, in 1963, neither team could field a pitcher. As a result, relief pitcher George Susce of the Washington Senators pitched for both teams.In 1917, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana tossed out the first pitch and kept score, becoming the first woman to participate in the annual event. More than 70 years later, in 1993, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas became the first women to break into the starting lineup.
In 1971, the first African Americans joined the game. Delegate Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia, and Representative Ronald Dellums of California, joined the Democrats roster. Despite Fauntroy’s hitting prowess, the Democrats lost their eighth straight annual game, 7-3.
Joe Bartlett, who served as House Page, Page Supervisor, Reading Clerk, and Clerk to the Minority remembered Congressional Baseball Games during his Oral History Interview:
But the ball games, we had a heck of a good, young team after World War II. We had a lot of veterans who were real good ball players. And then, of course, later on, [Wilmer] "Vinegar Bend" Mizell ... and I've talked to Vinegar Bend, bless his soul. He's gone on to his reward. But Vinegar Bend, the other side was afraid of him, because he was terribly good. And he told the stories about when he was a professional baseball player, how he had been instructed to hit a batter. And it was a gruesome story, to me. When he protested, his coach said: 'Well, it's going to cost you $200 if you don't.' Heck, I didn't have $200. Well, when he got on the Republican team, the Democrats were trying to think of all kinds of handicaps to 'even the playing field.'1
1Joe Bartlett, [House Page, Page Supervisor, Reading Clerk, and Clerk to the Minority (1941-1979)], Oral History Interviews, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, Washington, D.C.