WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS/AP) -The Democratic and Republican congressional baseball teams proceeded with their annual game to benefit charity Thursday night under the lights at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., only 36 hours after a shooter unleashed gunfire at a GOP team practice.
The Democrats won the game, 11-2. Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, his team’s manager, accepted the trophy, then gave it to his GOP counterpart, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, to put in Scalise’s office on behalf of the Democrats. After accepting it gracefully, Barton cracked, “Next year we won’t be so nice.”
The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity — usually a low-key event that draws about 10,000 people — had sold more than 20,000 tickets and raised more than $1 million for charity as of Thursday afternoon, according to organizers. That’s about twice much as the event raised last year. The stadium projected a rare sense of unity in Washington, as members of both parties rallied together after the shocking shooting that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) in critical condition. U.S. Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who was wounded in the shooting while protecting members of Congress, threw the first pitch.
A huge ovation came from the crowd, which swelled to a record 24,959, when Special Agent David Bailey, one of the Capitol Police officers injured in the attack on Republicans at their ball practice in Virginia, threw out the first pitch. “ONE FAMILY,” proclaimed a sign in the crowd. The announcer’s mention of Scalise, the House majority whip who was critically wounded in the attack Wednesday, brought the masses to their feet.
Scalise remained listed in critical condition Thursday night after multiple surgeries, though word came from the hospital during the game that he had improved.
“In Washington we have our disagreements, but we all agree that we are here to serve this nation we love, and the people who call it home,” President Trump said in a video address to the crowd.
The annual congressional baseball game dates back to 1909, and Republicans and Democrats since then have each won an equal number of games — 39. The event has always been a chance for Democrats and Republicans to put partisan politics aside for one night — but especially so on Thursday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that on Thursday night, everyone will be “Team Scalise.”
Scalise has always taken the game very seriously, according to his Capitol Hill colleagues. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who visited Scalise in the hospital Thursday, said that on a recent foreign trip he and Scalise took, 90 percent of their conversations were about the game.
Members of the Republican team pray before the Democrats and Republicans face off in the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2017. REUTERS / JOSHUA ROBERTS
“To the extent that people think this is just a game, they’re wrong,” Richmond told reporters Thursday. “It’s more than just a game, but this year, it has a little bit more of a serious meaning to it.”
Mr. Trump could not attend because there wasn’t enough time for the Secret Service to organize security, according to the White House, but his daughter Ivanka Trump was in attendance, as were some members of the Trump administration.
At the game Thursday night, U.S. Capitol Police checked bags with dogs in tow, in an atmosphere that attendees said seemed particularly alert.
GOP members were in the middle of an early-morning practice Wednesday when a gunman — suspected to be the now-deceased 66-year-old James Hodgkinson — opened fire on the people on the field, injuring Scalise, two U.S. Capitol Police agents, a current GOP staffer and a former GOP staffer. Members of Congress and the event’s organizers decided to continue with the game anyways.