“I said to him on the mound: ‘You’re a hero — even though you were just trying to do your job, you really made a difference in a lot of people’s lives,’” Torre said. “He just looks you right in the eye. I’m not sure everything has sunk in with any of these people, to be honest. It happened so quickly and it’s such an emotional ride, and it came so close to being a horrific tragedy if not for those police officers.”
Torre managed the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, when President George W. Bush stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium, held his thumb in the air and delivered a strike with his first pitch just seven weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Baseball can help heal, said Torre, who decided Wednesday night to come down for the game.
“Once baseball started, it seemed to bring everybody together again,” he said, referring to 2001. “It didn’t matter which side you were on. There were no sides. Everybody sort of joined arm in arm and knew we had to band together to really stay strong.”
There is hopeful talk of that again now, of unity and empathy and understanding. Nobody knows what will come of it. On Thursday there was a game to play, a tradition to uphold — and a tie to break.
The congressional game dates to 1909 and the sides were deadlocked, 39-39-1, before the Democrats’ 11-2 victory on Thursday. Representative Cedric L. Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, went three for four with a triple and pitched a complete game, buckling Republicans’ knees with his curveball.
“Yeah, but he gives it away,” said Representative Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina. “When he throws his fastball, he winds up and brings it. When he throws his curveball, he slows everything down and comes over. And if you’re at the plate, you see that and you know it’s a curveball and you just sit back on it. I can say that because I didn’t face him tonight.”
California Democrats also had a big night, with Representatives Tony Cárdenas, Raul Ruiz and Eric Swalwell combining for five stolen bases; Linda Sánchez reaching first base on a walk; and a rookie — Nanette Barrágan, elected last fall — singling down the third base line to raucous cheers. Sanchez and Barrágan were the only women on the rosters. (There is also an annual congressional women’s softball game against members of the news media).
“Whenever you see people who break the stereotypes and show how awesome they are, in any sport or any profession, they deserve all the applause,” Ruiz said.
The crowd may have stood out most. A record 24,959 tickets were sold for the charity exhibition — a higher attendance than Thursday’s major league games in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Oakland. Democrats had reserved seating on the third base side, Republicans on the first base side — the left and right sides of the park, naturally — but there was plenty of intermingling.
“It’s heartwarming to us for them to come out,” Duncan said. “I believe it’s because of the unity we’re showing in the House, and I think it’s because of law enforcement being the charity that the money’s going to, the ticket sales today.”
The players wore uniforms from a team in their home state — the Hartford Yard Goats, the New Orleans Baby Cakes, and so on — but many also wore a bright yellow Louisiana State University cap in honor of Scalise, a proud alumnus. While Duncan did not hit, he did play in the field, at the same spot on the diamond where Scalise was shot in Alexandria.
“I played second base tonight, and that was Steve Scalise’s position,” Duncan said. “I backed him up. I actually practiced at shortstop all year, but moved over to second to play tonight. And that was tough for me. That was humbling, in a way. It was never off my mind when I ran out there: ‘Wait a minute, I’m not a second baseman, I’m supposed to be going to shortstop.’”
It was just a respite, like every baseball game, a competition with a clear and indisputable result. You could not have blamed the players, especially those who had witnessed such terror the day before, if they had wanted to stay as long as they could.
The world is more complicated beyond the gates of a major league park.
“You close your eyes and just remember running off the field, or you see somebody laying there,” Loudermilk said. “It’s part of a traumatic experience. But we wanted to be here. We wanted to play America’s sport.”
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