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Congressional Baseball Game Carries Long Tradition, Raises Money for Charity

Congressional baseball practice turned alarming and then grim on Wednesday after a gunman opened fire on Republicans, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.

The lawmakers were practicing for an annual game set to take place Thursday at Nationals Park. Arizona Rep. Martha McSally said the game will go on as scheduled Thursday, an announcement that she said received a standing ovation from lawmakers during a closed-door House briefing.

The congressional baseball game is one of the longest-running rivalries in both sports and politics. Organized by professional baseball player-turned-congressman John Tener, it was first played in 1909.

Image: Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-La., right, and Steve Scalise, R-La., play in the 55th Congressional Baseball Game
Reps. Cedric Richmond and Steve Scalise play at last year's 55th Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on June 23, 2016. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call file

The game has been sponsored since 1962 by Roll Call, the media outlet that presents the Roll Call Trophy.

Both Democrats and Republicans are incredibly proud of the money it raises for charities — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and The Washington Literacy Center. This year's game intended to honor victims of the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester, England.

Lawmakers have long believed that spending time together on the ball field is a great way to bridge relationships between the parties. Last year's game came after one of the most bitter party clashes ever witnessed on the House floor: It followed a Democratic sit-in over gun control measures that stretched more than 24 hours.

Congressional Baseball Coaches Say Charity Game Will Continue 1:18

Republicans ended up besting the Democrats in an 8-7 victory, ending the Democrats' eight-year winning streak.

Related: Which Lawmakers Were Attending Baseball Practice Where Scalise Was Shot?

“It's an extremely competitive game because the players are the most competitive people in the world,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a long-time Democratic team member during his time in Congress, told NBC News last year.

Richardson, a Congressional Baseball Hall of Famer, spent the summer of 1967 as a relief pitcher in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League alongside future Yankees captain Therman Munson. Richardson eventually changed positions to become “the world’s slowest third baseman” for the Democrats.

Practices begin at 6:30 nearly every morning that Congress is in session — Democrats usually start three months before the game, Republicans start two months prior.