Quips And Cartoons to the contrary, the physical activity of Senators and Congressmen is not entirely confined to filibustering, mounting stumps and kissing babies. Like others in the U.S. Government, from President Eisenhower on down, the members of Congress are aware of the problem of fitness that confronts the nation (SI, Aug. 15, 1955, July 2, 1956), and are lending their support to Presidential exhortations that our youth get out from in front of the TV set and start exercising. But what are they doing about fitness themselves? What sort of example are they setting?
To find out, Mark Sullivan of the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Washington bureau queried the 435 Congressmen and 95 Senators then occupying our House and Senate, and the news is good. More than 50% of the members of the U.S. Congress proved to be active and enthusiastic sportsmen. And the list of their favorite sports is a long one, including just about everything from archery to wrestling.
The 231 House members who divulged their sports interests put fishing in the No. 1 spot, as did 30 out of 50 Senators. Hunting and swimming tied for second place in the Senate. Hunting was second, too, in the House, with golf third and swimming in fourth place (see graph, page 62).
This choice of favorite sports shows that Congress is right in step with the rest of the country, which, according to several recent national surveys, puts hunting, fishing and water sports at the head of the popularity list.
Some staunch individualists in the House have recklessly turned their backs on the sports-loving public: Congressman Benjamin F. James of Pennsylvania says defiantly his only sport is "sittin' and rockin'." Charles B. Brownson of Indiana says his one sport is "as dangerous as bullfighting and strenuous as weight lifting-politics in Indiana." Another Congressman said his total exercise consisted of mental gymnastics.
By way of contrast, Representative Charles A. Boyle of Illinois would seem to hold some kind of record for the most diversified physical-fitness program. He participates actively in baseball, basketball, bicycling, boating, bowling, diving, fishing, football, golf, hunting, ice boating, ice skating and swimming. In addition, he says, "I have quite a flair for do-it-yourself work, having assisted in building a summer cottage and producing eight children."
Edwin H. May Jr., newly elected member from the First Congressional District in Connecticut, is an active and skilled golfer, shooting in the high 70s and low 80s. In 1952 he co-founded Hartford's Insurance City Open.
John F. Baldwin Jr. of California says that as a life member of the Sierra Club he went on a two-week hiking trip in 1953, during which he climbed five 14,000-foot peaks in the Sierra Nevada.
George S. Long, Congressman from Louisiana, has a camp in the woods where he spends much time during adjournment. He owns horses and a pack of foxhounds and one of deerhounds. After raising and training his bird dogs, he gives many of them away to bird-hunting friends.
John D. Dingell of Michigan, at 30 the youngest member of the House, is also one of its more energetic sportsmen. As a hunter, he is not usually of the big-game variety. Crows and wood-chucks are often his quarry, although last fall he did bag a buck antelope in Wyoming. He fishes for trout in Michigan and used to tie his own flies.
Representative Dingell also makes frequent use of the House gym, going there for about an hour's exercise every day. The House gym, which is slightly larger than the Senate's, boasts a paddle ball court. The game has become a great favorite with Congressmen. The House version is played on a court about twice as wide as a handball court, using laminated plastic and wood perforated paddles. Players hit a soft rubber ball about the size of a handball against the wall.
The Senate gym has a small pool which is popular with Senators, but participant sport interests are, on the whole, fewer in the Senate, where members have an average age of 57 years 11 months, compared with the House average of 52 years 11 months. The exception in the Senate is Theodore Francis Green, a spry 89, who shows up the less hearty though younger Senators with his frequent two-mile walks and his swimming. He reluctantly gave up wrestling several years ago at the insistence of his physicians.
Senator George W. Malone, a fisherman, golfer, hunter and rider, is particularly proud of the fact that he almost fought a bout with Jack Dempsey. A fluke in transportation connections, he maintains, was the only thing that prevented the historic match.
Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson, Senator from Washington, is one of a group of Washingtonians who plays softball or touch football on a Georgetown playground. "It's a fairly unorganized affair, most of the group consists of kids, actually. While I'm here in Congress, though," he adds somewhat sadly, "I get a lot less time than I'd like for sports."
But everyone finds time, either as a participant or spectator, for the annual congressional baseball game held each June in Griffith Stadium. During this event some pretty horrendous doings take place in the name of baseball, but everyone has a fine time. Until 1955 the Democrats had won every year since the event began, but for the last two years the Republicans have limped off with the honors. What the players lack in skill, they make up for in horseplay and heckling, although some of the more dedicated started heaving their bodies around the diamond during the Easter recess in a valiant effort to play something that resembles the great American pastime.
Last year one weary, victorious Republican Congressman voiced the feeling of all as he complained: "Every year those base paths get longer."
SPORTSMEN IN THE U.S. CONGRESS