Move over Teddy Roosevelt!
For the past seven years, the fourth inning of every Washington Nationals home game brought on “The Racing Presidents.” The larger-than-life, bobble-headed versions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln launched into a hilariously chaotic race around the field.
From the outset, it was a losing game for Teddy. He suffered 536 consecutive losses and became the subject of the “Let Teddy Win” blog. Even Senator John McCain entered the fray with a pep talk. Finally, on October 3, 2012, Teddy bested his competitors.
Now that the fanfare over Teddy has subsided, there’s a new source of excitement… Racing President #5 has entered the scene, in the form of William Howard Taft, the country’s 27th Commander in Chief.
Taft was unveiled at a NatsFest ceremony on Saturday, but he had already made a mark on Twitter. “Listen up, @Teddy26Nats- we've run against each other in the past, now we'll run together in 2013,” said the new feed on Saturday.
If history is any indication, Teddy might not be wiped from center stage now that Taft, or “Big Bill,” is on the scene. The two former presidents had a complicated history. Though Roosevelt was influential in helping Taft win the 1908 election, 1912 was a different story. Disappointed in Taft’s performance, Roosevelt split off from the Republican Party and posed a third-party challenge. The party divide ultimately led to a victory for the Democrats, and Woodrow Wilson became the 28th President of the United States.
That rivalry may not be the only reason William Howard Taft was chosen as the new competitor. The 27th president started the tradition of the ceremonial first pitch. On April 14, 1910, Taft threw out the first pitch to Walter Johnson, a player for the Washington Senators.
George W. Bush described throwing out the first pitch of the 2001 World Series as “the most nervous moment of my entire presidency, it turns out.”
It’s no secret that baseball is deeply embedded in American culture, and perhaps that’s the reason no president wants to be caught botching the ceremonial first pitch.
Take a look at the Hardball Sideshow for more the Washington Nationals newest mascot, and a vintage clip from the NBC Sports Special, “Baseball–More Than a Game,” featuring presidential moments on the field.