Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
William Howard Taft debuts at NatsFest on Saturday.
William Howard Taft "agreed to terms" to be the Nationals' fifth racing president, "pending a physical," the club announced Friday night. Apparently the rotund, 300-pound, 27th Commander-in-Chief was cleared by doctors, because he was officially unveiled Saturday afternoon at NatsFest to roaring applause from the crowd.
Taft joins George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt in the expanded racing presidents shtick, highlighted by the nightly race in the middle of the fourth inning. "Bill," as the mascot will be called, already has a built-in rivalry with Teddy, who in 1912 attempted to defeat his successor for the Republican Party nomination and ultimately chose to create the "Bull Moose" Party and run as a third-party candidate. (Both wound up losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.)
Taft also has a strong connection to baseball. On April 14, 1910, he threw out the first pitch before the Senators' game against the Athletics, the first president to perform that ceremonial task. Every sitting president since (except for Jimmy Carter) has maintained the tradition.
Urban legend also claims Taft inadvertently created the seventh-inning stretch on that same 1910 day at Griffith Stadium when bored with the ballgame he left his seat in the middle of the seventh inning and later returned. The crowd stood as one, believing the president to be leaving the game early, and thus by accident created one of baseball's greatest traditions.