Nationals new racing president: William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft is the Washington Nationals’ new racing president, joining George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt in the team’s fourth-inning presidents race.

Nationals Racing President William Howard TaftThe peerless Dan Steinberg broke the story for The Washington Post late Friday, in advance of the team’s official announcement planned for today at NatsFest, the Nationals’ mid-winter fan festival at the DC Convention Center. “Bill,” as the Nats will call him, will make his official appearance at 2:15pm.

Taft, who also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has been nicknamed “Big Chief” by the Nats brass. A Twitter account appeared Friday evening at @NatsBigChief27, signaling the prominent role the team plans for him in social media. He is just the second racing president to have his own Twitter account.

Taft had been pegged as a 35-to-1 longshot on this page just this morning, but apparently Teddy Roosevelt himself made the decision to go with the notoriously obese Republican who succeeded him as president.

“Teddy has handpicked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” Nationals COO Andy Feffer told Steinberg. “There was a great amount of banter and discussion back and forth, but Teddy won out with his recommendation.”

If Big Bill is to in fact displace Teddy as a fan favorite, it would not be the first time that Roosevelt hand-picked his successor. At the beginning of his second term, Roosevelt tapped the former judge to be his Secretary of War, then four years later campaigned aggressively for Taft and helped hand him the White House.

It wasn’t long, however, before Roosevelt concluded that Taft had abandoned his progressive ideals, and became one of President Taft’s most vocal critics. Roosevelt ultimately formed the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party to run against his former colleague.

Looks like more than enough fodder for 4th-inning antics to come. Photos to follow.

Video: Today’s Chicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park

Washington Nationals Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman sacrificing a chickenEarlier today, we shared the full story of the chicken sacrifice at Nationals Park, performed by “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman in response to the team’s recent string of injuries.

Here now is the video chronicle, including notes on how to make a rubber chicken kosher, bonus theories about Ozzie Guillen’s voodoo dolls, and The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg cracking up as the ritual is finally completed:

Nats say presidents race move wasn’t to avoid foul play

The Nats are saying Thursday’s surprise change in direction of the opening day presidents race was not designed to avoid foul play by the likes of Jayson Werth, according to a report this morning by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.

The source said that the team plans to alternate which side of the field the presidents run on, a strategy that’s equally likely to confound any sabotage plans, and anybody else who wants to (ahem) cheer and/or photograph the finish line.

Steinberg is a close follower of the Let Teddy Win movement, and thank goodness, because the Post gets messages returned a lot faster than the rest of us. LTW’s inquiries about future plans for the race were not answered.

UPDATE: Soon after this posted, I heard back from a Nats spokesperson who wanted to point out that Thursday was not the first time that the Presidents have run that path. “We like to keep fans on their toes and mix the race up from game to game, depending on what works best,” she said. When had they run that path before? On the final race of the 2011 season.

Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page

Dan Steinberg explains why Teddy’s going to win on Monday

Could Monday be the day we’ve all anticipating — even begging for — for nearly five years?

In tonight’s Sports Bog over at washingtonpost.com, the always-on-the-ball Dan Steinberg spells out ten reasons why Teddy Roosevelt could win the presidents race on Memorial Day.

In addition to the vocal opinions of Jayson Werth and the reactions we’ve chronicled here, Steinberg points out many other reasons it makes sense for the team from a Marketing standpoint to let Teddy win on Memorial Day.

I’ll add another: It could take an event of Great Bull Moose proportions to steal the thunder from Roy Halladay and the Phillies.

Whatever happens at Nationals Park tomorrow, I know I’ll be there to see it. Here’s hoping FP’s prediction comes true.

Presidents race to return to the ice on Valentine’s Day

The Washington Nationals racing presidents are headed back to the ice to reprise last year’s Presidents Day race at Nassau Coliseum.

Washington Nationals presidents race on ice skatesOur favorite oversized presidents made the journey to New York last year to hold the first-ever presidents race on ice skates between periods of a New York Islanders hockey game. After posing for photos with fans before the game, they slipped and slided (and scuffled) across the ice, with predictable results.

A video of that race can be found in our Presidents Race Videos collection.

The Washington Nationals presidents race at a New York Islanders game at Nassau ColiseumThe Islanders have invited the presidents back this year. With no game scheduled for Presidents Day, look for George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy to make their appearance the night before, at the scheduled 5:00pm game on Sunday, February 14, between the host New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators.

Last year, the Post’s Dan Steinberg got a tip that the presidents had been spotted training at Ballston’s Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Stay tuned for more on any planned public workouts.

Photos courtesy of NHL.com.

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