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.

Who is the new racing president? Everybody weighs in.

The sports world is buzzing about tomorrow’s anticipated announcement of a fifth racing president.

Major League Baseball, not generally a fan of gambling in baseball, published its own odds on its Cut 4 blog, listing John F. Kennedy as a 5-to-2 favorite. Apparently Barack Obama’s not far behind, but Grover Cleveland is listed as a 1000-to-1 long shot.

Yahoo’s Big League Stew put forth their own presidential odds, giving Grover Cleveland only a slightly better chance at 500-to-1. Their top pick: Ronald Reagan (“That winning smile, that Brylcreem hair”), at 5-to-1. Arizona Senator John McCain added his vote for Reagan (with a nod to Teddy) via Twitter.

The always great Dan Steinberg of the Post’s DC Sports Bog invited his readers to chime in at a special Washington Post forum devoted to the topic, where fans have put forth a range of off-the-wall ideas ranging from FDR in a wheelchair, to Confederate president Jefferson Davis (to “bring out more fans from VA”). Ouch.

At The City Paper, Will Sommer that William Howard Taft would “represent all of the lesser known presidents.” Taft also shows up as the well-reasoned pick at the Nationals 101 blog.

Several outlets are asking their readers to chime in, with mixed results. At The Huffington Post, the leading candidate so far is “None of the above.”

CNN is running a Political Gut Check poll on Facebook. Andrew Jackson is hanging on to an early lead in a WTOP listener poll. This after Teddy’s 5th cousin Franklin Roosevelt (who married Teddy’s niece Eleanor), emerged as the fan favorite in a DCist reader poll from the end of last season. Note that poll ruled out voting for any presidents that came after Eisenhower.

Perhaps it seems a bit like piling on, but in keeping with the spirit of things, here are my own odds:

John F. Kennedy (3-to-1): If you’re looking for a president with a unique personality and charisma, somebody who’s iconic yet distinct from the Rushmore 4 and easy to caricature, then JFK could be your man.

Richard Nixon (5-to-1): If you want a president who doesn’t show up for every race, but appears every once in a while to interfere with things, then “Tricky Dick” fits the bill perfectly. You can also count on a strong contingent of Nixon fans to get riled up over it.

William Henry Harrison (20-to-1): Dark comedy would be pretty groundbreaking territory for the Nationals, but the potential is too great to ignore. The president known mainly for dying just after his inauguration could be the Nats’ new designated loser, finding creative ways to repeat his fate nightly along the warning track.

Zachary Taylor/Millard Fillmore/Chester Arthur/Warren Harding (25-to-1): It’s a tie between these four presidents who would also make worthy candidates for “loser” status when compared to the Rushmores. They share in common a relative obscurity, an indistinguished record of service, and importantly, a funny name.

Gerald R. Ford (30-to-1): If you’re looking to replace Teddy Roosevelt as the mischaracterized loser, then look no further. Ford was an All American football star, yet after tripping in public a couple of times, Saturday Night Live successfully turned his national image into that of a bumbling fool. You can bet if the Nats continued that tradition, they’d rile up some Ford fans.

William Howard Taft (35-to-1): Lots of fans on Twitter think our only 300 pound president would make a great racing caricature. I’m just not sure the fat jokes would pass the PC test or be terribly sustainable.

Ronald Reagan (40-to-1): It’s hard to argue with Yahoo’s top pick, as Reagan is among the most easily caricatured presidents, but his recency and still-controversial standing in this highly-political town tells me the Nats will shy away.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (50-to-1): He’s iconic, with his own coin and his own memorial on the mall. The prospect of a FDR in a motorized wheelchair carries a ton of possibilities; but the Nats already have one larger-than-life Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton (100-to-1): See Reagan, above. Plus he’s still alive.

Nationals to introduce 5th racing president on Saturday

The Washington Nationals confirmed this morning that they will be introducing a fifth racing president to fans this Saturday at NatsFest at the DC Convention Center.

Nationals 5th racing president Twitter

Is JFK the 5th Racing President Washington Nationals
Twitter is abuzz with speculation as to who it will be, but the most common guess seems to be JFK.

A giant Kennedy likeness made a surprise appearance during a race two years ago, and was seen again posing with fans at The Fairgrounds outside the stadium after Game 5 of October’s playoff series at Nationals Park

Who do you think it will be?

UPDATE: Everybody weighs in (including me)

Twitter photo by Rebecca Evans

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