teddy win-slow

Presidents Race

The Presidents Race is a promotional event held at every Washington Nationals home game at Nationals Park during the fourth inning. The event was previously held when the Nationals held their home games at RFK Stadium; similar races include the Milwaukee Brewers' Sausage Race, where people dressed as sausages race along the field. The Presidents' Race features four former Presidents of the United States, namely those found on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt; their nicknames per the race graphics are George, Abe, Tom, and Teddy. The Presidents are dressed in period costumes and topped with giant foam caricature heads. Occasionally, they are dressed in Nationals jerseys with the number on the jersey reflecting what number president they were (Number 1 for George Washington, Number 3 for Thomas Jefferson, etc.)

Race standings

2008 Season
Thomas Jefferson George Washington Abraham Lincoln Teddy Roosevelt
14 17 43 0
Overall Standings
Thomas Jefferson George Washington Abraham Lincoln Teddy Roosevelt
54 57 85 0
Final 2008 standings.

The origin of the race

The Presidents Race was introduced in the 2005 season as computer-generated event shown on the stadium's giant video board. Each section of the stadium was assigned to root for a certain President. The four Presidents would then race along a highway through a cartoon Washington, DC and avoid obstacles such as traffic cones, open manholes, and street closures. Though the event generated some applause each game, the event did not become an exciting tradition until the introduction of live "Presidents" midway through the 2006 season.

Live-action racing

After the team's purchase by Ted Lerner during the 2006 season, the new owner announced changes for the stadium and a "grand re-opening" of RFK Stadium after the All-Star Break. One of the changes to the stadium was the Presidents' Race becoming a live event. The first live race was held on July 21, 2006.

The race still began as a computer-generated sequence on the video board; the four presidents dashed through a cartoonish Washington, DC and headed towards RFK Stadium. Immediately after disappearing from the screen, the costumed live-action Presidents emerged from the right field corner as ten-foot tall men with large caricature foam heads. The presidents bolted out from right field and down the first base line, past the visitors' dugout, and to the finish line by home plate.

Beginning in the 2007 season, instead of the computer-generated versions at the start of the race, the caricature-headed presidents appeared on the video board at a "real" location in Washington D.C. The presidents started at the White House and ran around historical landmarks of the Nation's Capital, until they headed towards RFK Stadium and emerged from the right field corner of the stadium. The 2007 season's promotional schedule included popular 7.5-inch bobblehead giveaways for each of the four Racing Presidents.

In 2008, the Presidents Race became a highlighted attraction of the team's new stadium, Nationals Park. Images of George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy are featured on stadium signage and at the team store/gift shop, which is now named "Rushmores." The racing presidents themselves greet visitors before games at the main entrance, and pose for photos in a "Kids Zone" after the presidents race through the end of each game. The race itself was also lengthened, with an extended introduction and a longer distance, running from centerfield clockwise by the first base foul pole and down the foul line towards a finish line near the Nationals' dugout.

Teddy's losses

The running joke of the Presidents Race has been Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's inability to win a race. In 2006, the reasons for Teddy's failures varied, ranging from tripping, to confusion, to striking up conversations with fans and forgetting to run. He was also disqualified for cheating when he drove a golf cart past his competitors, and for emerging from the visitors' dugout instead of running the length of the first base line.

Teddy's shutout -- and his antics -- continued through the 2007 season as he was disqualified on opening day for zip-lining into the infield from the top of the stadium. He was also disqualified in September for riding in a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle. The 2007 season's promotional Presidential bobbleheads generated anticipation that Teddy would see his first victory. George, Tom, and Abe each won the race on their respective days, and they were escorted by the "Secret Service" to guarantee the runaway victories. Teddy's bobblehead giveaway was September 1st, and 42,000 fans showed up to watch as Teddy was carried in on a throne while the "Secret Service" held back the other three racers. Halfway home, Teddy asked to be lowered and was dropped; while his escort was helping him to his feet, the other racers got around the blockade and George won the race by a couple of feet.

On September 23, 2007, in the final game at RFK Stadium, Teddy was heavily anticipated to finally win. When the race started, the Nationals bullpen held George, Tom, and Abe back to help Teddy to victory. But Teddy never showed up; he was displayed on the big screen at the unfinished Nationals Park.

With the opening of Nationals Park in 2008 came increased fanfare for the presidents race and a growing fan fervor for Teddy including a fan-generated "Let Teddy Win" campaign tied to the presidential election season.

Teddy's losing streak was extended with the stadium's inaugural game, as he ran off-course across the outfield and was distracted by members of the opposing team. In subsequent races, Teddy was disqualified for cutting the outfield corner and for riding a motor scooter. The theme of sabotage was also introduced in 2008 as Teddy was tackled or tripped just short of the finish line on several occasions by visitors from the stands, including costumed bananas, panthers, and mascots from other teams.

Teddy mania reached a fever pitch during a June series against the Baltimore Orioles, when Teddy was tripped short of the finish line by the Orioles mascot "The Bird." On June 28, 2008, the presidents race was suspended for a day as Teddy won a one-on-one "grudge match" race against The Bird, giving Teddy his first victory. However, it was announced that the "unsanctioned" race would not be recognized in the standings by "The Presidents Racing Association of America." The next day, Teddy refused to race with the other presidents, choosing to help the Nationals grounds crew instead.

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