WASHINGTON – To the list of momentous firsts accomplished during this crazy joyride of a Nationals season – first winning record, first playoff berth, first division title, first injection of Natitude – add this: For the first time, Teddy Roosevelt won the fourth-inning Presidents Race.
Yes, after more than 500 attempts since the popular race debuted at RFK Stadium in the summer of 2006, the giant-headed mascot depicting the 26th president finally crossed the finish line first.
The moment came Wednesday afternoon, during the regular-season finale against Washington’s longtime nemesis, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wearing a red headband and bright gold shoes modeled after those made famous by world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, Teddy got off to a slow start, trailing Abe, then Jefferson, then Washington.
But a green blob intended to resemble the Phillie Phanatic felled the three leaders in the right-field corner, and Roosevelt strolled home by himself as the crowd roared and began chanting his name (really).
He then ripped off his usual jersey, revealing a red Natitude T-shirt, and soaked in the cheers.
He did it. He finally did it. I can’t believe he won, said vendor Wayne Shorter, who turned 46 on this momentous day.
Relief, excitement, gushed Scott Ableman, the 48-year-old marketing executive behind the Let Teddy Win website. When the Phillie Phanatic showed up, I knew he was gonna win. There was no way they would let the Phillie Phanatic take out Teddy Roosevelt.
As grown women hugged (really) and fans exulted, the bottom of the fourth began. Face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman homered, and the next two batters doubled. Nats Park was seized with ecstasy.
See what happens when Teddy wins! Ableman said.
The groundwork had been laid for a possible Roosevelt win weeks ago. While there had been several false alarms in past seasons, the momentum this time was inescapable, especially after ESPN aired a long piece in mid-September narrated by Ken Burns and detailing Roosevelt’s many losses.
I’ve been paying a LOT of attention to the fact that one of the truly great presidents in history has NEVER won a race, Sen. John McCain deadpanned in the segment. I am outraged.
The next day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney chimed in, telling reporters he agreed the situation was an outrage, and adding I’m comfortable saying that my boss agrees with Sen. McCain.
After that, the floodgates opened: Teddy’s losing streak made the front page of the Wall Street Journal and attracted an ABC World News Tonight crew, was discussed on Politico and the Huffington Post, merited an AP story and untold blog posts and water cooler discussions.
And so the team can now proceed into this weekend’s playoffs absent the distraction of a mascot race.