The Presidents Race is a promotional event held at every Washington Nationals home game at Nationals Park (and previously at RFK Stadium) during the fourth inning. The Presidents Race features likenesses of five former Presidents of the United States, four of which are found on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. The fifth president is William Howard Taft. Their nicknames per the race graphics are George, Abe, Tom, Teddy, and Bill. 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 (1 for George, 3 for Tom, 16 for Abe, 26 for Teddy, and 27 for Bill.) Teddy was notorious for never winning the race, even when given head starts or other advantages. The race is currently sponsored by Geico.
On October 3, 2012, Teddy finally won the Presidents Race to celebrate the Nationals reaching the postseason.
|George Washington||Thomas Jefferson||Abraham Lincoln||Teddy Roosevelt||William Taft|
|George Washington||Thomas Jefferson||Abraham Lincoln||Teddy Roosevelt||William Taft|
The origin of the race
The predecessor to The Presidents Race was the PNC Dollar Derby, which was run in the 2005 inaugural season at RFK Stadium. The Dollar Derby, sponsored by PNC Bank, was a car race featuring three competitors: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander Hamilton. It was named the Dollar Derby for the paper bills each competitor represented: George appears on the $1 bill, Abe appears on the $5 bill, and Alex appears on the $10 bill. The promotion featured a car race between George, Abe, and Alex, in which one competitor would have some mishap early in the race, such as spinning out, leaving the other two competitors to race to the end. Each represented a section in the stadium (orange, red, and yellow seats), and each won a fair number of times. The promotion was only a scoreboard feature.
The Dollar Derby was replaced by The Presidents Race at the start of the 2006 season. The Presidents Race began as computer-generated event shown on the stadium's giant video board. Each section of the stadium was again 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.
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 10 feet (3.0 m) 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 inches (19 cm) 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 began greeting visitors before games at the main entrance, and posing 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 center field clockwise by the first base foul pole and down the foul line towards a finish line near the Nationals' dugout.
In 2009, a new food concession was opened at Nationals Park called Teddy's Barbeque, featuring images of Theodore Roosevelt and a signature food item—a 13 inches (33 cm) beef short rib called the "Rough Rider".
Teddy's losing streak
The running joke of the Presidents Race had been Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's inability to win a race. The reasons for Teddy's failures had consistently varied, ranging from tripping, confusion, being attacked by a man dressed as a shark, attempting to tweet while racing and subsequently falling over, to striking up conversations with fans and forgetting to run. In 2006, 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 1, 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; the video board showed him 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 2008 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. The interleague rivalry between Teddy and the Orioles Bird extended into 2009, when the mascots tackled each other in back-to-back games at Nationals Park.
On Sunday, July 26, 2009, during a game against the San Diego Padres, Teddy used a motor scooter to pass the field and cross the finish line first. However, after the judges' consideration, Teddy was disqualified from the race, and remained winless.
From July 31 to August 3, 2009, the Presidents appeared at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in the Great Pierogi Race. During the first night's relay race, Potato Pete tko'ed Teddy with a flying tackle. The following night Teddy ran into the wall after leading the race and lost.
On September 8, 2009, Teddy appeared to have won his first race, but was disqualified for recruiting an extra mascot onto the field to interfere with the other presidents.
On April 23, 2011, Teddy and Abe both raced two pierogi racers (Jalapeño Hannah and Cheese Chester) in the Great Pierogi Race at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, during a Pirates-Nationals game. Despite an early head start before the race officially began, Teddy loses to Hannah.
On July 4, 2012 ESPN's SportsNation featured the President Race at the conclusion of their "101 Celebration Fails" episode. At the beginning of the race George Washington had fallen, and Teddy had tried numerous antics to defeat the others, including throwing a rack of basketballs in front of Abe. After gaining a massive lead, he stopped just short of the finish line to celebrate; while Teddy was kneeling, or Tebowing, George approached from behind in a SportsNation van and clubbed Teddy with a baseball bat, thus, once again giving Teddy a loss.
On August 17, 2012 (the 499th Presidents' Race), held during the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week". Teddy appeared wearing shark teeth and a makeshift dorsal fin. Starting the race in last position, Teddy was assisted by another man in a Shark suit who systematically tackled each of the other presidents, allowing Teddy to pass. Just as it looked like Teddy was going to win, Abe (the 1st one tackled) passed him and crossed the finish line first.
On July 23, 2013, in another race against the pierogies, Teddy was tackled and beaten up by all four pierogies.
On October 3, the final day of the 2012 regular season, Teddy finally won his first race breaking a 525-race losing streak with help from a poorly designed Phillie Phanatic. The victory marked the first time the Nationals earned a playoff appearance since relocating to Washington in 2005 and the first playoff game in Washington since 1933 when the team in Washington was the Senators. The Rough Rider then won the next three races, all in the 2012 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, the ninth inning collapse by the Nats in the fifth and final game ended the season.
A new entry
It was announced in a blog on the website of The Washington Post on January 25, 2013 that a likeness of William Howard Taft ("Bill" for short), the 27th President of the United States, would be added to the roster of entries for the 2013 season, making him the first new entry - and the fifth overall - in the race. The character debuted at the NatsFest event on January 26, 2013. Bill made his debut in the race on Opening Day April 1, in which Bill pushed Abe down leaving him, George, and Teddy until Bill pushed Teddy to the wall in right field foul territory but Teddy tripped Bill leaving George to win the race.
Local D.C. Celebrities
In just a few short seasons, the Nationals' racing presidents have become established as local fixtures in the Washington, D.C. social scene. The presidents have made numerous appearances at the White House, including the annual Easter Egg Roll, and the Independence Day fireworks. The presidents also appeared at several Inaugural Balls and were in the Inaugural Parade after the election of President Barack Obama. In 2008, racing president Teddy Roosevelt entered and finished D.C.'s Marine Corps Marathon in full costume.
Not only is the Presidents Race a fan favorite at the ballpark, but it has also received acclaim throughout the sports promotions industry. Some awards the Presidents have garnered:
2013 - Winner: IDEA Conference Golden Matrix Award "Best Interactive Feature"
2012 - Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2012 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
2010 - Honorable Mention: Gameops.com Best of 2010 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
2009 - Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2009 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
2009 - Winner: Washington, DC St. Patrick's Day Parade "Most Humorous Float"
2009 - Winner: IDEA Conference Golden Matrix Award "Best Interactive Feature"
2008 - Honorable Mention: Gameops.com Best of 2008 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
2007 - Winner: Gameops.com Best of 2007 "Best Contest or On-Field Promotion"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Presidents Race.|
- Washington Nationals Presidents Race Page
- Official "Let Teddy Win" Blog including facts, videos, and current standings
- Presidents Race Standings
- LetTeddyWin.com, "Presidents Race Facts"
- LetTeddyWin.com (2008-03-30), Changes to the presidents race at Nationals Park
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-06-19), Teddy’s BBQ opens tonight at Nationals Park
- LetTeddyWin.com, 2007 Presidents Race Videos
- LetTeddyWin.com (2008-03-31), The Season Begins with a Bang at Nationals Park
- LetTeddyWin.com, 2008 Presidents Race Videos
- LetTeddyWin.com (2008-06-28), Teddy Wins!
- LetTeddyWin.com (2008-06-29), Teddy skips presidents race to assist grounds crew
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-05-24), Teddy knocks the 'O' out of the Orioles Bird
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-07-27), Teddy crosses first, is disqualified for riding motor scooter”
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-08-02), Teddy Roosevelt leveled by racing pierogie at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park”
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-09-08), Teddy is disqualified for “Unauthorized Use of a Feline”
- LetTeddyWin.com (2011-04-24), Pierogies show up racing presidents in Pittsburgh
- LetTeddyWin.com (2012-08-17), Slo-mo Video: Teddy nearly pulls off a win in presidents race #499
- Fenno, Nathan (October 3, 2012). "Teddy finally wins Nationals Presidents Race, ending 538-race drought". Washington Times. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- Steinburg, Daqn (January 25, 2013). "Nats Will Name William Howard Taft New Racing President". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-04-14), Racing presidents attend White House easter egg roll before opening day game
- LetTeddyWin.com (2009-01-22), Racing president Abe Lincoln muscles in on Obama’s inauguration
- LetTeddyWin.com (2008-10-26), Teddy Roosevelt finishes the Marine Corps Marathon!