Teddy Roosevelt, the lovable loser of a mascot who had lost 538 consecutive Presidents Races at Nationals games, finally had his day.
In the middle of the fourth inning at every Nationals home game, Teddy, Abe Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – or 9-foot tall cartoon versions of those legendary presidents – all rush from the center-field gate and vie to see who can be the first to cross the finish line near first base.
Since the gag started on July 21, 2006, at RFK Stadium, Teddy had never won it. His losses often came under bizarre circumstances that the real Teddy Roosevelt would not have stood for. On Tuesday night, for instance, George jumped out of the first-base side stands to cut in front of Teddy as he was poised to win for the first time in his mascot life. Instead, his rival broke the tape to jeers from the crowd.
But after a late-season build up that included public encouragement from Sen. John McCain and training help from professional wrestler John Cena – all helpfully broadcast on the big HD scoreboard at Nationals Park – fans began to sense change was in the air for the regular-season finale against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Teddy, wearing new golden Under Armour shoes and a headband, came out of the gate well behind his competitors. Nothing new there. But the race took a sudden, shocking turn when a mascot dressed to look like the Philly Phanatic jumped from the right-field stands and knocked Abe, Tom and George to the ground. With no judge on hand to call shenanigans, Teddy burst past his fallen foes and raced unopposed to the finish line.
As he crossed the line to a thunderous ovation from the crowd, Teddy ripped open his jersey top to reveal a “Natitude” T-shirt underneath. It is all about synergy, after all. The crowd began chanting “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!” Even the players acknowledged the win, clapping from the dugout railing.
Remember, it was outfielder Jayson Werth who last year only half-jokingly called Teddy’s constant losing an issue for the long moribund franchise. Werth last Sept. 24 tried to sabotage the race after he, former teammate Rick Ankiel and half the Washington bullpen stayed on the field and held George, Abe and Tom up while Teddy sprinted on. His attempted “coup” didn’t work. Unfortunately, mascot Teddy has a brain the size of a pea and simply jammed into a scrum with Abe and some relief pitchers until another president got up and crossed the finish line.
“Well, if Teddy can’t win, then no one wins in my book,” Werth said that day, attempting to justify his actions. “I’m the last remaining member of the Bull Moose Party, I guess.”
But much like the team he represents, which won its first National League East title this week since moving to the District from Montreal in 2005, Teddy is a loser no more. The hero of San Juan Hill, the leader of the Rough Riders, the 26th president of the United States, emerged for a curtain call in the fifth inning. His record? 1-538.
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