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Nationals beef up lineup for presidents mascot race with Taft

January 26, 2013|By Dan Loumena
  • Williams Howard Taft, center, is introduced as the newest member of the Washington Nationals' presidents mascots race on Saturday.
Williams Howard Taft, center, is introduced as the newest member of the… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

One of the most popular baseball sideshows is the presidents mascots race during Nationals games in Washington, and their lineup just got a lot beefier with William Howard Taft joining the ranks of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington.

That's because Taft was the largest, by mass, of any U.S. leader, tipping the scales at more than 300 pounds, the only president to do so.

The race among 12-foot mascots had been best known for two things: Roosevelt never winning and random acts of sabotage as the racers clumsily circle the field during a break in the fourth inning. Roosevelt finally finished first in a race in the final game last season and won again in the postseason.

The 6-foot-2 Taft holds a special place in baseball history as the first president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, which occurred on April 14, 1910, at National Park (later known as Griffith Stadium) for an Athletics-Senators game.

Taft, the 27th president, is also credited, somewhat arguably, with beginning the seventh-inning stretch.

Lore has it that when he attended the 1910 opener, he became uncomfortable in his small wooden chair and rose to stretch his legs. The crowd, believing he was preparing to exit the stadium, stood out of respect to their commander in chief.

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