You could say the Washington Nationals flunked history after the baseball team announced it would be adding a fifth character to its Presidents Race: William Howard Taft.
The race, one of the most popular fan gimmicks in baseball, is modeled after the Sausage Race run by the Milwaukee Brewers that features a variety of meats.
In Washington’s race, four presidents – Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – run around Nationals Park for bragging rights.
The Nationals wanted to add a little spice to next year’s version of the Presidents Race by adding a fifth former commander and chief to the completion, but the team flunked history in the process with the Taft addition.
The baseball franchise is scheduled to announce Taft – they’ll call him “Bill” – as the next Presidents Race character on Sunday.
The team said Teddy, who won his first Presidents Race on the last day of the season last year, was given the option to choose the next character.
“Teddy has handpicked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” said Nationals COO Andy Feffer, according to The Washington Post. “There was a great amount of banter and discussion back and forth, but Teddy won out with his recommendation.”
Taft was endorsed by Roosevelt in the 1908 presidential election, but here’s where the Nationals flunked history: the two men had a falling out and Roosevelt wound up challenging Taft in the 1912 race.
Roosevelt and Taft were involved in a bitter exchange of words, and it’s unlikely to think the real Roosevelt would want Taft to be a part of the Nationals’ Presidents Race.
“It is a bad trait to bite the hand that feeds you,” Roosevelt said in April 1912, according to the Post. He said Taft “has not merely in thought, word, and deed been disloyal to our past friendship, but has been disloyal to every canon of ordinary decency and fair dealing.”
The feeling was mutual for Taft.
“The memory of the names Mr. Roosevelt has called me still lingers in my ears,” Taft said in May 1912. “Since the time he began his personal attacks on me he has used all the epithets he could think of, and all the names in the calendar, such as no President has ever been subjected to by a man who has had two terms in that office.”
While Roosevelt defeated Taft in the 1912 primary, Taft controlled the party convention that selected the Republican candidate, forcing Roosevelt to run as a third-party candidate.
The rivalry paved the way for Woodrow Wilson to be elected president.
“The rivalry was as bitter as it gets in politics,” Allan Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, told the Post. “There’s nothing like the feeling of betrayal, and both men felt betrayed by the other. Roosevelt’s feeling was ‘I made you, you were nothing, and you turned around and stabbed me in the back.’ Taft believed, with good justification, that Roosevelt cost him his re-election and led to the election of a Democrat. This was bitter and personal.”
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