The most anticipated move of the Washington Nationals offseason was finally made Friday night, as the club announced that William Howard Taft would become the 5th Racing President.
The announcement was made on the Nationals' official Twitter account in the style of a player transaction, saying that the 27th president would join fellow mascots George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt "pending a physical." Less than 24 hours later, the mascot made his first public appearance before an appreciative crowd at NatsFest at the Washington Convention Center.
“Teddy has handpicked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” Nationals COO Andy Feffer told the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, who first reported the story Friday night. “There was a great amount of banter and discussion back and forth, but Teddy won out with his recommendation.”
The Cincinnati-born Taft was elected president in 1908 with ample assistance from the popular Roosevelt, under whom Taft had served as Secretary of War. However, the two had fallen out with each other personally and politically by 1912, and the election of that year saw Roosevelt's Progressive, or "Bull Moose" ticket split the Republican Party, ensuring the election of Woodrow Wilson. Taft finished behind Wilson and Roosevelt in both the popular vote and the electoral vote, winning just two states (Utah and Vermont) and garnering eight electoral votes. It remains the worst election performance by an incumbent president. Perhaps the lingering bitterness over the break with Roosevelt inspired Taft's first-ever Tweet.
In 1921, then-President Warren Harding appointed fellow Ohioan Taft to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. Taft served in this position until his death nine years later. He is still the only person to be both President and Chief Justice.
In relation to his new position, Taft is recognized as the first president to participate in Opening Day ceremonies, throwing out the first pitch before the Washington Nationals-Philadelphia Athletics game on April 14, 1910. However, the long-held tradition that Taft was indirectly responsible for the seventh-inning stretch appears to be untrue.