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Original Issue

Nationals Pastimes

Will there be a power shift in Washington?

Here's some substantial change coming out of Washington: The Nats are adding a fifth commander-in-chief to the presidents derby that has been held at every home game since July 2006. The newcomer, as "selected" by original racer Teddy Roosevelt: a strangely svelte William Howard Taft. Here's how he stacks up against Teddy, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

Background: The 27th president, Taft trounced William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 election and spent his only term in office busting trusts and overseeing passage of the constititional amendment that allowed for an income tax. He finished third in 1912, when Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate and split the Republican vote—perhaps explaining why Teddy picked him for the presidents race: guilt.

Sports pedigree: A Cincinnati native, Taft came of age when the Reds were popularizing baseball in America in the late 1860s. He attended Woodward High School, which would later produce big leaguers Leon Durham, Darryl Boston and Skeeter Barnes. At Yale, Taft excelled at intramural wrestling (duh). In 1910 he became the first president to throw out the opening pitch at a major league game, and some believe he invented the seventh-inning stretch when he stood up (no word on whether he was looking for a hot dog vendor) and the crowd followed suit.

Physique: Our portliest POTUS, Taft—who tipped the scales at well over three bills—got wedged in a bathtub on his inauguration day. It took four men and a gallon of butter to free him.

The bottom line: Wagering on a man nicknamed Big Lub in a footrace might not seem like a wise move, but Roosevelt's struggles—one of America's most vigorous, active presidents was winless in his first 525 races—show that conventional wisdom means very little in a race among oversized foam representations of long-dead politicians.