With the announcement that the Nationals will add a 5th Racing President to the President’s Race, it seems to me a great time to take a little break and speculate just who will be newest side-show spectacle.
Oh sure, we could analyze Philly’s move to add Delmon Young to the Outfield, or the Braves cornering the market on guy’s named Upton-and we probably will… eventually. But that’s all stuff for another day. Those answers will not reveal themselves if we write about them every day from now until Opening Day or not. So for now, let’s have some fun and look forward to Natsfest! where the announcement will be made.
I think we can group the POTUSes (Presidents of the United States) into a few categories:
Too Partisan!: History takes some of the sting out of political or partisan decisions, so these POTUSes seem a little too recent, bringing to mind a little too much politics to mind. If, at any time, you could tick off half the park. it’s probably not good. As such:
Presidents Jimmy Carter (who loved playing softball),
Ronald Reagan (who used to call Cubs games!),
George H. Bush (Yale First Basemen, and considered easily the best ball player to sit in the Oval Office),
Bill Clinton and
George W. Bush (who owned part of the Texas Rangers) seem a bit too soon for me (particularly since four of the five are still alive).
Too Forgettable!: I know I’m going to step on some toes here, but there are some Presidents who, frankly, aren’t known to the population at general. Yes, yes, yes-you’re a big history buff, and you think it’s incredibly important to understand John Tyler’s contributions to our great Nation-but you’re one of just a few. While there is a serious lack of Whig party representation in the race, don’t expect it to get any better on Saturday. As such, I’m putting Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur
No Oomf: Similar to the forgettable category, these are guys that no one in 2013 is going to get particularly juiced about (history-buffs aside). It’s not that we don’t know these Presidents, it’s that I’m guessing that most people don’t know much about them. Remember, not only do you have to have an impression of the President racing, but you have to care about it while drinking beer and in the middle of a baseball game. Sadly, some of our Presidents don’t have a very high historical Q rating.
Sorry, but Martin Van Buren isn’t going to cut it despite an excellent reference on the Simpsons once. Similarly, John Quincy Adams is going to forever be in shadow of his father. James K. Polk, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland (President 2 separate times!), Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson (First Impeached President), and Andrew Jackson (Who is on the $20!) all fit the bill of not enough star power.
Maybe a Little Too Sad?: Sorry, I think the visage of John F. Kennedy in over-sized President-head form doesn’t sit well with me. I would think folks older than my 35 years would feel that way even more so. Same with Lyndon B. Johnson, who replaced Kennedy-too many bad feelings for a feel-good event like the race. I think the same goes for most of the POTUSes who died in office. I realize that Abraham Lincoln died in Office, but he’s actually on Mt. Rushmore, so I think an exception applies.
Regardless, between the sad situation of their passing, and their lack of notoriety, I have to think that William Harrison, Zachery Taylor, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and Warren G. Harding are all out.
Founding Fathers: A handful of the remaining POTUSes can lay claim to being part of the origins of our country. James Madison is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution.” Everyone knows that John Adams was the first Vice President, and second President of the United States (plus, you know, he had that HBO documentary I never watched). James Monroe was probably the last of this group, and the Monroe Doctrine is a lot of the reason why the country looks the way it does. Of this group, I would have to think Adams has the most sway, and is a candidate. Good name recognition, and a nice safe choice.
Sitting President?: It’s unlikely, but current President Barack Obama might provide an exception to the too partisan/too soon President rule above because he’s a current sitting President. I think you could introduce it as a rotating spot for whomever the sitting POTUS is. You get a bit of leeway if the guy is currently a public figure- SNL does it, why not the Nats?
Plus the guy wore a White Sox hat to Opening Day…come’on man. Without getting too into what my political leanings are, I’ll say I have no (zero, zip, nada) problems with our current President. It’s completely unlikely that the Nats would open up a wild card like this, however, despite the fact that I think it is more workable than other POTUSes.
Easy Targets: Gerald Ford was so easily made fun of SNL with his constant pratfalls that it would be super easy to do the same in a President’s race. Similarly, despite the partisanship that might arise from picking Richard Nixon, he’s such an easy villain that he would overcome that.
I don’t think Ford makes the cut. Why would the Nationals elect to do the same joke all over again? I would think that adding a 5th POTUS means that you won’t just be making the new guy the new Teddy, but into something a little different. Nixon could do that. Even if lost a lot of races, he could also play up the “Tricky Dick” aspect of his caricature. Ford, you’re just asking for a fall guy…literally.
Baseball Presidents: These guys are all guys who are recent enough that folks will have some image of them, old enough that the partisan nature of their tenure in office has passed AND are Presidents who were around at baseball games in Washington D.C. Calvin Coolidge threw out a few first pitches to start a season in Washington and Woodrow Wilson was the first President to throw out a pitch at the World Series.
Herbert Hoover fits the timeline, but I haven’t found much of him doing anything with baseball. Harry Truman, however was a baseball fan who made his way to Senators games and helped dedicate a Walter Johnson Memorial at Griffith Park.
The “I Like Ike” merchandising possibilities at the park should the Nats selected Dwight. D. Eisenhower as the 5th racing President would be through the roof (think of the T-shirts!). Eisenhower was a big baseball fan too! He told a story about growing up where he wanted to be a big league ball player and win the World Series, and his best friend said he wanted to be President of the United States. His quote? “Neither of us got our wish.”
That said, I think there are two clear-cut candidates from this era that rise above the others. The first is Franklin D. Roosevelt. Father of the New Deal, and the President who got the US through World War II, Roosevelt’s resume is impressive to say the least. He was a baseball fan throwing out a few first pitches to boot.
The big knock against FDR is his polio condition that confined him to a wheelchair for much of his tenure in office. That said, it could be an awfully inclusive move on behalf of the Nationals to feature a prominent part of their entertainment in a wheelchair. Take a show like Glee which has featured a star character in a wheelchair for the better part of four years now-the Nationals could follow that lead and make a bold statement of belief about what people can and can’t do given limitations. I think if they think they can get it to work (racing in a chair) I think he is a strong possibility.
Oh-and a little numerology for you He was the 5th cousin of our beloved Teddy, and would be the team’s 5th Racing President.
The other, and in my mind most likely, candidate will be William Howard Taft. There is no clear disadvantage to taking Taft, and his “pros” are through the roof. Widely reputed to be a huge baseball fan, Taft was the first President to throw out a pitch at baseball game ever. Couple that with the fact that President Taft has been portrayed as a cartoonishly rotund character (He was a very big fellow, and that lends itself to easy physical, slapstick comedy) and the fact that he was a direct, political rival of the beloved Teddy Roosevelt and I think you’ve got your best candidate for the job right here.
If two of the five Presidents hate each other, the shtick moves from “one guy always losing, how will he lose?” to “oh god, what will they do to each other this time?” Classic Spy v. Spy type stuff-who cares who wins? There will always be what these two come up with next time!
As I said, Taft is my betting favorite-followed by Adams, Nixon, then FDR and Eisenhower. But why take my word for it? Who do you think will be our Fifth Racing President? Take our poll and put your choice and arguments in the comments below.
(Also, Presidential corrections to facts I have in error would be much appreciated.)