This is an updated version of an earlier post.
And then there were four. Again. Nationals Racing Presidents, that is.
A Nationals spokesperson on Friday confirmed a Palm Beach Post report that Racing President William Howard Taft, better known as “Bill,” will be retired permanently to the Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. He is scheduled to arrive at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches this weekend and participate in races throughout spring training with Racing Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, who retired to Florida earlier this winter and have made a number of promotional appearances over the past two months.
The team posted a video Friday of The Big Chief making his way to Florida.
On Monday, the team tweeted video of Bill arriving in Florida and issued the following statement:
Bill is thrilled to spend this next chapter alongside Herbie and Calvin in the sunshine state, where he will run in the Presidents Race during the fourth inning of every Nationals home spring training game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. With Bill now racing in West Palm Beach, this means that the President’s Race at Nationals Park will return to a four-president competition.
The Nationals introduced Taft as the fifth Racing President in January 2013. The fourth-inning Presidents’ Race had always been a four-man contest since the Rushmores — George (Washington), Tom (Jefferson), Abe (Lincoln) and Teddy (Roosevelt) — were introduced in 2006.
“Teddy has hand-picked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” then-Nationals COO Andy Feffer said at the time. “There was a great amount of banter and discussion back and forth, but Teddy won out with his recommendation.”
Cal (Coolidge) and Herbie (Hoover) were added to the race on a one-year basis in 2015 and 2016, respectively, as part of the team’s multiyear partnership with the White House Historical Association. Taft’s retirement, coupled with the news that the Nationals will not add FDR as a visiting Racing President this season, means the race will return to four participants for the first time since 2012.
Taft, who in 1910 became the first president to throw a ceremonial first pitch, wasn’t much of a factor in the Presidents’ Race. According to the invaluable Let Teddy Win, he won 46 races over four seasons, including a career-low nine last season. Perhaps he’ll fare better in retirement, beginning with the Nationals’ first game in their new home Tuesday.