Teddy in 2012: Long drought is over in DC
Presidents Race winless streak ends in Nats' season finale
WASHINGTON -- Eleven-year-old Riley Kuehn skipped school on Wednesday, knowing there was a chance to witness history at Nationals Park.
The beloved Teddy Roosevelt mascot had been mired in a 525-race losing streak in the stadium's Presidents Race, held in the middle of the fourth inning of every Nationals home game. The event dates back to July 2006.
But Wednesday afternoon, with chatter steadily rising throughout the week that Teddy could finally snap his remarkable string of bad luck, Riley and her father, Dan, knew they had an opportunity too good to pass up. With the Nationals having already clinched the National League East title, Wednesday's game -- the last of the regular season -- had to be the one.
"My buddy has season tickets, so we have 12 games," Dan said from his and Riley's seats in Section 313, in the upper deck directly behind home plate. "We've seen him lose every single game, it's been disappointing every time."
After Phillies shortstop Michael Martinez flew out to left field for the final out in the top of the fourth, Nationals Park PA announcer Jerome Hruska made his signature call for "The Maaaain event, the Geico Presidents Race!"
Teddy got off to a slow start out of the center-field gate, trailing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. As the quartet of oversized mascots raced toward the right-field corner, the gap widened and the crowd at Nationals Park loudly signaled its disdain. The three leading mascots reached the right-field foul pole, with Teddy lagging far behind near the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center, and it seemed as though the Kuehns would have to wait until the playoffs for Teddy's long-awaited triumph.
"I thought he was going to lose at first, when he wasn't really close," Riley said.
But in a not-so-rare moment of Presidents Race ridiculousness, a slimmed down version of Philadelphia's mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, leapt from the stands and bowled the three leading presidents over. Teddy suddenly had a clear path toward the finish line in front of the Nationals' dugout along the first-base line, and no conceivable obstacle could stop the nine-foot mascot from victory.
Indeed, Teddy sprinted through the finish-line tape, ripping off his shirt to reveal a red "Natitude" T-shirt. The Kuehns and the rest of a near-capacity crowd at Nationals Park finally had the moment they'd all been waiting for, the end of the longest losing streak in the nation's capital and the beginning of a new era for their beloved baseball team.
"Well, I think I said last year it was going to be tough to win without Teddy winning, but I guess he was waiting for us," said Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.
"We were thinking it might be the playoffs," Dan said. "[Riley] had school today, but we put her on an 'appointment.' She had an appointment with Teddy, because if Teddy won, she'd be so disappointed if she wasn't there."
"It was really awesome when he won," Riley added. "I was really happy."
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.