They Came to See Teddy Win
The regular season ended with a bang. Not only did the Nationals beat the Phillies 5-1–always great to beat Philadelphia–but they clinched the regular season National League title–if there is one. With St. Louis defeating the Reds, the Nationals have the best record in the National League and in baseball. The will face the winner of the Wild Card shoot-out between the Cardinals and the Braves on Sunday in the first playoff game ever for Washington.
It is worth considering that the Nationals 2012 won-loss record of 98-64 is the second best of any team in DC baseball history. Only the Washington Nationals of 1933–yes Elizabeth, they were called the Nationals back then not the Senators–had a better record. They were American League Champions in 1933 and won 99 back when there were only 154 games.
But when fans remember the end of the 2012 regular season it will not be about the team superlatives so much as about “Teddy,” the racing president. “Let Teddy Win” is not only a slogan of Nationals fans everywhere, but it is a web site as well. His mystique has been aided in recent days by interviews on the Jumbotron with Senator John McCain and a soul-searching interview with the man himself–if the person inside is really a man. Who knows for sure, after all?
Fans sensed that the end was near. The Nationals gave fans a special Teddy Roosevelt Pen upon entering the gate and everyone was buzzing. “Do you think Teddy is going to win today?” was a common question. Some thought it was more hype leading to a playoff win for everyone’s favorite racing president. Others were sure today was the day. A vendor in our section said that it was planned for today but when word started to spread, they decided to postpone it until the playoffs.
In the middle of the fourth inning the nail-biting anxiety came to an end. Teddy came out of the chute last by twenty yards and the fans groaned. But the Philly mascot–not the fanatic–took on the first three presidents, Tom, George and Abe and they landed in a heap. Teddy scooted by with the mascot and headed for the finish line with the crowd on its feet.
It is Teddy’s lone win, but he restores a semblance of pride and in baseball and in racing presidents, there is always next season. Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg–whose bald head can be seen in the photo–appeared in the seat in front of me at the top of the fourth inning and I knew something was up. I asked him after the race was over if they knew ahead of time that Teddy was going to win today. “Oh, yeah, we knew,” he said. Fair enough.
The fanfare about Teddy died down and the game returned to the fore front. Ryan Zimmerman launched a solo home run on almost the first pitch after the race and it seemed an omen. Then the Nationals pushed across another run to take a 2-1 lead. Tyler Moore hit a solo home run, and then Michael Morse launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth for the final margin.
A man sitting in front of me in a Michael Morse jersey exulted. He jumped when the ball left Morse’s bat and began waving his “THE BEAST IS BACK” poster for all to see. He appeared on the Jumbotron with almost as much pride as Teddy.
The beast is back is a fine metaphor for where we stand at this juncture of the season. The home runs today against Cliff Lee, one of the better pitchers in baseball, were testament that the bats will be back for the playoffs whether they begin in St. Louis or Atlanta–the two teams battling for the Wild Card spot on Friday. Whoever we face in the Division Series, the team is ready.
And Teddy will be ready when they return next week for the first playoff games played here at Nationals Park. The excitement for Teddy, for the playoff clinch, for all of the 2012 season, is just beginning. There is so much more to come. Go Nats!! Go NL East Champs!!