Presidents, Pierogies and Other Strange Things That Race at Ballparks

Mitchell Layton, Getty Images
Mitchell Layton, Getty Images

The 39,000-plus—President Bush included—who packed Nationals Park last Sunday night experienced a new, beautiful stadium and the same, ugly result. Oh, Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals christened their new digs with a dramatic 3-2 win, but Teddy Roosevelt remained 0-for-ever in the mid-game Presidents Race. Here's a closer look at Teddy's struggles and some of the other popular (non-pennant) races at baseball stadiums across the country.

1. Presidents

The John Hancock moment of Stan Kasten and Ted Lerner's first season as president and owner of the Washington Nationals, respectively, came on July 21, 2006. During a come-from-behind win over the Cubs, giant costumed caricatures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt dashed out of the rightfield tunnel and raced toward home plate, turning what originated as a computer-generated race on the RFK Stadium scoreboard into a live-action event. Consider it Mount Rushmore incarnate.

Teddy soon established himself as the lovable loser of the group, failing to win a race that first summer. By the middle of the 2007 season, Washington's last at RFK, the buzz about Teddy's futility reached fever pitch. The former Rough Rider developed an intense following and Teddy campaign paraphernalia dotted the stands (You can buy 'Let Teddy Win' shirts, hats and tote bags.) Meanwhile, the 26th president continued to lose in every way imaginable.

There was rampant speculation that Teddy would finally end the streak on his very own bobblehead day, but an unfortunate fall off a platform crushed those hopes. When he roams the concourse after a race, fans alternatively encourage and berate Teddy, whose winless streak now spans 118 official races. He remains unfazed and his expression unchanged, embodying the spirit of the saying, "Run slowly and carry a big stick."

2. Sausages

Long before the Racing Presidents, there were Milwaukee's Racing Sausages. Baseball's most recognizable racers first appeared in the early '90s and, like their presidential brethren, evolved from a virtual representation on a scoreboard. Early on, the Bratwurst, Italian Sausage, and Polish Sausage ran on select Sundays at County Stadium during the season, but the race became a permanent fixture in 2000, by which time a Hot Dog had been added to the race.

The tradition continued when Miller Park opened in 2001 and the race received national attention on July 9, 2003, when former Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon smacked the Italian Sausage with his bat. Simon was cited for disorderly conduct and fined $432 for the act, which caused college student Mandy Block—the woman inside the Italian Sausage—to fall, taking another racer down in the process. Simon, who last played in the majors in 2006, later autographed the infamous bat and gave it to Block.

The Chorizo (at right) signed a contract with the Brewers in 2006 and joined the race full-time at the start of the next season. The Hot Dog won a sausage-high 23 races in 2007, while the Bratwurst, evidently hampered by unhealthy eating habits, won only 10. The Sausages are available for rent at rates only slightly more expensive than the concession stand: $100 per sausage. How good does a Klements hot dog sound right about now?

3. Pierogies

The exact origin of pierogies, dumplings of unleavened dough stuffed with any number of different fillings, is a Dietribe for another day. The Great Pierogie Race, however, began in Pittsburgh in 1999, a celebration of the city's Slavic influence. The first race featured the delightfully tacky Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, and Potato Pete. Jalapeno Hanna was later added and Oliver Onion replaced Potato Pete.

The Pierogies emerge from the rightfield gate and make their way toward homeplate as an announcer speaking exaggerated "Pittsburghese" narrates the race. When the Pierogies race the Sausages each season for the Golden Skillet trophy, it's all business, but the group also knows how to have a good time. Witness the four of them dancing to the wildly popular Peanut Butter Jelly Time song. Those are two ingredients that don't belong in a pierogi.

4. Colored Dots

What's sillier than cheering for moving colored dots on a scoreboard? Cheering for running colored dots on a field, of course. The Rangers poke fun at an age-old scoreboard tradition with the Dot Race in Arlington, Texas.

5. Eyeballs

A few minor league teams, including the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws, feature a mid-game Eyeball Race.

6. Chili Peppers

Racing Chili Peppers entertain the fans in Toronto.

7. Seals & Elephants

And finally, there's this classic tricycle race between Oakland A's mascot Stomper and San Francisco's Lou Seal, with a surprise appearance by Crazy Crab.

The New Apple Watch SE Is Now Available on Amazon

Apple/Amazon
Apple/Amazon

Apple products are notorious for their high price tags. From AirPods to iPads to MacBooks, it can be difficult to find the perfect piece of tech on sale when you are ready to buy. Luckily, for those who have had their eye on a new Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE is designed with all the features users want but at a lower starting price of $279— and they're available on Amazon right now.

The SE exists as a more affordable option when compared to Apple's new Series 6 line of watches. This less expensive version has many of the same functions of its pricier brethren, except for certain features like the blood oxygen sensor and electrical heart sensor. To make up for the truncated bells and whistles, the SE comes in at least $120 cheaper than the Series 6, which starts at $400 and goes up to $800. The SE comes with technical improvements on previous models as well, such as the fall detection, a faster processor, a larger screen, water resistance, and more.

Now available in 40mm ($279) and 44mm ($309), both SE models offer a variety of colors to choose from, such as sliver, space gray, and pink. If you want cellular connection, you’ll have to pay a bit more for the 40mm ($329) and the 44mm ($359).

For more, head to Amazon to see the full list of offerings from Apple.

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50 Years of Monday Night Football's Memorable Theme Music

iStock
iStock

Monday Night Football turns 50 years old today—notably on a Monday! And as the Raiders and Saints warm up for tonight's kickoff, fans will know it's game time when they hear four distinct, descending notes. But it wasn't always that way. The biggest game of the week has been soundtracked by a handful of theme songs, starting back on September 21, 1970.

When Monday Night Football premiered on ABC, it was accompanied by the thoroughly groovy, Hammond organ-heavy “Score” by Charles Fox. The composer had previously written the theme for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and he would later make a name for himself doing the theme songs for Happy Days and The Love Boat, as well as composing Roberta Flack’s Grammy-winning “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”

“No network had ever programmed a regular sporting event in the evening in prime time,” Fox wrote in his autobiography, and though no one could know what a juggernaut the show would become, he set about writing a funky soul-jazz tune. The song was released under the alias “Bob’s Band”—presumably because Fox was employed at the time by Bob Israel’s Score Productions, a music company specializing in theme songs and background music.

Fox retained its rights over that song, but the show moved on to a new opener after a few years. “Monday Night Football is still on the air, but my theme was replaced after seven years by someone named … Bob Israel,” Fox wrote of his former boss. Well, almost. First, there was a version simply called “ABC – Monday Night Football Theme” that aired from 1976 to 1981. Then in 1982, Israel’s Score Productions was brought in to update that song. The three composers of the 1976 piece unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement.

Then, in 1989, Johnny Pearson’s “Heavy Action” rang in a new era of watching live sports from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. Though the company had retained the rights to the song a decade previously, they used it primarily as background music and didn't make it an official theme until '89. The first four notes of the British composer’s opener became synonymous with American football, and the song is likely one of the most widely and easily recognized themes in television history.

Also in 1989, country star Hank Williams Jr. reworked his earlier hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" into a bar-room blues rocker that spoke of "turning on [his] TV for some pigskin fun." The song was a huge success and ran in various forms on the program for over 20 years. Williams enthusiastically growling "Are you ready for some football?" became as identifiable to the show as the opening notes of "Heavy Action."

Unfortunately, in 2011, Monday Night Football (which in 2006 moved from ABC to ESPN) dropped Williams' theme after he made controversial statements about President Barack Obama on Fox News. The network reverted to featuring "Heavy Action" most prominently, and in 2015 they reworked the theme yet again. That intro, which ran before each of the season's games, featured archive videos and computer generated players to highlight some of the greatest plays and playmakers in the history of the broadcast.

In 2017, Hank Williams Jr. and all his "Rowdy Friends" made their way back to the top of the football broadcast, but they've been replaced again in 2020 for Monday Night Football's 50th anniversary season with a cover of Little Richard's "Rip It Up," courtesy of Butcher Brown.

Yeah, we're definitely ready for some football.