George W. Bush photo

Interview and Remarks with John Miller and Joe Morgan at Nationals Park During the Broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN

March 30, 2008

JOHN MILLER: Tonight is the Presidential opener. The forty-third President of the United States, George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch and threw it well. Joe Morgan, no less an authority, praised that throw.

JOE MORGAN: That's the best I've ever seen. That's some high heat.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well thank you very much. I was thrilled to be here.

JOE MORGAN: We're thrilled to have you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you sir.

JOHN MILLER: I remember Joe and I did a game in Arlington, was an opening night, and President George H. W. Bush, the forty-first president, was there for the ceremonial first pitch that night for your Rangers.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right.

JOHN MILLER: I don't know if you had some connections with the president at that time, but you got him down there, and he ended up, as I recall, warming up with Joe Morgan under the stands for that first pitch.

JOE MORGAN: But I have got to say it wasn't as good as you. The problem he had is he warmed up too long...his arms started to hurt.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah it wasn't his battery mate.

JOE MORGAN: [laughing] No. No.

JOHN MILLER: Joe, he coached him beautifully.

The batter is Tim Hudson.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Beautiful park, isn't it?

JOE MORGAN: Magnificent

JOHN MILLER: Beautiful. I think they did just a fabulous job. And they did it in a hurry. I was told by Stan Kasten, the president of the ballclub, they did it in 22 months.


JOHN MILLER: Usually it takes nearly three years to build a ballpark...

[interrupts to call game play]

...but I want to know did you warm up for this first pitch tonight?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I did with Jose Rio

JOE MORGAN: I was going to say, you know how long it takes to get certain things done in Washington right?

PRESIDENT BUSH: [laughing] That's right. I'm real proud for the city. This is going to be good for Washington. And, the view of the Capitol up here is great.

JOHN MILLER: It's spectacular. I'd like to be able to get out of the booth and look around at some of the various views. In understand you can see the Washington Monument from some places. You can see the river.

Now you're a huge baseball fan. You were involved with the Texas Rangers. You put together an investment group. You were the president of the Rangers for several years. Can you get behind this Washington team, or is it too difficult because you're so into the Rangers?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I'm pretty much a Ranger-Astros guy.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, not only Texas, but you might remember the Astros had some great players in the past. One of whom is sitting right here. He was one of my all-time favorites.

JOE MORGAN: Ahh, thank you. You know, I wanted to remind John, we were on the plane once...the two of us...we were sitting there. And you said we should go to John McMullin, tell him that you would run the team for him, and that I could be the general manager.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right.

JOE MORGAN: Right? So, I wasn't enamored by that proposition, but two years later you bought the Texas Rangers.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I remember that very well.

JOE MORGAN: You remember that conversation?


JOHN MILLER: And you didn't bring Joe in to run the Rangers.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Maybe that's why we didn't win any World Series.

JOHN MILLER: President Bush is here with us. The presidential opener here in Washington. A long time Washington tradition started by President Taft in 1910. Probably the most memorable opening pitch I've ever seen was 2001 in Yankee Stadium when you threw out the first within a few weeks of September 11th...

[interrupts to call game play]

[inning over and commercial break]

JOHN MILLER: Let's go back and revisit that first pitch Joe mentioned was thrown so well by President Bush to Manny Acta. High heat you call it Joe.

JOE MORGAN: High heat.

JOHN MILLER: I started to recall 2001 because that was a time and a place where emotions were raw. The New Yorkers were on the front lines. You came out there in Yankee Stadium before the huge crowd and the fans started chanting "U.S.A., U.S.A." That had to be an amazing moment for you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It was a nerve racking moment and it was very emotional and I was touched, and the raw emotion at the stadium was, you know, palpable, it was a really amazing experience.

JOHN MILLER: Before you threw out that pitch, Derek Jeter did a little coaching for you that night.

PRESIDENT BUSH: He asked me if I was going to throw from the mound, and I said, "What do you think?" He said, "Well, you need to throw from the mound." I said, "OK, I will." He said, "But, don't bounce it....put a little pressure on it."

JOHN MILLER: Well, usually we see this ceremonial first pitches, right Joe? The people stand at the front of the mound...they kind of lob it in bounces a lot. To do it right up on the don't see that very often.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I didn't want to bounce it, that's for certain. That's why I came in with high heat. Thank goodness you didn't put that little strike zone up there that you've got.

JOHN MILLER: The "K-Zone!"

PRESIDENT BUSH: The "K-Zone!" yeah.

JOHN MILLER: We might have had it on.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't think it would have measured. It wouldn't have been even close to the box itself.

JOHN MILLER: Well, are your Rangers going to be good this year? They've got Nolan Ryan as the president of the Rangers.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. I talked to him a little about that. I saw him on another matter and he wanted to get into the business side of baseball. He's got an ownership in the AAA and AA for the Astros...round Rock and Corpus...he and his family.

JOHN MILLER: ...[interrupts to call game play]

PRESIDENT BUSH: ...[Very nice play]

JOHN MILLER: We've had two quick innings. Can we impose upon you for another half inning?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Sure...I'd love to.

[inning over and commercial break]

JOHN MILLER: President Bush who threw out the first pitch is here in the booth with us. Thanks very much for coming on with us.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's an honor to be here. You know I actually saw the Senators when my grandfather was a United States Senator from Connecticut. He took me to see the Senators in old Griffith Stadium.

JOE MORGAN: So, you go way back.


JOHN MILLER: When did you see your first Major League game?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Polo Grounds for the Giants versus the Milwaukee Braves

JOHN MILLER: I always wanted to see a game at the Polo Grounds but it disappeared when I was still...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Still a babe.

JOHN MILLER: Just a babe. [laughing] Didn't have a chance.

JOE MORGAN: Well you know what? I want to take a look at this pitch that you threw...the "high heat."

PRESIDENT BUSH: Right [laughing]

JOE MORGAN: I want to take a look at it on "K-Zone." Let's see what happened there.

JOHN MILLER: Because you think it was a little too high right? But we'll find out. "K-Zone" will decide.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I felt it was a strike. Didn't you?

JOHN MILLER: I thought it was right in there. The upper reaches of the strike zone.

PRESIDENT BUSH: [laughing] The upper reaches.

JOHN MILLER: But, they're calling that a high strike now.

JOE MORGAN: That's the new thing...the high strike

JOHN MILLER: ...[interrupts to call game play]

JOHN MILLER: Take it Joe.

JOE MORGAN: Let's take a look at this. Let's see. Let's get the "K-Zone" in there.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's the "M-Zone"

JOE MORGAN: Let's see where that pitch is. There it is...oh, oh. It's still a little out of the strike zone. Still a little high. [laughing]

JOHN MILLER: With two strikes, I think you get the guy chasing. You don't want to just groove one with two strikes.

JOE MORGAN: I talked about you buying the Texas Rangers after our conversation and I just wonder myself, is there any interest on your half to get back in the...

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think I pretty much gonna be a fan.

JOE MORGAN: Be a fan?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but yeah, I love the game. I watch a lot of it. Actually watch you two guys quite a least on Sunday night.

JOE MORGAN: Well, I was hoping you would buy a team and then I could get another job.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Another shot?

JOE MORGAN: Yeah...another shot. If you buy another team now...


JOHN MILLER: ...[interrupts to call game play]

PRESIDENT BUSH:...[Chipper looks like he may have the first home run in this ballpark...]

JOHN MILLER: ...[as called by President George W. Bush]

PRESIDENT BUSH:...[It is...first home run...that thing was a rope...]

JOHN MILLER: ...[continues to call game play]

PRESIDENT BUSH:...[He plastered that thing didn't he? Here he is...yeah]

JOE MORGAN:...[Pretty much down the middle...]

PRESIDENT BUSH:...[Down the middle. If the guy had pitched the pitch I pitched, he wouldn't have hit it out of here!]

JOE MORGAN:...[laughing] [No, he wouldn't have hit it out...]

JOE MORGAN:...[continues to call game...]

JOHN MILLER: Here's one of your former Ranger guys...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Teixeira, yeah...he's a good player...really good player.

JOHN MILLER: It's a pretty good combo in that lineup...Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira

PRESIDENT BUSH: Looks like it...yeah. Some of these guys came by the Oval Office the other day. Some of the Atlanta Braves last year...very impressive people. Francoeur.

JOHN MILLER: Jeff Francoeur, a young guy, but if you spend a one or two minutes talking with him, you have to love him.

PRESIDENT BUSH: He's a really nice guy. Got hit in the mouth in spring training.

JOE MORGAN: There he is.

JOHN MILLER: And that really frightened a lot of people because he had been beaned while he was in the minor leagues and fractured the orbital bone around the eye and...


JOHN MILLER: It was a very serious injury.

JOHN MILLER: ...[interrupts to call game play]

JOHN MILLER: Do you ever think you would ever like to go into calling play-by-play? Joe's been trying to get rid of me and hire someone else.

PRESIDENT BUSH: They say I've got a lot of hot air, you know, so maybe I'm well suited for it.

JOHN MILLER: Now in your State of the Union Address in 2004...


JOHN MILLER: You brought up sort of, nationally....


JOHN MILLER: ...the steroid issue in baseball and you urged the players, the union people, the owners, to get together and get rid of steroids from the game. Now since that time, there's been movement. Are you satisfied? Are you happy with the kind of movement that's been made?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm happy with the recognition that it was a problem, and the question is whether they will be developing these sophisticated, you know, stuff, that will make it hard to detect. I certainly hope the players continue to work to clean up the sport like fans like you and fans like me want. We really want these records intact.

JOE MORGAN: I'm like you. I think both the players and the owners have recognized that there is a problem and they're trying to find a way that they both can live with, you know, to clean up the sport. But like you, it's going to be difficult because of the designer drugs. The say there's more money in designing them than there is to catch the guys so, that makes it more difficult.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's's too bad because it's such a fabulous sport. One of the great things about the sport is that you can take the records of Joe Morgan and compare them to the next speedy second baseman and get some kind of, you know, historical relevance and this era is a little distorted, but it's till hard to play the game.

JOE MORGAN: Well, in my opinion, you know that's what I wanted from the Mitchell Report.


JOE MORGAN: What did you actually think of the Mitchell Report?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Ah, you know, I thought it was part of the cleansing process...the healing process. You know, the great thing about baseball is you don't have to be a giant to play it...

JOE MORGAN: Correct.

PRESIDENT BUSH: As you know...

JOE MORGAN: [laughing]

PRESIDENT BUSH: [laughing]...but fast, and hands, I mean, you know, the normal sized person can play it and it's a great sport. You know, I'll tell you, I'm glad you gave me a chance to visit with you. One of my real wishes is that baseball will get back into the inner-city of America.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Such fabulous opportunities for some of these kids you know. And it's...contracts are better in baseball if you can make the team. You play longer, and the skills, you know, a lot of our inner-city kids have got the skills necessary to play, they just need exposure and for the sport to be accepted better.

JOE MORGAN: I think exposure is the key there, you know, in the inner-city, I think, and one of the things that has happened is that basketball...they hold clinics in the inner-city, they do a lot of different things in the inner-city. They get the kids interested in their sport. We need to do more of that, and as you are saying, bring more awareness in the inner-city so the kids will be a little more excited about playing the game.

JOHN MILLER: Maybe this ballpark here in Washington will help that happen right here in D.C.

JOHN MILLER: ...[interrupts to call game play]

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, one of the fun things we've done at the White House is host tee-ball on the South Lawn, all aiming just to bring more exposure to Little League baseball and encourage kids to play.

JOE MORGAN: I actually got invited to that, but you didn't invite me.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Who did, Laura?

JOE MORGAN: No, your Dad did.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, he did? [laughing] Well, you know what, ah, yeah I think, you're invited Joe.

JOE MORGAN: OK [laughing]...Actually it is a fabulous thing that you do there at the White House...

PRESIDENT BUSH: ...It's fun...

JOE MORGAN: ...because I went with your Dad, Stan Musial, a lot of the great players went there and it does bring a lot of the kids to the White House and to be able to play baseball on the White House lawn...that's pretty cool.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It is. It's fun.

JOHN MILLER: George Will, the syndicated columnist and political commentator for ABC Television...he was part of our pregame ceremonies tonight on ESPN...there's the First Lady [as camera focuses on the First Lady in the stands]...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, there she is...

JOHN MILLER: Is she a baseball fan too?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Absolutely. Some of the best times of our lives were when we were with the Rangers. We took our little girls to baseball games and hung out with our friends at the ballpark. It's a really good time for our family.

JOHN MILLER: George Will, every year since you've been president, has put on a special baseball dinner held at the White House.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. That's one way to put it. Or, the other way to put it is George W. Bush has put on the dinner and George Will...


PRESIDENT BUSH: No, no. He puts together the list...[laughing]

JOHN MILLER: Well, I know everybody who goes loves it.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well thank you sir. [laughing]

JOHN MILLER: President Bush, the First Lady here at the new ballpark in Washington. The Presidential Opener. Our sincere thanks for you coming on with us tonight. It was a pleasure.


JOE MORGAN: I wasn't ready for you to go, but if you have to go, you have to go. You got other things to do, huh?

JOHN MILLER: He's got to go to Europe. He's got NATO stuff.

PRESIDENT BUSH: First thing in the morning we're heading off to Ukraine.

JOHN MILLER: All the best to you.

JOE MORGAN: Have a good time.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes sir, thanks Joe.

JOHN MILLER: President George W. Bush

George W. Bush, Interview and Remarks with John Miller and Joe Morgan at Nationals Park During the Broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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