Bill Clinton photo

Interview With Jon Miller and Fred Manfra of WBAL Radio in Baltimore, Maryland

April 02, 1996

Q. Here's the pitch to Bobby Bonilla, and Bonilla takes ball one outside. So I guess that ends some of the conversations about how Cone's arm is.

Hey, and look who just stopped in. Mr. President.

The President. How are you?

Q. How are you, Mr. President? Bill Clinton is here with us. The pitch to Bonilla——

The President. I'm the good luck charm when I'm on this radio——

Q. Oh, yeah, definitely. In fact, when you were with us last year, Bobby Bonilla came up and promptly hit one over the center field wall. And he drives this one deep into right center field——

The President. No, no. Yes.

Q. This one is bouncing over the wall.

The President. Ground rule double. That's good.

Q. And right after Bonilla hit that home run, then Ripken came up, and he did the same thing. In fact, President Clinton, you broadcast that Ripken home run which was an historic night. You were part of it. So let's go back now and take a listen here. This is how it happened.

[At this point, WBAL played an audiotape of the President's remarks in 1995.]

The President. That was a great day.

Q. We've played that 500 times since then, and everybody loves that. Here's Cal the following season as we pick up again, and President Clinton is here with us. And again, everybody with such indelible memories of that great night, Mr. President. What do you think now? Cal taking ball one from Appier.

The President. Well, he's got the only two RBI's, doesn't he?

Q. Two-run single in the first inning for Cal, and now we're a 2-2 ball game.

I'm glad you were able to come over today. We thought you might be able to be here yesterday, and then we got rained out. But we're very pleased——

The President. Beautiful day today, though, isn't it?

Q. Fantastic.

The President. And the wind's not too bad inside which is good.

Q. Two and 0 to Cal Ripken. Bonilla at second.

The President. Strike.

Q. Down around the knees. Two balls and one strike.

The President. A little too low to hit, though.

Q. Did you get a chance to see Cal before the game?

The President. Yes. He baited me about going out on the pitcher's mound because last year I stood in front of the mound and started— [laughter]—so he said, you know, "That's what that mound is there for. You're supposed to step up on top of it." [Laughter]

Q. And he fouls it off back out of play.

The President. So I asked him if he were baiting me. He said, "No, no." He said, "If you don't want to go out there and do what you're supposed to do, it's all right with me." [Laughter]

Q. Well that's great. You got the Ripken treatment.

The President. So I had to go up there and stand on the mound.

Q. You're like part of the family now if he was talking to you like that. Well, you stood up there, and you threw a strike in there. Nice going.

The President. It was a slow strike, but I got it over.

Q. Two and two to Cal Ripken, batting with two down and Bonilla at second in the last of the third inning. Kevin Appier.

The President. He hit a hard ball there. That was a hard, good double.

Q. Now the pitch. There's a looping liner.

Shallow center——

The President. Get down. Get down.

Q. Base hit. Here comes Bonilla, and Ripken has done it again. Another Presidential base hit for Cal Ripken. We may have to have you on every time he bats.

Well, it looked like he got a little slider that kind of hung up there above the knees, and he blooped it into shallow center. And Bobby Bonilla scored. I have a feeling that Alomar, Palmeiro, Bonilla, Ripken, they're going to combine for a few runs this year.

The President. They'll do well. And this guy, Surhoff, is good, too. He can hit.

Q. He hit .320 last year with Milwaukee. Very fine. Not a power-type hitter, but he gets the ball to all fields. And he takes ball one, down and in, on a breaking ball. One ball and no strikes.

Now last year you had your daughter, Chelsea, here and——

The President. She was here. She's a little jealous that I'm here today, but she had to go to school today. [Laughter] You know, she and her mother just took a wonderful trip. They went to see our forces in Bosnia, and then they went to Turkey and Greece. So I told her she got to go to Turkey, Greece, and Bosnia, and I got to go to Baltimore. [Laughter]

Q. So you're even.

The President. That's the deal. That's right.

Q. Yeah, you're even. Here's a foul ball back into the upper deck. One ball, one strike, to Surhoff.

Well, we thought maybe she'd get spring break or something. Next time on opening day, declare spring break over here.

One ball, one strike——

The President. They missed so many days this winter; they need to go more, not less.

Q. That's right.

The President. It's good to see springtime out here, isn't it?

Q. It sure is.

The President. We had a tough winter.

Q. Baseball has brought the sunshine back. There's a pitch inside to Surhoff. Two and one, the count.

The President. Look at the flag blowing up there. You'll see how hard the wind is, though, and you don't feel it in here, which is good.

Q. Yeah, I've been downtown on top of one of the buildings. The flag is standing straight out at attention out there, but inside here, very comfortable.

But I was impressed. I mean, you walked out on the mound, and we've seen guys bounce them in there. But you put it right in. Did you warm up ahead of time?

The President. I did. I got to—hurry.

Q. Pop foul over third base side over into the seats, reaching in.

The President. He nearly got there, didn't he?

Q. Yeah. And not getting it was Lockhart. Gave it a good shot. Two and two, the count. Who warmed you up? You played catch with somebody?

The President. Well, Mr. Angelos threw me a few balls.

Q. Yeah?

The President. Yeah—[laughter]—believe it or not. We threw about 20 balls together, and then I threw about 20, 30 more balls down there, just fooling around. And then I came out and put a jacket on and a cap on.

Q. Two and two to Surhoff. And a fast ball tailing outside for a ball. Three and two, the count.

Well, we put out tapes and CD's of the whole Ripken thing last September and raised money for charity.

The President. That's great.

Q. And everywhere we went after they completed that, people commenting about how much fun it was that you were on the air. And when Cal hit that home run, it was—there you were, the First Fan.

The President. Well, we were all so happy, you know. It was a—what?

Q. That's what B.J. Surhoff is saying as they call him out on strikes.

The President. It looked like it was inside, didn't it?

Q. Two feet inside, I thought. And that's what B.J.'s arguing, too. But he's called out on strikes.

The President. I told—I went down to see the umpires before the game, and I said that I really wanted to see them because they were the only people in the country that got secondguessed more than I did. [Laughter] So I like those guys. I'm for them, you know. They are the company misery loves. [Laughter]

Q. Well, that's it for the Orioles in the third inning. The President of the United States is here with us, Bill Clinton.

The President. One run on two hits.

Q. And one man left on.

The President. Yes.

Q. And at the end of three, it's the Orioles, 3; Kansas City, 2.

[At this point, WBAL took a commercial break.]

Q. Inning number four, now, at Camden Yards. Jon Miller, Fred Manfra, along with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, as the Royals come to bat. The Orioles are back in front, 3 to 2. Johnny Damon stands in, a left-handed hitter. Takes a strike from Mike Mussina.

President Clinton was just commenting to us between innings about what a beautiful scene it is here at Camden Yards.

The President. It's just magnificent today. I wish everybody could see it. It's so really beautiful.

Q. There's a popup, shallow left. Ripken, the shortstop, out. Near the foul line on the outfield grass. And he makes the catch.

The President. I think everybody here's having a good time. Just the feel of being here, you know, makes you so happy.

Q. You know, it's been said that—I mean, opening day in baseball really, actually for a baseball fan, carries all of the same sentiment that we ascribe to New Year's Eve, you know, a clean slate, a fresh start, high hopes.

The President. You bet.

Q. But it's even more tangible in baseball because we really know that they've got a shot.

Here is Michael Tucker, the cleanup man. Three to two for the Orioles. And the pitch, and it's a ball down and in.

Now, you were telling us between innings that you had a chance to go down to Atlanta and see the layout there.

The President. I looked at the Olympic Stadium, which is magnificent. The American people will love it. And then after the Olympics, a section in the back is going to be taken down like what we now see from here over center field, and it's going to be converted into the Braves' new stadium.

But the unique thing about it is, it's going to be—the base line is going to be even closer— I mean, the foul line is going to be even closer to—the base line—to the stands than here. And home plate's going to be even tucked in tighter than here, so that the average distance from base line to the stands will be about 45 feet. And the major league ballparks average something like 70 feet. So even though the Braves have this magnificent pitching staff, they're going to be tested because they won't get as many easy foul-outs.

Q. Here's a fly ball, shallow left. In comes Hammonds, and he makes the catch for out number two.

Well, that's a good point because, I mean, the current stadium in Atlanta probably has more foul territory than any other ballpark.

The President. Yes. A little more than average, yeah.

Q. Yeah.

The President. But, I mean, the pitchers are fabulous. So they'll do fine. But it just interested me that they are going to have a little extra handicap there. And of course, visiting pitching staff will as well. So they—arguably, it will be a fair fight on everything.

Q. So it sounds like they didn't ask Greg Maddux about how they should build that ballpark. [Laughter]

The President. Actually, I asked him about it when they were—when the Braves came to the White House for the World Series, and their starting—you know, their big four were all there, and they didn't seem too worried about it. They were ready to roll.

Q. If you're good, you're good.

The President. Yeah.

Q. Mussina here, I mean, there's less foul territory than average here, and doesn't seem to bother him much.

The President. He's a fine pitcher. Oh, he's so good.

Q. The batter is Keith Lockhart, and it's one ball and one strike.

The President. Mussina's got a great future, too. I mean, he's got a—young, strong.

Q. Young guy. Still lives in his hometown. Goes up and coaches the basketball team in his old high school. You know, instead of going off on some yacht to the south of France, I mean, he's just back home, and he likes to work with the young kids.

Two and one to Lockhart. Where are you headed now? You've got——

The President. I've got to go back to—the President of Italy is here today. And we're having the Italian state dinner tonight.

Q. Now, in fact, I understand that my buddy Keith Berman from ESPN is supposed to be a guest at that state dinner.

The President. I think that's right. I think he's going to be there.

Q. Well, keep him away from the President of Italy. That's all I can say. [Laughter]

The President. And we're going to have a lot of distinguished Italian-Americans.

Q. Two-two pitch now to Lockhart. That's a base hit down the left field line. Hammonds hustles over to cut it off. Rounding first and holding is Lockhart with his second straight hit. Three to two, Kansas City trailing the Orioles here in the fourth inning.

Well, that sounds like a great night. And again, we really appreciate your stopping by.

The President. Thanks. Glad to do it.

Q. Any time you feel like a ball game, well, stop by and visit us.

The President. You've got a deal.

Q. All right.

The President. Thank you.

Q. That's the President, Bill Clinton, threw out the first ball—threw a strike, I might add, and he actually warmed up, he said, with Orioles chairman of the board Peter Angelos ahead of time.

The President. I did, and I was on the pitcher's mound because Ripken taunted me up there. [Laughter]

Thank you.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. That's a popup.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:21 p.m. in the WBAL broadcast booth at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In his remarks, he referred to ESPN commentator Chris Berman. A portion of this interview could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.

William J. Clinton, Interview With Jon Miller and Fred Manfra of WBAL Radio in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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