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Friday, April 15, 2005
Bush was unaware of problem as Rangers owner

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush says steroids have put a "cloud over baseball" that most likely will linger until confidence in the game's integrity is restored by team owners and players.

In interviews Thursday with The Washington Post, The Washington Times and USA Today, Bush also said he worries that the major leagues will price itself out of the reach of ordinary fans and thinks baseball must work harder to attract black fans.

Bush, who threw out the first pitch in Thursday night's home opener of the Washington Nationals, predicted the transplanted National League team from Montreal will do very well in Washington, which hasn't had a team in 34 years.

On the steroid issue, which is under scrutiny by congressional committees, the president said that when he was a part owner of the Texas Rangers in the 1990s he wasn't aware the substance was being used.

"In 1994, I was running for governor of Texas," he said. "So, unlike previous years where I would go to maybe 70 games a year and my routine would be to go to the office and do things you do as one of the owners of the team."

"I don't remember any discussions" with the team manager or general manager about the problem, Bush added.

"The sport is now beginning to seriously address the issue," he said. "I was amazed to see that there were 34 or 36 minor leaguers called to account. Hopefully that will be part of the beginning of the cleansing of the sport."

"But there is no question the steroid issue has been a cloud over baseball, and it will be until the fans become convinced that the situation has been cured."

On other questions, the president:

• Said "experts" and "philosophers" should decide whether asterisks should be attached to the records of players associated with the steroids problem.

• Worried that the price of big-league tickets may become too expensive for many people, particularly families. "It is really important for baseball not to price itself out of the reach of the average fan," he said.

• Said he feels baseball needs to make certain there are plenty of role models, "people who are stars that can attract different types of fans. ... I am hoping the next Willie Mays shows up in a baseball uniform and not in a basketball uniform. Right now, baseball has a lot of work to do to attract kids back to the sport."

Bush also said he was not interested in becoming baseball commissioner.

"I will always stay involved in baseball because I love the game," he said. "I would rather be president."