With 754 career home runs, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is one shy of tying the revered home run record set by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Bonds’ record will be “tainted by allegations he used steroids.”
In an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech earlier this month, President Bush was asked for his take on the Bonds situation. “You know, it’s hard for me to tell,” Bush said. Echoing a line he uttered in the early stages of the CIA leak scandal, Bush said he was waiting for the facts. “I know there’s a lot of implications, my advice is for people just to wait and see what the facts are,” he said.
An avid baseball fan who watches games in the Oval Office to relax, Bush refused to say whether he would watch Bonds’ record-setting homerun if he were the baseball commissioner. “You know, I don’t know, I have my mind elsewhere these days,” he said.
Sports columnist Skip Bayless — who was previously a sports journalist in Dallas — said on ESPN that the Bonds situation is difficult for Bush to discuss because he looked the other way on steroids use as manager of the Rangers:
I was there in Texas during those years, and I knew the President when he was owner of the Rangers. And I heard all the whispers around the locker room and the clubhouse. … I think he looked the other way. I’m sure George heard them also and looked the other way. … I think they [baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Bush] believe that Barry Bonds used steroids.
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President Bush was managing general partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 until he was elected Texas governor in 1994. Several former Rangers — Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmiero, and Jose Canseco — are all alleged to have used, or have admitted to using, steroids while playing for Bush.
Canseco authored a book about the prevalence of steroids in baseball during the early 90s and argued the Bush must have known about the drug use in the clubhouse. Bush has denied that he was aware of the steroid problem.
Should Bonds break the home run record sometime this week, Bush will face the question of whether or not he should call to congratulate the new all-time home run king and give legitimacy to a tainted record. It should be noted, however, that his hands are hardly clean on the issue.