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Bush calls Bonds about the home run record

August 09, 2007|Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The nation's No. 1 baseball fan, President Bush, waited until Wednesday afternoon to call Barry Bonds to congratulate him on surpassing the sport's career home run record Tuesday night.

The delay prompted speculation that Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers and a known baseball "purist," was sending a signal of disapproval of the San Francisco slugger, who is widely reputed to have used steroids over the years as he racked up one homer after another.

But in an interview with Fox News' "Your World With Neil Cavuto," Bush said the delay in his congratulatory call was only because of the time difference between Washington and San Francisco: "I politely waited until the appropriate time on the Pacific Coast," he said.

Aides said the president was asleep when Bonds hit his 756th homer at nearly midnight on the East Coast. When Bush awoke several hours later, Bonds himself was asleep.

"He is a great hitter. He broke the record of another great hitter, Hank Aaron. And I congratulated him on breaking that record," Bush told Fox News.

Bonds said Wednesday that the call was "a nice conversation," adding that Bush said the record was "an outstanding achievement."

Asked if the subject of the grand jury that is investigating him on allegations of perjury and tax evasion came up during the call, Bonds said, "Are you serious? Dead serious? No. It never ends with you guys."

The president has made the use of steroids in sports a national issue, calling on players and team owners to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from their sports.

"As you know, I love the sport. Obviously, I'm dead set against steroids being in baseball. I think it's bad for the game," Bush said.

In his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush accused professional athletes of setting a bad example for the nation's youth.

"The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message, that there are shortcuts to accomplishment and that performance is more important than character," he said at the time.

But Wednesday, Bush suggested that baseball fans take a "wait and see" approach to the allegations against Bonds.

"There is a lot of speculation about Barry Bonds, and my only advice for people is to just let history be the judge. Let's find out the facts," Bush said, adding, "In the meantime, however, I think it's appropriate to recognize this man can hit the baseball."

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Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

maura.reynolds@latimes.com

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