After rough 1st pitch, has 'magnificent' day

BUSH TAKES 7-INNING STRETCH

April 07, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

When they count yesterday's heroes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, President Bush probably won't be among them.

He was willing to expose his ego to the catcalls of 44,568 potentially rowdy voters sitting in the stands. But he took along some major boo protection: his 15-year-old grandson, George P. Bush, with whom he shared the first pitch.

The tactic might have worked, except that George P., as the president calls him, threw a much better pitch than his grandfather.

After a weekend of practice at Camp David with a specially imported pitching machine and coaching tips from American League president Bobby Brown, George P. burned one right across the plate.

So, it didn't look so good when the former first baseman and captain of the 1948 Yale University team let go with an anemic effort that died in the dirt just short of the plate.

"I wanted to keep it way on the outside and a little high," Bush said later of his "39-mph fastball."

"What I mean is, it just ran out of gas halfway there."

And the crowd booed. All those who held back politely when Bush walked onto the field with his grandson just let loose.

The chief executive of the United States, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and leader of what used to be called the Free World, put his hands to his face in mock shame.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer got a better reception, and he was the one who was really scared about an ugly fan reaction.

But Bush figures he was a step ahead of his son, Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush, in the bravery department. The uncle to the youngest Bush pitcher also was on the field yesterday afternoon but declined to approach the mound.

"George W. didn't want to go out there and get booed," Bush said. "He let me do that."

No one had to twist the president's arm to come here yesterday, though. Aides said he was eagerly anticipating a look at the new park.

When he arrived, he got the VIP tour through the locker rooms with their weight training machines, and the new batting practice facility. Later, he was so fascinated by a huge communications center he stopped to greet all the workers there.

"It's fantastic, what you see here," he said during the radio interview. "It's a beautiful day and a great ballpark. And the dressing rooms and practice areas, just magnificent."

Bush didn't leave until the middle of the seventh inning, the longest he's stayed at a baseball game during his presidency.

Of course, Bush had a first-class seat. It was next to Orioles owner Eli Jacobs in the front row of the plush owner's box, where peanuts are served in neat, little, napkin-lined baskets and sodas come in glasses served by waiters.

The president shared his bounty with a bi-partisan crowd that included Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine, and Sen. David Boren, an Oklahoma Democrat.

The new digs lacked the informal charm of the owner's box at Memorial Stadium, where, in 1989, Bush tried to teach Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about baseball.

But, this year, Bush tried his hand at a little TV play-by-play.

When the president referred to pitcher Rick Sutcliffe as "a good kid," Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel noted that the veteran is 35.

The president, who will turn 68 in June, replied: "Listen, everybody's a kid to me, man."

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