RFK STADIUM, WASHINGTON D.C. — MSNBC's Chris Matthews talked to Senator Jim Bunning (R-Kan.) on opening day for the Washington Nationals. Bunning is a member of the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame, and he pitched no-hitters in both the National and American leagues.
The senator reflected on his baseball career (he played for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies), and well as his recent trip to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
Below is an excerpt of his interview on 'Hardball,' which aired Thursday, 7 p.m. ET.
Bunning on steroids scandal
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let’s talk about steroids. You trusted that they’ve gotten rid of it?
SEN. JIM BUNNING: No, I don’t trust it. I think we have just seen the tip of the iceberg, really, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Could you spot a batter who is on it?
BUNNING: Well, if you can’t you’re blind. I mean, how does somebody go from age 36 or age 26 ...
BUNNING: ... hitting 30 home runs to age 40 hitting 60 home runs.
MATTHEWS: It’s not natural.
BUNNING: No. It’s abnormal to say the least.
MATTHEWS: So in other words, a player used to get in a little trouble in the contract time when he got into his 30s, now you’re at your prime going into 40.
BUNNING: It’s unfortunate for baseball because they’ve got to get rid of all steroids.
MATTHEWS: What would you do? A surprise drug test? How would it?
BUNNING: Well, that’s part of the new negotiated agreement. But they’ve got to make the penalties where you fear getting caught to the point where the first time where it may be a whole season or a half a season. The second time is the whole season. The third time you are out of the game.
Bunning on his baseball career
MATTHEWS: What about getting in the Hall of Fame. You’ve got no-hitters in both leagues.
BUNNING: Yes. I was very fortunate. God blessed me.
MATTHEWS: That was in New York, right?
BUNNING: That was in Shea Stadium. Bill Shea. I love him.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about pitching a perfect game. In what inning did you know you were heading for heaven?
BUNNING: Everybody knows that you’re pitching a perfect game at the end of the fifth inning. Because it’s a complete game. And so ...
MATTHEWS: I got you. Regulation.
BUNNING: ... pitch the sixth, the seventh, the eighth and the ninth. So at the end of the fifth inning I knew ...
MATTHEWS: That you could do it.
BUNNING: Well, I thought I could do it, as I got going along ...
MATTHEWS: Twelve batters at least to face ...
BUNNING: Yeah but I knew –the control I had that day was such that just about anywhere I wanted to throw the ball I could.
Bunning on his recent trip to Rome
MATTHEWS: You were over where we were, St. Peter’s in Rome. What was it like for you personally to be, as a Catholic and as a senator?
BUNNING: Well, personally it was a life changing experience for me. It was like my St. Paul’s trip to Damascus. I’ve never seen anything like it. Probably never will again in my lifetime.
MATTHEWS: What hit you?
BUNNING: What hit me was the 3 million people who were there off and on, the time that I was there. There wasn’t one demonstration in the whole of all of Rome, all the Vatican. Everybody wanted to participate in the pope’s burial and honor the man who did so much. Not just for the Catholics but for all the world.
He is going to be remembered a long time.
MATTHEWS: How is your life going to be different because of that – that road to Damascus that you found yourself on?
BUNNING: I am going to be a lot more tolerant, a lot more patient. I have already found that to be true. A lot more forgiving. And that’s really difficult in my profession.
MATTHEWS: Ha. Let me ask you about a little less sublime a question because I really want to think about what you said and I hope everybody does. We rarely meet politicians who are affected spiritually by events.
BUNNING: Well, this was a special event. We got there. We went immediately to St. Peter’s Basilica. There were 14 senators and six wives and we got to stay with the pope’s body for a while and pray and then we went to the hotel and we had a couple hours and we went to bed and we came back the next morning at seven o’clock in the morning for the mass and the unbelievable two and a half hour ceremony in Latin. The thing that amazed me was the Polish groups with the Polish flags ...
MATTHEWS: With the Polish flags. Yeah.
BUNNING: ... and there’s the Italian groups with the Italian flag.
BUNNING: All of them singing during the mass. Just bursting into song. It was just – It was an unbelievable experience.