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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for April 14

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Jim Bowden, John McCain, Jim Bunning

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  HARDBALL takes field for the opening night of the Washington Nationals.  Our special guests, Arizona Senator John McCain, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, a member of baseball‘s Hall of Fame.

From Robert F. Kennedy stadium, let‘s play HARDBALL.  

I‘m Chris Matthews here in Washington at the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium for the opening of baseball back in Washington after a third of a century of absence.  We‘re going to be joined tonight by Senator John McCain and Senator Jim Bunning, who, by the way, pitched no-hitters in both leagues, the American and the National League, had 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues and 100 wins in both leagues.  He‘ll be joining us in a moment.

But let‘s take a look at how baseball finally came back to Washington after more than three decades.




MATTHEWS (voice-over):  The boys of summer are back in town, not to take the Fifth in a steroid hearing, but to play some ball, and the District of Columbia couldn‘t be more excited.

When the Washington Nationals take the field at RFK Stadium later tonight for their first home game, it marks the first time a Major League team played ball in this town since 1971.  That‘s the year when Bob Short, owner of the Washington Senators, turned his back on D.C. fans and moved his team to Texas.

Before its 34-year hiatus, baseball was a part of Washington life.  It started in 1901, when the Senators joined the newly established American League.

Opening day was always a big event in the nation‘s capital.  Federal matters were set aside as 11 presidents, beginning with William Howard Taft, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Following tradition, President Bush will do the same this evening.

In a town of power brokers, baseball was a great equalizer.  In the dark ages before lights, families, celebrities and politicians of all stripes headed to the ballpark and shared the afternoon.

The game was a welcome time out from the frenetic pace of this city.  Friendships were forged.  Partisan bickering was set aside.  And most everybody came out of the park feeling good, even if the Nationals lost.

Old newsreels and photos show us the likes of Ike, Truman, Kennedy and other politicians doing what every baseball fan was doing in the park during those long summer afternoons, having a good time.

Who knows if games under the lights of RFK Stadium will have the same effect in the 21st Century, but it can‘t hurt.  The Nationals have manager Frank Robinson at the helm, who will write the next storied chapter of Major League Baseball in this town.

And in a district where politics never sleeps, perhaps a fly ball over the wall or a close call at the plate will bring back a little bit of that civility, that good political sportsmanship that seems to have been gone missing since the Nationals left here three decades ago.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator John McCain. 

You know, the first person I thought of to get here for this game, and I can‘t think of why, it was you.  Why did I think of you and baseball, John McCain?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I‘m sure because of the steroids thing, but I‘m glad you‘re having Jim Bunning on, a genuine Hall of Famer and a person who really knows the game.  And, by the way...

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to be rooting for the Washington Nationals or the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight?

MCCAIN:  The Diamondbacks.

MATTHEWS:  Of course.

MCCAIN:  What was the old line?  The only thing you left out of that intro, they used to say first in war—Washington, first in war, first in peace, last in the American League, something like—something like that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is a worry.


MCCAIN:  Something like that.  But this is a good team.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe third time will be lucky.

MCCAIN:  This is a good team.  This is a good team.  They—they didn‘t get a turnout in Montreal, as you know, and that‘s why they‘re gone.  But this is a very good team.  And Frank Robinson is a great manager. 

They‘ve been playing well.  They thumped the Atlanta Braves last night. 

So, I think that this could be a very exciting ball club.

MATTHEWS:  Well, as everyone who knows Washington, the weather will be different than Montreal.


MATTHEWS:  This is going to be one hot night here in August sometime this summer. 

MCCAIN:  Yes.  But it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.

MCCAIN:  This is a great stadium, by the way.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s beautiful, RFK Stadium. 

Let me ask you about steroids and our confidence in the game.  You know, some sports go to hell, like wrestling.  It becomes a joke.  Other sports never really—hockey‘s having its problems, obviously.  Does baseball run a risk of being not taken seriously with guys with arms this big because of steroids?

MCCAIN:  Sure, they do.  And baseball hurt themselves very badly at the House hearing, when we were told in a straightforward fashion, “Look, first offense is 10-day suspension.”  That wasn‘t nearly enough for most of us.


MCCAIN:  But at least they said 10-day suspension.  Now, we find out there‘s a—quote—“drafting error.”  Three months later, it says 10-day suspension or up to $10,000 fine.  You know what a $10,000 fine is to some of these guys?


MCCAIN:  I mean, so, I was very disappointed.

MATTHEWS:  An inning.  An inning.


MCCAIN:  We were very disappointed in that, and so that‘s why you‘re now seeing more movement towards looking at the whole issue of steroids throughout professional sports.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think steroids are going to have an impact this year.

MCCAIN:  Let me just say one thing.  The most—the most moving part of that hearing in the House was the parents of those young high school kids who had committed suicide. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCCAIN:  I mean, this is a serious issue as far as young people are concerned.

MATTHEWS:  So, why is everybody mad at Canseco, that—the whistle-blower?

MCCAIN:  I guess nobody likes...

MATTHEWS:  A whistle-blower.

MCCAIN:  A stool pigeon.


MATTHEWS:  A stool pigeon.

Yes, but we want to have a clean sport, where you have the skinny guys out there.  Remember Richie Ashburn?

MCCAIN:  Sure. Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You could be a wiry guy, go out there and make a hit.  And you could become a—the best hitter on the team.

MCCAIN:  Do you remember my hero, Ted Williams?


MCCAIN:  Long and lanky.  He wasn‘t one of these guys.

You know, “Sports Illustrated”—Curt Schilling was quoted as saying two years—a couple of years ago in an article in “Sports Illustrated.”  He said, “Some of these guys look like Mr. Potato Head.”  You know?


MATTHEWS:  Well...

MCCAIN:  I mean—and now somebody‘s going to say, “Look, well, they‘re still packing the ballparks.  Baseball is still incredibly popular.”

Baseball was incredibly popular when it was racially segregated.  That didn‘t make it right.  And the use of steroids doesn‘t make it right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a hell of a question there, because you know about ratings and money in this business.  You‘ve been covering it and then regulating it on the Commerce Committee.  People like 10-8 baseball games today.  They don‘t like 2-1 games, right?

MCCAIN:  They do.  Right.


MATTHEWS:  So what happened to the pitchers‘ duel?  Are we going to sit out here with the old experts like you, perhaps, going good game, we loved, it‘s a lot of putouts and it‘s only two runs in the game?

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know.  But in Arizona and a lot of cities across America, it‘s become not just a baseball thing.  It‘s kind of a social thing.


MCCAIN:  Go to the ballpark, see your friends, enjoy an evening.  You know, it‘s—it‘s more than just baseball, I think, in America.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a way to zone out a little bit, too, isn‘t it?

MCCAIN:  Yes, it‘s a way to relax.

MATTHEWS:  Three hours.

MCCAIN:  I worry, though, about ticket prices.  I‘ll tell you that right now.

MATTHEWS:  Forty bucks a pop.

MCCAIN:  And a lot higher in some stadiums.

MATTHEWS:  What was it when you were growing up?  Do you remember?

MCCAIN:  Well, you could go to Griffith Stadium, I think, for $1 in the bleachers.

MATTHEWS:  Up in the nosebleeds in Philly, you can get a seat for a kid for 50 cents.  I remember 75 in the -- 75 cents in the grandstands.

So you think baseball can handle this?  Are you going to be watching?

MCCAIN:  Yes, and I‘m also looking at, as others are, perhaps a minimum steroid testing regime for all of professional sports.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s wrong with—what‘s wrong with surprise testing?

MCCAIN:  There‘s nothing wrong with surprise testing.  I think you‘ve got to have surprise testing.  Otherwise, they‘ll—they‘ll beat it.  We‘re now finding out that there were a number of NFL players who clearly were using steroids, but were never caught.  That‘s—this thing is a saga that I would certainly like to put behind us.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—we‘ve got Jane Fonda on tomorrow night.  Big surprise question.  We go to John McCain once again.  You were over there for all those years in the Hanoi Hilton.  What do you think I should ask her?

MCCAIN:  Oh, I think you should ask her what she was thinking when she got into that anti-aircraft gun site and applauded and smiled and all that.  And I think she‘s going to tell you she was young and foolish and regrets it.  And if anybody regrets something they‘ve done—I‘ve regretted some of the things I‘ve done in my life—that‘s fine with me. 

I‘m not interested...

MATTHEWS:  What about visiting—visiting the POWs?  She had a hand in that, too, right?

MCCAIN:  Yes, she did.  It‘s—the whole thing...

MATTHEWS:  She did a broadcast from that perspective, as if she was sort of like part of a—you know, sort of a care package coming over there.

MCCAIN:  I didn‘t like it.  I thought it was wrong.  But we had a former attorney general of the United States who was acting worse, Ramsey Clark.  I expected more of him than a troubled actress.

Look, I didn‘t like it.  I don‘t like it.  But for me to hold a grudge against her, I think, you know, it‘s a waste of time.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to come back. 

More with John McCain in just a moment, more HARDBALL, more McCain.  Then Jim Bunning, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his statistics are amazing in baseball.  We‘re going to talk about being a senator and being a baseball player and what this amazing night means to this town.  And maybe I‘m going to ask you about, are Republicans and Democrats going to get along better after a little baseball time.

We‘ll be right back with Senator John McCain and Senator Jim Bunning.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re here at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium for the home opener of the Washington Nationals.  More with Senator John McCain when we come back.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator John McCain in Robert F.  Kennedy Stadium here in Washington, D.C., where, as I said tonight, we‘re going to have the first baseball here since 1971.

You remember Frank Howard?

MCCAIN:  Yes, I remember Frank Howard.  I remember another great first baseman named Mickey Vernon who played for the Senators, Gil Cohen, a number of them.  But my...

MATTHEWS:  Harmon Killebrew.

MCCAIN:  Harmon—homering Harmon Killebrew.

MATTHEWS:  Where do they get those names?

MCCAIN:  He lives in—he lives in Scottsdale.

MATTHEWS:  Does he really?

MCCAIN:  And, by the way, I—my hero and the one I would always come to see was Ted Williams.  He was transcendent to me, a war hero, a guy who had this really kind of aggressive attitude.

MATTHEWS:  He batted .400 before he went to World War II. 

MCCAIN:  Yes, it‘s amazing.

MATTHEWS:  He was over in a bomber plane, right, then came back and lost four years.

MCCAIN:  Amazing.  Called back in Korea.  Called back in Korea. 


MCCAIN:  One quick story about him.  He was tall, as you know, about 6‘4”.  And Ted Williams was hit, and his plane was on fire.  It was a Marine jet.  He landed wheels up. 

I had the opportunity to meet him once a number of years ago, and—and I asked him.  I said, “Why didn‘t you eject?” I mean, to land a jet airplane wheels up is incredibly—he said, “I looked at the canopy and I looked at my knees.  And I knew I was going to break my knees and I‘d never be able to play baseball again.”  Incredible story, huh?

MATTHEWS:  If he jumped?

MCCAIN:  If he had ejected from—from his airplane. 


MCCAIN:  Instead, he landed wheels—incredible feat of aeronautical skill.  He was—John Glenn told me he was the most natural pilot that he ever flew with.

MATTHEWS:  Ted Williams?


MATTHEWS:  So his ability to—they used to say that he could read the—the writing on the ball.

MCCAIN:  I asked him that.  He said no.

MATTHEWS:  He couldn‘t read the writing on the ball coming at him at 100 miles an hour.

MCCAIN:  He said no.  No.  But he said that he studied every pitcher, and he could predict almost always what kind of pitch he was going to get.  But, no, he couldn‘t see the laces.

MATTHEWS:  He has that blank ability.

MCCAIN:  He was—remarkable hand-eye coordination. 

When he was in power training in Pensacola in World War II, they said

that he had the highest score ever recorded on the—the plane would throw

·         pull a banner and they would do strafing runs on it, that he had the highest score ever recorded.  He was a remarkable man.

MATTHEWS:  Now we have to turn the page back to politics.

MCCAIN:  There you go.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not far from the nation‘s Capitol, where you work and fight.  Do you think it‘s fair for the Democrats to stop all government business if the Republicans get rid of the filibuster in judgeships?

MCCAIN:  No, I don‘t.  And I think that they would...

MATTHEWS:  Is it fair for the Republicans to get rid of the judge—the filibuster?

MCCAIN:  No.  And why is it that after 200 years we now cannot settle the issue of judges?  Well, it‘s a symptom of the problems we have with the bitter partisanship here in Washington.

MATTHEWS:  The president of the United States gets to pick federal judges.  What should be the standard that the opposition applies to whether they let them come to a vote or not?

MCCAIN:  I think that they should let them come to a vote, but I also think that if there is some—some—before the nominations are formally introduced, the way they used to do it, they would kind of run the traps of the—of the senators, particularly those on the Judiciary Committee and say, are these acceptable, unacceptable?  And if they were unacceptable, they wouldn‘t send them over.  And if they were acceptable, then they would move forward.

We used to have this thing called a blue slip, where if it was a judge from your state, you could—and if you objected, they didn‘t take it up. 


MCCAIN:  And, by the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we effectively, in the Judiciary Committee, blocked a number of his nominees.

MATTHEWS:  That cost Chris Cox a seat on the federal bench.

MCCAIN:  Yes.  It did.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Remember that?

But, bottom line, would you vote with the people for the nuke—what is called the nuclear option, to get rid of the filibuster rule on judgeships?

MCCAIN:  No, I will not.

MATTHEWS:  You will stick with the party on that?

MCCAIN:  Oh, I will vote against the nuclear option.

MATTHEWS:  You will vote...

MCCAIN:  Against the nuclear option.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you will?


MATTHEWS:  So, you will vote with the Democrats?

MCCAIN:  Yes, because I think we have got to sit down and work this thing out. 

Look, we won‘t always be in the majority.  I say to my conservative friends, some day there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress.  Why?  Because history shows it goes back and forth. 


MCCAIN:  I hope it‘s 100 years from now, but it will happen.  And do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if the Democrats are in the majority?

Second of all, we ought to be able to work it out.  Third of all, I don‘t want to shut down the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCCAIN:  We‘re in a war.  We‘re in a war.  Shouldn‘t we be doing the people‘s business?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Tom DeLay.  Do you think he is the victim of attacks by “The New York Times” and other liberals in the press?

MCCAIN:  I don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Is he a victim or is he a predator?

MCCAIN:  I think that every person who comes under attack feels first of all that they are a victim.  I don‘t—I can‘t judge whether he is or not.  And for me to...


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think the press is building this one up a bit?

MCCAIN:  I think that, whenever there is a sense of scandal in Washington, D.C., there is a certain feeding frenzy that takes place.  And that‘s what is happening right now.  Whether it is justified or not, I am not qualified to make that judgment.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Newt Gingrich is right.  And he‘s a pretty good—Newt has had his problems as a principal, but he‘s a pretty good, what do you call it, strategist.

MCCAIN:  And very smart politician.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s right in saying that DeLay ought to get out in front of this thing?  Is he better off just cooling it?

MCCAIN:  I would pay close attention to whatever Newt says.  He is a master strategist and tactician.  I would pay close attention to it.

But I can‘t tell Congressman DeLay what he ought to do.  I mean, it‘s just—I‘m not qualified to make that kind of judgment.

MATTHEWS:  I understand.

Let me ask you about something really important to the country.  That‘s our long-term role in the Middle East and in that part of the world, generally.  Hamid Karzai, a real hero to most of us—I‘m sure to you—the president of Afghanistan, has said he wants permanent U.S. bases and a permanent partnership.  That does set us up, doesn‘t it, in a situation where we are sort of underwriters, permanently, of a government.

MCCAIN:  I would like to see a permanent economic, social, cultural relationship and if it means a military base there, under certain circumstances, I wouldn‘t be opposed to it.

MATTHEWS:  But a base used to protect the government, not like a base like in Guantanamo.

MCCAIN:  Not used—not to be used to protect the government.  And I don‘t think we‘re going to need it.  Karzai is increasing in his popularity. 

His—the control of the government is spreading.  I just think it‘s a critical area of the world and the United States presence should be there in a broad variety of ways.

MATTHEWS:  Same with Iraq?  No long-term commitment to troops, like in South Korea?

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know, but I think that the American people wouldn‘t mind it if the casualties were not there.  Nobody complains about having troops in South Korea. 

I would hope that we wouldn‘t have to maintain troops in Iraq and I would hope that we wouldn‘t have to maintain troops in Afghanistan, but we should maintain presence and we should maintain these ties and we should do whatever we can to help them on this road to democracy.  Both of them have got a long way to go.

MATTHEWS:  Since the elections was held over there, which impressed so many people, including me, of course—ever American is impressed by an election.  It‘s such a great American thing to do.

We‘ve lost over 100 KIA, killed in action, Americans.

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Service people killed in a war after the election. 

MCCAIN:  Yes.   

MATTHEWS:  When do you think we should look toward a point when we don‘t take those casualties?  Is it after a new government?  When do we say America has done its bit here?

MCCAIN:  I think it‘s going to be many years.

MATTHEWS:  Many years.

MCCAIN:  But what I am hoping is, what I‘m hoping, I think (INAUDIBLE) But what I‘m hoping is that, gradually, which we are now having some success reducing the number of attacks, reducing the number of casualties to a point where American troops withdraw into enclaves, first of all—first, we can cut some of them down, be removed into enclaves and then only be called upon to act in time of real necessity or emergency. 

The whole key to this is the Iraqi police and military taking over the responsibilities.

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to protect our nongovernment people there, our contract employees, like this poor guy pleading for his life over there right now?

MCCAIN:  It‘s very—it‘s very...

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to look out for these people?  Who is going to spring them?

MCCAIN:  It‘s a very, very difficult situation.  And my heartfelt sympathy to those families. 

But they are there under contract, as you know.  They are not drafted and I—they know that they are taking a risk.  Having said that, I think the American government and military should do everything possible to guarantee their safety.  But it‘s a tough neighborhood.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be right back.  I know it.  Thank you. 

We‘ll right back with a little more with Senator John McCain, coming back here at this beautiful Robert Kennedy Stadium, where, tonight, baseball comes back to Washington.


ANNOUNCER:  In the nation‘s capital, the 1961 baseball season opens with a new president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, throwing out the first ball.  And there‘s a new Washington Senators Club also making its Major League debut.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator John McCain for a couple minutes now. 

We‘re back with Senator John McCain for a couple of minutes now. 

You know, there is talk—I don‘t know if this is a big story or not, but calling this Armed Forces Stadium, because the Army, the military, the Defense Department want to spend like two million bucks a year to sort of underwrite this game here.  Is that right?  Is that a good use?  You‘re on Armed Services.

MCCAIN:  My personal judgment, it‘s not a good idea, but I do believe that we should do as much recruiting here as we can.  Young people come.  They are athletically inclined, obviously, in recruiting, but I wouldn‘t spend that kind of money.  And, frankly, I wouldn‘t rename the stadium.  I just wouldn‘t—in memory of Bobby Kennedy.

MATTHEWS:  You want to keep it Robert F. Kennedy.

MCCAIN:  Yes.  I just wouldn‘t do it.

MATTHEWS:  Well they‘re trying to—this is how everything is done in Washington.  They are going to call it Armed Forces Stadium at RFK.  What does that mean?


MCCAIN:  I don‘t know.  It‘s like that guy, the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim. 


MCCAIN:  I don‘t get it.  I do believe that these areas, such as where athletic events—and that‘s why on television, when you see one of the NFL games, you see a lot of heavy television advertising for the military.  And the military is having trouble with recruiting.  So, I would do whatever I can, but I don‘t think the name of the stadium would do much.

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s two national pastimes.  One is baseball, of course.  The other is me asking you once again.


MATTHEWS:  The polls now show that you can beat any Democrat, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, for the presidency of the United States and beat her big-time. 

Do you think the Republican Party that doesn‘t like mavericks would accept a maverick if that was the only way to beat Hillary?

MCCAIN:  I‘ll give you the same answer I gave you before.  I have no clue.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, you do.

MCCAIN:  It‘s nice to be mentioned.

MATTHEWS:  And I‘ll always ask you that question.

MCCAIN:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Some day, I‘ll get an answer.

MCCAIN:  You will.

MATTHEWS:  Senator John McCain. 

MCCAIN:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  We are going to have Jim Bunning, the great pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Tigers, coming up.  He of course won no-hitters in both the American and the National League, had 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues each, had 100 games each in both league.  What a guy.  He‘s coming on, senator from Kentucky, a Republican, to talk about baseball back in Washington. 

HARDBALL back in a minute.


ANNOUNCER:  In his first starting appearance as president, Mr. Johnson makes a mighty heave that has the two teams scrambling for the honor of grabbing the hallowed horse hide.  Then, the president does an autographing stint and the two teams turn to the business at hand. 




MATTHEWS:  I‘m Chris Matthews, back with HARDBALL with Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, one of my heroes growing up. 

You know, you know what it‘s like to be out there, don‘t you?


MATTHEWS:  When was the last time you pitched in RFK?

BUNNING:  In an old-timers‘ game.  I made Luke Powell a big hero. 

MATTHEWS:  From Baltimore.

BUNNING:  He hit one in one of those red seats up there off me.

MATTHEWS:  Last time you pitched for the majors out here?

BUNNING:  Last time, ‘62, maybe?  Sixty-three?

MATTHEWS:  Sixty-two.

What kind of a park is this?  Is this a pitchers‘ park or a batters‘ park?

BUNNING:  It‘s a hitters‘ park.

MATTHEWS:  Is it?  What‘s the dangerous wall?  Where is it easy out here?

BUNNING:  Easy out in left and left center.

MATTHEWS:  Left center?

BUNNING:  Ball jumps out that way.

MATTHEWS:  Jumps out that...

BUNNING:  Frank Howard made a believer out of me.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, hitting home runs.  Was it the wind?  Was it the distance?  What was it?

BUNNING:  No, it‘s the snow fence that they put in.


BUNNING:  And they have lowered it and made it much easier...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I‘ve been looking at that little thing out there. 

That‘s all you‘ve got to get over, right?

BUNNING:  Yes.  That‘s about 6-foot high.

MATTHEWS:  Where those guys are working out there?

BUNNING:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s it.  And that‘s a home run, getting over that thing.

BUNNING:  You get it over there.


MATTHEWS:  So, if you don‘t have that fence, then they got to hit up over the Washington sign up there...


BUNNING:  That‘s right.  And it‘s a long way.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about pitching. 

What is it like to be out there?  And I have always thought that the great pitchers were these guys.  You were always a starter, but the relievers out there.  And you are out there.  It‘s the seventh inning.  You‘re in a place like Connie Mack.  You‘re behind by two runs and you know as a pitcher that even if you get out every batter, right to the end, you are probably—you can still lose the game. 

How do you keep your faith that your team is going to come along and get some hits and some runs for you?

BUNNING:  Well, you have to do it a while.  You have to come from behind and get a club that is known to do that.  Or the other way around is if you have a one- or two-run lead and you have to hold it.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s tougher?  What‘s tougher, holding or hanging in there when your team still has to do the dirty work?

BUNNING:  Holding it.

MATTHEWS:  Holding is harder?

BUNNING:  Mariano Rivera‘s job right now.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, late relievers?


MATTHEWS:  What do you think of pitching now?  It used to be that one guy, a guy like Robin Roberts, or you would come in and even if you lost the game 2-1, you‘d finish it.  Nowadays, you‘ve got a middle inning reliever in, what, the third or fourth inning, fourth inning.

BUNNING:  Well, they have just changed the game.  They want six innings out of their starters.  They have somebody for the seventh, eighth inning.  And then they have a closer.  We were taught that nine innings was the game and you had to pitch nine innings to win.


BUNNING:  What about the stuff that‘s going on now, the cheating?  I‘m not talking about Pete Rose.  That‘s another fight.  But these guys with big arms.  You‘re up against a batter that‘s toked up on drugs.  He can hit a home run.  And instead of being caught on the warning track, the ball is over the fence because this guy has got the drugs in his arms.  What do you make of that?  I‘m talking about steroids.

BUNNING:  Yes.  I know.  I know you‘re talking about steroids.


MATTHEWS:  Do you trust it that they‘ve gotten rid of it?


MATTHEWS:  Or is it still there?

BUNNING:  I don‘t trust it.  And I‘m a—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 at contract time when he got into his 30s.  Now you‘re at your prime going into your 40s.

BUNNING:  Well, it‘s unfortunate for baseball because they‘ve got to get rid of all steroids.

MATTHEWS:  What would you do?  Instant 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, it may be a whole season or a half a season.  The second time, it‘s a whole season.  The third time, you are out of the game.

MATTHEWS:  What about getting into the Hall of Fame?  You‘re one of the few people I‘ll ever meet who is in the Hall of Fame.  You won—I‘ve been going over your stats -- 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues, American and—you have got 100 wins in both leagues.  You‘ve got no-hitters in both leagues. 

And I have got to ask you, first of all.  You hit the—you threw the first perfect game in the National League since 1880 when you did it back in ‘64.

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 they‘re pitching a perfect game at the end of the fifth inning, because it‘s a complete game. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you.  It‘s regulation.

BUNNING:  And so you add 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:  You had twelve batters at least to face, though.

BUNNING:  Yeah, but I knew.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUNNING:  The stuff, the control I had that day was such that just about anywhere I wanted to throw the ball, I could.

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of the zone and the spiritual, you were over where we were, at St. Peter‘s in Rome. 

BUNNING:  Unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  What was it like to you personally to be there as a Catholic and as a senator and everything?

BUNNING:  Well, personally, 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?  What was it?

BUNNING:  Well, what hit me was that three million people were there off and on the time that I was there.  There wasn‘t one demonstration in the whole of all of Rome or 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.

I mean, he is going to be remembered a long time.

MATTHEWS:  How is your life going to be different because of 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:  Do you think—let me ask you about a little less sublime a question, because I really—I am going to think about what you just 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 our hotel.  We had a couple hours and we went to bed and we came back the next morning at 7:00 in the morning for the mass and the unbelievable 2 ½ hour ceremony in Latin.  And I was—the thing that amazed me was the Polish groups with the Polish flags...

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It was great, yes.

BUNNING:  And here‘s the Italian groups with the Italian flag, all of them singing during the mass, you know, just bursting into song.  It was just—it was an unbelievable experience.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the other senators with you from both parties had anything like that experience?

BUNNING:  I don‘t know.  I haven‘t talked to them all.

MATTHEWS:  This personal thing...


BUNNING:  It was personal because I had met the pope personally and been in his private chapel, met him and talked with him.  And so I—you know, I felt a little more closely to him then some of the others.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad you say that, Senator, because I think a lot of us felt that.  I mean, I did.  And I think it‘s great that you‘re saying this now on television.

On a less important moment, do you think baseball is going to bring back a little—what was that word in Washington, they call it not civility, comity. 

BUNNING:  Comity.

MATTHEWS:  C-O-M-I-T-Y instead of C-O-M-E-D-Y.

BUNNING:  I know.  We‘ve got a lot of comedy there.


MATTHEWS:  Well, you already have comedy of errors, but do you think we‘ll have a little bit more coming out to the ballpark after you finish sessions at night?  It‘s only twenty-some blocks away from the Capitol.

BUNNING:  I don‘t know. 


MATTHEWS:  ... day is over.

BUNNING:  I would hope that we would work closer together to get things done for the American people.  We have got a lot of opportunities. 

People call them problems.  We call them opportunities. 


BUNNING:  But we have got a lot of opportunities.  We have got to do something about $2 dollar—I paid $2.70 for a gallon of gas the other day. 


BUNNING:  We‘ve to do something about our energy policy.  We have got to do something about judges.  We have got to do something about spending more money than we‘ve got. 


BUNNING:  And there‘s a lot of things going on that we have an opportunity...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re a real conservative?

BUNNING:  Well, I‘m a conservative to the point I‘d like to see something done for people who really need it done.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUNNING:  And...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s been great having you on.

BUNNING:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, it‘s great. 

BUNNING:  Always.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re opening your heart here, too.  And that‘s wonderful here on HARDBALL.  We don‘t get a whole lot of that here, but this is an opening of baseball tonight.  And that was an event of our lifetime last week.

BUNNING:  I think it was.

MATTHEWS:  And it was so great.  Thank you. 

We‘ll be back more, with more.  We‘re going to talk with some of the officials of the new Washington baseball team.  They‘re called the Washington Nationals.  Back with HARDBALL in just a minute.


ANNOUNCER:  And just as today, the president threw out the first ball to open the baseball season in Washington.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re here at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.  And that‘s the Washington, D.C. National Guard behind me unfurling the American flag as part of the opening night ceremonies here at the nation‘s capital.

More HARDBALL coming back from RFK.



MATTHEWS:  I‘m back with Jim Bowden, who is general manager of the Washington Nationals, that have their first home game here tonight.

You know, I remember the last night.  It was a summer night.  Frank Howard hit a home run here back in 1971.  I had first come to Washington.  I thought baseball was finished in Washington. 


Well, you know what?  Washington deserves to have baseball.  And Washington has changed so much from that time in 1971. 


BOWDEN:  First of all, per capita, the income per capita No. 1 in the capital now.  This is the eighth largest market. 

MATTHEWS:  So, rich people like baseball?  Is that the theme?

BOWDEN:  Like you, yes.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Rich people like baseball?

BOWDEN:  And that‘s why you‘re sitting here today.  Yes, you got that right.

And do you know already we‘ve sold more season tickets than 25 other Major League Baseball club for this season?  We‘re going to have two million fans guaranteed. 


MATTHEWS:  How much of that is novelty first year?  I remember when the Braves went to Milwaukee.  They had a couple seasons and then they were out of there.  And then the Brewers came in for them. 


MATTHEWS:  No, they want a championship.


BOWDEN:  Washington is going to be able to support baseball.  It‘s changed.  Do you know...


MATTHEWS:  You know, I grew up in a big city.  Like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, to some extent, we have a bunch of old guys sitting around with looseleaf books keeping score.  They used to smoke cigars when you were allowed to.  Those guys don‘t live in Washington, do they? 

BOWDEN:  You know what?  Everybody lives in Washington, not just government leaders, not just the head of the business people. 

But you have got tremendous fans in this city.  And I‘ll tell you what.  I‘ve never seen, Chris, in my 20 years of baseball the support that they have given here.  It‘s been unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  OK, except for African-Americans, name one ethnic neighborhood in Washington. 

BOWDEN:  Listen, I haven‘t lived in Washington.  But you have everything here. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you need old...


MATTHEWS:  ... neighborhoods to make this place?

BOWDEN:  Absolutely, you do.


MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you need Jewish neighborhoods and Italian neighborhoods?  Do you have that here in D.C.? 

BOWDEN:  Absolutely you do.

MATTHEWS:  Where are they?

BOWDEN:  All over this city.  Come on, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  You‘re dreaming.  You‘re talking about Milwaukee and Philly. 


BOWDEN:  No.  I‘m telling you, this whole area, including Virginia and Maryland and the whole area. 


MATTHEWS:  What I‘m really trying to get to is, this is a transient town mainly.  People come here, live 10 years and move out when the administrations change or they get a different posting in the military or the State Department.  How do you get people to love a team they‘re only here for, for a couple years? 

BOWDEN:  Well, how come so many of these people loved the Washington Senators?  How many Washington Senators fans have we heard from in the last year?  It‘s been unbelievable. 


BOWDEN:  Believe me, they missed baseball here and they‘re so excited to have it back. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The weather is a little cold now.  It will get better in three or four weeks, right?  It will be great. 

BOWDEN:  It‘s going to be warm next week.  They say 80 degrees here in Washington.  That‘s Wednesday.


What happens here in D.C., summer in the city?  It is August 20.  The temperature in this town is 100 degrees.  And it doesn‘t get any colder at night.  And the...


BOWDEN:  And we‘re not going to care, because Jose Guillen is going to hit another home run because of the humidity. 


MATTHEWS:  And people are going to sit out here and swelter and... 


BOWDEN:  And be on their feet cheering as Brad Wilkerson goes deep to right and Jose Guillen goes deep to left.  The humidity is going to be great.  The ball flies.  Frank Robinson, former Hall of Famer, our manager, tells me the balls flies out of here in the humidity.


MATTHEWS:  In your enthusiasm and euphoria, Mr. General Manager, you‘re giving away a bias in this team. 

Out there on the left field, see that little snow fence? 

BOWDEN:  Yes.  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  Jim Bunning was talking about that fence.  He said that is a batter‘s paradise out there.  You have got to clear a 6-foot fence.  Now, if you get rid of that, see the much higher wall where Washington is written on it, a baseball player is throwing that pitch?

BOWDEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You would have to a home run over that thing.  Now, isn‘t this a little setup for an easy home run derby here? 

BOWDEN:  Well, it‘s set for both teams now. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but it‘s a home run derby.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s the game going to be tonight, 10-8? 



MATTHEWS:  Is this going to be like an NBA score tonight? 

BOWDEN:  Do you know who leads the Major League in home runs right now?  Jose Guillen leads the Major Leagues in home runs?  He is going to hit another one tonight.  You watch.

MATTHEWS:  He had two last night, didn‘t he?  He had two?

BOWDEN:  Yes, two against the Atlanta Braves. 


MATTHEWS:  So, now I know how to pronounce his name, at least.


MATTHEWS:  I thought it was Guillen.

BOWDEN:  Chris, no, you did not.  Stop it.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Montreal. 

Until last year, until this year, the same team out here was the franchise up in Canada, in French Canada.  How is it any different?  Don‘t we really have the Montreal Expos playing an away game down here? 

BOWDEN:  No, you don‘t have anything like that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How is it different?

BOWDEN:  First of all, the team is completely different. 

Second of all, they had to play half their road games in Puerto Rico.  Half their home games were Puerto Rico.  Half their other home games were in Montreal.  No one could get a game because they were always in transit.  They never got a home.  And guess what?  Tonight, they get a home.

They get 40,000-plus people in the stands screaming for them tonight. 

They get fan support finally. 


We live in Washington, D.C., which is largely African-American.  It is notorious now that young African-American kids are looking to basketball.  They‘re looking to—they want to be running backs.  They want to be in football, faster games, more physical, just more exciting in some ways.  How do you get them to come out here and watch the game or pay attention on television to a game that has batters getting out of the batters box to knock the mud off their feet? 

Making the sign of the cross.  I can‘t knock that.  Pitchers, they get off the mound just because the guy got out of the box.  This wasting of time in baseball drives me nuts. 

BOWDEN:  Well, you know what?  The more intelligent people take a little bit more time.  And they study during those periods, so they can analyze what just took place and see what is going to go forward.


MATTHEWS:  That stuff kills baseball.  Why don‘t you tell the baseball pitcher to throw the damn ball and the batter to get in the box and stay there? 

BOWDEN:  We‘ve done a better job in that in baseball. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you?

BOWDEN:  We cut off four minutes and 20 seconds last year. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the average game? 

BOWDEN:  About two hours and 36 minutes, a half. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me an hour and—no, make it two hours.  They‘ll have a better game.  Don‘t you think?

BOWDEN:  What.  Do you want a six-inning game?  Chris, come on.  This is a great game.  You know what? 


MATTHEWS:  Give me two hours.

BOWDEN:  You have to come and watch a game with me tonight for nine innings and I‘ll show you how to watch a baseball game.  Then you‘ll wish it was longer.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about—let‘s talk about politics.  We‘re only about less than a quarter-mile—in fact, if you ever watch the Capitol in any these aerial shots, these helicopter shots, you can see RFK Stadium is right down the street on East—I used to live on East Capitol. 

Do you think this is going to be a big hangout for the pols? 

BOWDEN:  I hope so. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about it.

BOWDEN:  I hope it is a hangout for everybody.


MATTHEWS:  What have you done to make...


BOWDEN:  I hope it‘s the government people.  I hope it‘s the business leaders.  I hope it is the fans down the street.  I hope this becomes a hangout for everybody, because this is the thing to do in the summertime in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it going to bother ethically to have a bunch of fat lobbyists out there working the senators during the games? 

BOWDEN:  I can‘t believe you, Chris.  This is ridiculous.

MATTHEWS:  Is that going to offend you?  Is that going to offend you?  

BOWDEN:  Do you know who is going to be throwing out the first pitch tonight?  President George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re going to look in the back over there.

BOWDEN:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re going to see somebody from the energy industry here with his arm around some senator, who he paid for his seat, sitting here working the guy for nine innings.  Aren‘t you going to feel guilty?  And gas prices will be $5 a gallon when they‘re done. 

BOWDEN:  And he‘s going to be cheering for Brad Wilkerson and Jose  Vidro and Vinny Castilla.  And they‘re supporting the players, so that America, the children of America can grow up loving their hometown baseball team, the Washington Nationals.  How exciting is this, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s so exciting, you don‘t have to jam my knee to make your point. 

BOWDEN:  Well, it worked, though.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about this team.


MATTHEWS:  When are you going to get somebody to buy this team, to own it? 

BOWDEN:  This year sometime.  We‘re hoping by June or July.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the standard you‘re going to set for the ownership of the national city‘s baseball team?  Does he got to be a clean guy?  Are you going to clean him up, make sure he‘s OK? 


BOWDEN:  Yes.  Look. 

Whoever own this team, first of all, is going to have great vision and leadership qualities for the community of Washington.  That‘s what is important. 


BOWDEN:  And put a baseball team on the field that can compete year in and year out, not every once in a while. 

And I‘ve met all the ownership groups that are coming forward.  No matter which one they pick, they‘re all going to be right for this organization.  So, it is going to be an exciting period.  And this baseball team, you‘re going to love this tonight, Chris.  This is a team that plays the game right, plays hard.  Good defensive club. 


BOWDEN:  Keeps you in the ball game with the pitching staff, runs the bases properly, plays the game the way we want our children to play the game. 


MATTHEWS:  You know what I like?  I like big cities.  And I love them all in the United States.  And I think, if this helps build this capital into a city, that‘s a great thing. 

BOWDEN:  It really is, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And I congratulate you and thank you for making my city in Washington such a great—potentially a Major League town. 

BOWDEN:  Hey, thanks.  Appreciate being on your show.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to watch and see. 

BOWDEN:  It is a Major League town.

MATTHEWS:  We are playing HARDBALL here.


MATTHEWS:  And I know you like our show. 

BOWDEN:  I love your show. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you know what you came for. 

BOWDEN:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  Can you say that again?  You love our show. 

BOWDEN:  HARDBALL, I love the show, yes.  Go, Nationals, first place,

by the way,

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL at RFK Stadium. 


MATTHEWS:  Among the VIPs, the very important, people here tonight at RFK Stadium for the opening at home of the Washington Nationals will be a lot of guys over from Walter Reed Hospital.  Of course, we‘ve met them before.  You know all about them, the wounded, in many cases, handicapped veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Right now, we‘re going to show you another one of the great reports, “For the Brave” by David Shuster, on what American families are doing to bring these disabled fellows back into American society. 


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For Michael Kuhn, a Navy veteran brain-damaged in a car accident, these hockey games are an absolute joy.  And the Winter Sports Clinic is a family affair. 



SHUSTER:  That‘s Deb, his mother.  And here‘s Tom, his father. 

TOM KUHN, FATHER OF MICHAEL KUHN:  Michael gets to come out here with some guys that he knows in the past and do some sports and things that he did in the past before his accident. 

SHUSTER:  The accident has not been easy on the Kuhn family.  Deb Kuhn stopped working to help care for Michael.  And the Kuhns had to design a new house that would accommodate their son‘s lack of motor skills and vision. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve got your bib up here for you.

SHUSTER:  But, at this clinic, all 350 participants are invited to bring along parents, spouses or caregivers. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can do this one.

SHUSTER:  And everybody shares in the fun and exhilaration. 

D. KUHN:  Just to see the look on his face when he climbs the rock wall or made the goal in hockey or going down the mountain—he‘s progressing with his skiing ability—it just thrills him and any kind of independence, and it is really good for him and good for us. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Put a chest harness on you, right side up.

SHUSTER:  It is also good for Mike White and his caregivers. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, we‘ll jiggle you around a little bit here,


SHUSTER:  Vernice Jackson has been looking after White and has witnessed his pain and growing helplessness. 

VERNICE JACKSON, CAREGIVER OF MIKE WHITE:  Mike has ataxia, a generational disease, which causes him to lose his balance, his speech and strength. 

SHUSTER:  The rock wall is not easy for anybody.  But pulleys and equipment can help with special needs, but the climb still requires extraordinary willpower. 

JACKSON:  Keep going.  Go, Michael.  Pull.  Pull. 



He loves this.  He looks for this.  He goes by this every year.  And he sees the mountain.  And he didn‘t believe he can do it.  So, for him to be able to do this, awesome. 

SHUSTER:  Doctors say that kind of camaraderie and support is crucial. 

DR. FRANCES MURPHY, VETERANS ADMINISTRATOR:  When you actually bring a family out here with their veteran, they can all take part in recreational activities together.  It gives them a new hope for what their life can be in the future. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  The impact of this event is strong, of course, for the participants and their families, but it also seems to have quite an effect on the able-bodied.  This clinic has attracted celebrities and ordinary Americans, who all get quite emotional as they talk about the transformation and improvement they now see in their own lives. 

We‘ll have that story for you tomorrow. 

I‘m David Shuster, MSNBC, in Snowmass Village, Colorado. 


MATTHEWS:  For more information on the great work being done with returning disabled veterans, go to or  That‘s Disabled Veterans, obviously.

You know, we‘re out here, amazing night coming up here, big time, a nice warm bit of American history.  Let‘s call it that.  Let‘s not overdo it.  But baseball is coming back to Washington.  And it is going to be a great game tonight with the Diamondbacks. 

Let me say that, tomorrow night, we have got an amazing guest on, very controversial.  Right and left have an attitude about this woman, Jane Fonda, coming right into our studios for a long interview, lots to talk to Jane about, as we all know. 

Anyway, it‘s great being out here tonight for the big game tonight. 

And now we‘re going to turn it over to Keith Olbermann.



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