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Fri, May 24

Graham: Talking in the park with George

My good friend George W. Bush talks to reporters at Arlington Stadium in Texas on April 18, 1989.  (AP File Photo)

My good friend George W. Bush talks to reporters at Arlington Stadium in Texas on April 18, 1989. (AP File Photo)

Election Day always makes me reminisce about my years working at newspapers.

For journalists on the news side of things, elections are like the playoffs in sports: After a long season, things finally reach a crescendo; the losers see their season come to an end, while the winners play on. (As a side note, sports copy editors usually laugh at members of the news staff as they bustle around on election nights; for the sports desk, football Fridays are like an election night every week, without the free pizza.)

I have met a lot of politicians in my career. Most of them were doing the good work in local government, but some of them went on to much bigger things. In fact, the first adult I interviewed when I was a high school journalism student was a young candidate for the U.S. Senate named Don Nickles, an unknown who pulled off an upset win and went on to serve Oklahoma for 24 years on Capitol Hill.

Then there was the guy who went on to be the Big Kahuna.

In April 1991, while I was a reporter at the Tulsa World, I was sent out to interview the one of the owners of the Texas Rangers while the team was in town to play an exhibition game against its Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers. So George W. Bush and I stood outside the first-base dugout and talked while the teams took batting practice.

I only knew Bush as the son of the president and the managing parter for the baseball club, but I walked away from the interview impressed. Our talk ranged through a number of baseball-rated topics; George showed a good knowledge of the sport and its history and even had some opinions about recent renovations to the local stadium.

He became most passionate when the subject turned to his father, who had recently bounced a pitch to the plate before a game in Baltimore. When I mentioned it to George, he quickly rose to his father’s defense. He revealed No. 41 had been wearing a protective vest under his team jacket when he took the mound at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it had impaired his throwing motion. I thought it was admirable the way he wanted to clear his father’s baseball baseball reputation.

In addition to his dedication to his father, the future president made one more impression on me: He was a close-talker. Throughout our discussion, he stood right next to me, our faces just inches apart, so he could hear me over the noise in the stadium. Luckily, he had fresh, minty breath.

Did I walk away thinking I had met a future two-term U.S. president? No. But I thought I had interviewed a man who was passionate about his family, which had already been in the spotlight of fame for years.

Of course our paths never crossed again, although I did live in Texas during part of his time as the 46th governor of the state. He didn’t call me when he was elected as president, either time, and apparently did not want my advice on affairs national and foreign while in the White House. He also has not sought my opinion on how he should spent his retirement years, although I hear he enjoys painting, which meets my approval as a hobby.

So if any of our readers do run into George someday, please help me out. First, find out why he hasn’t called. Second, find out where he got those mints back in the 1990s. Those things really worked.

Doug Graham is a copy editor for The Daily Courier


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