"I look forward to seeing if this works. I think we have to give it a chance to work," Bush said. He added that the public disclosure of names of players who tested positive should have the effect of "convincing others that there's a consequence other than just suspension and fine. In other words, there's the shame factor."
Bush said his involvement with the Rangers from 1989, when he led a group that purchased the team, until 1994, when he ran for governor of Texas, contributed to the construction of his public image, even if it did not directly help his political career. Bush and his partners sold the Rangers in 1998 for $250 million -- a deal that earned Bush $15 million on a $600,000 investment.
"I do know that being involved in baseball in Texas was an experience that I loved, and I think a lot of people saw that I loved it. I don't know if that helped me or not get elected governor," Bush said. "But . . . I think part of defining a person's personality is whether or not they're able to have a zest for life and an optimism and an enthusiasm for the assignment, and I did. It was a wonderful experience."
He said baseball was aware of its slipping influence among African Americans when he was a Rangers owner, and he said the keys to regaining that influence are maintaining ticket affordability and producing African American stars as role models.
"Pro basketball rose in popularity in the late '80s and early '90s, relative to baseball, and people were worried about fan bases and worried about young players," Bush said. "And there still ought to be a concern about baseball not being able to attract the players that will attract the fans."
Bush said it should be left to the "experts" and "philosophers" to decide whether the records of players tainted by the steroid scandal should be marked with asterisks or erased from the record books.
However, Bush warned: "I think it's very important . . . for people to make sure that prior to coming to conclusions, that [there are] facts to back up the conclusions. Because people are saying things, and it's important -- I'm not prejudging one way or the other. I just want to make sure people are given a fair day. And that's the problem with the system -- that everybody is tainted, when in fact I suspect if the facts are truly known, not everybody was guilty."
Bush's mentioning of the problem of steroid use in sports -- and its damaging effect on youth -- in his State of the Union address in January 2004 is credited with helping to launch the latest round of congressional scrutiny of the steroid testing policies of baseball and other professional sports.
"I think when it's all said and done, people will look back and say, thankfully, a lot of responsible citizens said to an important sport, 'Fix yourself -- now.' And it's working, I think," Bush said. "There will be a lot of talk -- 'Did the system go far enough?' But the key is that the system is headed in the right direction, and there will be plenty of voices that, if the system doesn't work, will be calling upon more reform. Nobody wants the game tainted."
Former major leaguer Jose Canseco, in his recent autobiography, portrayed the Rangers' clubhouse under Bush's ownership as a den of steroid use. Canseco claims he introduced steroids to players such as Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez while with the team, and wrote that Bush must have known that some Rangers were using steroids.
Bush denied those charges. "No, I don't remember any discussion with owners or with general managers . . . or [with the team's managers] about 'so and so' was using steroids," he said. "And the Canseco allegation about Palmeiro, Rodriguez and Gonzalez was immediately rejected by those guys. And so, I don't know what to make of these accusations. I do know that hurling accusations is not good for the game, it seems to me.
"And it's really important for baseball to deal with the subject, which it has . . . We will see whether the program is effective enough. In my judgment there should be no steroids in baseball."