WASHINGTON – Taking a break from budget politics and the war against terror, President Bush welcomed World Series winners the Arizona Diamondbacks to the White House and thanked them for creating an exciting diversion for Americans suffering from the despair and war that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The World Series couldn't have come at a better time. It gave the American people a chance to think about something other than the war, and what a fabulous World Series it was," Bush said.
In a 4-3 series that wasn't decided until the bottom of the ninth inning of the last game, the Diamondbacks beat three-in-a-row champions the New York Yankees, who had been favored to win and were the sentimental choice for a city that was devastated by the terror attacks.
The Diamondbacks, though, were commended at the time for their come-from-nowhere win, having just formed as an expansion team four years earlier.
"I am developing a severe case of trophy envy," Bush said, referring to the Texas Rangers, who perennially finished at the bottom of the pack during Bush's ownership of the team.
Bush also made his usual self-deprecating joke, describing his opening pitch in the first game as "a rising slider."
He also joked with vice president and general manager Joe Garagiola, Jr. that he "is always suspicious of a man with a famous father," and congratulated him on bringing his team from its underdog status to victory. Joe Garagiola, Sr. played catcher for nine seasons and is currently an announcer for the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks visited Ground Zero after the series ended, for which Bush thanked them for bringing a brief respite to rescue workers that have been working around the clock since Sept. 11.
Earlier in the day, Diamondbacks pitchers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson surprised White Hosue spokesman Ari Fleischer during his daily briefing and presented him a team jersey and ball cap. Fleischer, an avid Yankees fan, took much good-natured ribbing during the series and after his beloved team lost.
Removing the cap from Fleischer's head, Johnson rubbed Fleischer's nearly bald pate and said it was for good luck to help them get back to the White House next year.
Earlier in the week, Schilling and Johnson were selected Sports Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year.