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Un-Natural Numbers?; Family Matter

Aired March 31, 2006 - 08:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Major League Baseball has a major league image problem. Kind of a PR curveball it's trying to hit out of the park right now. Can former Senator George Mitchell possibly save the game? Let's listen to him.

GEORGE MITCHELL. INVESTIGATING STEROIDS FOR MLB: We will strive to complete an investigation that is thorough, objective and fair. Our mission will be to gather facts, not conjecture.


M. O'BRIEN: Thorough, objective and fair. That's the statement, as he begins an independent probe of baseball's dalliances, you might say, with steroids.

Shaun Assael is the senior writer for "ESPN The Magazine."

Good to have you with us, Sean.


M. O'BRIEN: First of all, George Mitchell, you know, highly respected individual. But there's two little points we should bring out here. On the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and technically, your boss as chairman of Disney, right, in theory?

ASSAEL: I've never had the pleasure, but so I hear.

M. O'BRIEN: So can he really -- doesn't he have a little bit of conflict of interests here running this investigation?

ASSAEL: You know, I think we have to wait to see what he comes up before he says that. If he has what I'd like to see, which is a report that actually has players talking about this, I think there's going to be a lot of credibility here. You can count right now on one hand the number of players who have come out and said this is what I did, this is why I did it. And I find this still amazing this deep into the steroids story. We still haven't had anybody break the wall of silence, except for Jose Canseco.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, that being the notable exception there. When you say getting baseball players to talk about this, that's not an easy thing to do. Certainly, they probably would talk about it off the record. ASSAEL: Yes, I'm not quite sure where the hammer is here. I mean, as far as I can tell, George Mitchell won't have subpoena power, so what does he do? Bring a player in and ask, pretty please? I mean, I'm not clear to what the incentive for the players to come out, other than -- and I think where we're heading, some sort of general amnesty, where in exchange for sort of clearing the air, baseball will say we were the ones that were wrong, we were the ones who sent the conflicting messages. We don't want to punish you, we just want your story.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. So baseball, Bud Selig, the commissioner's office, would have to offer up that amnesty, because George Mitchell isn't necessarily going to have this power. He seems to be like he could be the right guy, but a lot of it the devils is in the details.

ASSAEL: Yes, I mean, I'd like to know the questions he's going to ask is. When did you use, who did you use, where did it come from? And, really, unless we see a lot in the players own words, it's going to be meaningless. It's going to be seen as, unfortunately, a cover- up for a whitewash.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, and that leads us to the skepticism a lot of fans have. Clearly Major League Baseball has known about this for a long time. The players have talked about it. It's just out there. It just hasn't, you know, reached the boil point that it's reached. And the difficulty is that they don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. You don't want to mess up the public perception of Barry Bonds, because that means people coming in to see the games and the TV revenue, all that kind of thing. It's difficult for baseball to really harshly analyze this whole thing, isn't it?

ASSAEL: Well, yes, unless Barry retires by the time this report comes out. I mean, the reason -- the timing of this isn't incidental. They want to be able to sort not so much hide behind the report, but say they were doing something while Barry was breaking the record, so that when Barry breaks it, they're not going to be peppered with the questions. They can say, let's wait for the report to come out. So that's the other use of this.

M. O'BRIEN: So they really are, in this sense, because he's nearing homing in on Hank Aaron's record, they were forced to do this?

ASSAEL: I believe so.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. And do you think it's window dressing? It just remains to be seen, I guess, based on all of the things you've said?

ASSAEL: Yes, George Mitchell was an interesting pick. I think proof will be in who his next hire is. And if his next hire is the important one, which is who is he's going to hire to lead the investigation. Is it going to be somebody like John Dowd (ph), an experienced investigator, Louis Freeh, the ex-director of the FBI? Or will it be somebody who maybe, you know, doesn't lend as much credibility, doesn't come off quite as credible? M. O'BRIEN: That's an interesting point. Final thought. Is this kind of for all the marbles of Major League Baseball? This is an important thing for its image, isn't it?

ASSAEL: Yes, since the Pete Rose investigation, maybe more so. And this is a chance for baseball to say, morally, this is where we stand, and this is how we clean house.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, got to send the right image out to the kids there, I think.

Shaun Assael, from "ESPN The Magazine," thanks for being with us -- Soledad.

ASSAEL: Thanks for having me.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There are nearly a hundred military generals with sons and daughter whose are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One family, the Odiernos, talked to AMERICAN MORNING about what happens when father is son go off to war and the son almost doesn't come back.

Here's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Linda Odierno watched both her husband and son go off to war in Iraq. But soon after her husband came home, the phone rang with dreaded news. Their son, Tony, had been hit.

LINDA ODIERNO, SOLDIER'S MOTHER: When I heard about Tony's injury, all I could think about was, how is he feeling? How much pain is he in? And how he's doing.

STARR: Tony was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during a routine patrol in Baghdad.

CAPT. TONY ODIERNO, SON OF ARMY GENERAL: The first one they shot hit my vehicle. It went through my door, took off that arm, and it killed my driver. Bleeding uncontrollably, one arm shot off, Tony climbed through the gunners's hatch and tried to help his buddies before he collapsed. It was courage any father would be proud of, especially the tough general who had commanded the 4th Infantry Division, a division responsible for Saddam Hussein's capture.

LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, FATHER OF ARMY CAPTAIN: I think it hit home when Tony got hurt, but it is different when you're a father. I mean, you know, he's my son. As a parent, you almost feel sorry for yourself initially. At least I did. And then when I saw Tony, I didn't feel sorry for myself.

STARR: The Odiernos say it was actually their son who kept them strong as they watched him recover. Tony and his dad now have adjoining Pentagon offices. Tony is the personal aide to General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This young man wants other amputees to know they will get better.

T. ODIERNO: Sometimes when you look at your injuries, I mean, it's just hard to look at first. You know, you're not used to your new body yet, and it's hard. And then one day, you realize that I can still live a great life, I'm still going to live. I can still live that, whatever I want to do.

STARR: And the general finds his life changed by what happened to his son. Now, when he talks to parents of other wounded soldiers...

R. ODIERNO: We talk as parents. I don't talk as a general to a parent. I talk as a parent.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


S. O'BRIEN: The percentage of war wounded who are amputees is higher in Iraq than previously conflicts. That's because improved body armor is helping soldiers survive attacks that would in the past have been fatal.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we've got much more about the immigration debate. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighs in. We talked to CNN's John King about the issue. He says he thinks some of his fellow Republicans aren't living in reality.

Plus, a couple of women with a pretty amazing story to share. Best friends. There they are. Best friends since fifth grade. We're going to tell you the story how one good friend became a surrogate to the other, and now one hoped for baby is four. That's ahead.

Stay with us.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow.


S. O'BRIEN: An Oregon woman who was desperately hoping to become pregnant suffered through 11 miscarriages before she decided to turn to a surrogate. The perfect surrogate ended up being her best friend from childhood. And now one hoped for baby is four babies, all due this summer. But boy, does this story have some twists and turns.

Let's get right to Tasha Riddle. She wants to be a mom. Raquel Mitola is her best friend and surrogate. And they're both in North Bend, Oregon.

Hi, ladies. Nice to see you.



So, Tasha, let's start with story, because it really starts off in a sad. You and your husband, John, I know, had a really time getting pregnant, 11 miscarriages, which is brutal to go have to through. And I know you got to the point, where you thought this is not going to happen to me. And you turned to your best friend as a surrogate. How did Raquel take the request?

TASHA RIDDLE, EXPECTANT MOTHER: Actually Raquel offered three years ago actually. She has been through the last seven years with us, our ups and downs and our losses. And so about three years ago, she offered to be a surrogate for us and we were just honored that she would do that, and we were hoping that we'd never have to get to that point and have our own children. And we were approached by the doctor saying that's our last resort, our last option is to have a surrogate.

S. O'BRIEN: And so you went.

RIDDLE: So I called Raquel back.

S. O'BRIEN: And she -- and Raquel, I mean, what an amazing gift to give somebody the gift of motherhood. Really, that is such a tremendous gift. You've got two kids of your own, teenagers, 15 and 13.


S. O'BRIEN: When Tasha finally came to you and said, you know what, this is our last chance, what did you think?

MITOLA: I was honored that she had asked me, and I was excited, too, because I love being pregnant. So it was really exciting.

S. O'BRIEN: Now, what doctors...

RIDDLE: It was emotional.


S. O'BRIEN: I bet it was, I bet. Wow, it's an incredible gift. Doctors then implanted Tasha's eggs into Raquel. Let's bring everybody up to speed with what happened. And there's a sonogram to show that while it took great work, the last ditch effort was incredibly successful. Let's show Raquel's sonogram. Oh, look, right there. And then, the doctors, I guess, sort of as the last, last ditch effort, implanted Tasha eggs into Tasha, just because why not, you got them there, last chance kind of thing. And lo and behold, that took, too.

RIDDLE: It did.

S. O'BRIEN: And lo and behold, you're both having twins! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! That's a lot of babies for one last ditch effort.

RIDDLE: That is a lot. S. O'BRIEN: How are you feeling about that?

RIDDLE: We're -- my husband and I are both so excited. And we just can't wait.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, boy.

RIDDLE: It seems like it's been all or nothing for us.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's a good way to put it. Now, how has your pregnancy been, Tasha? Because I know Raquel's been through this a couple of times before. How are you feeling?

RIDDLE: I feel great other than just the normal pregnancy. Uncomfortable feet and back is hurting. But other than that, I've been doing great.

S. O'BRIEN: You look great. You look great. And Raquel, you're feeling pretty well, too?

MITOLA: Yes. I feel really good. Yep. Doing good.

S. O'BRIEN: Now, I know you're both due on June 7th because you were implanted on the same day. So here is my question for you.

RIDDLE: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: You're having twins and Raquel is having twins, but they're all your eggs. Are you really having quadruplets, kind of?

RIDDLE: I don't know if it's two sets of twins, or if it's considered quadruplets. I'm not quite sure. I just know we're having four.

S. O'BRIEN: That's kind of cool. Now, Raquel, as you know, you're going to have these babies and hand them right over to new mom Tasha, who will have her hands very full with the other two babies. She's just had -- you know she's not going to let you just, you know, leave after that.

RIDDLE: Walk away.

S. O'BRIEN: There's no walking away from this one!

MITOLA: I know.

S. O'BRIEN: How are you going to deal with this? Go ahead, Raquel.

MITOLA: I was just saying, I have the easy job, just carrying them. Once I give them to her is when all the work starts. She will have her hands full.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it is -- no truer words have been spoken about that, especially now four babies. Wow, I can't even put my mind around that. So Tasha, how are you going to manage all this? You've gone from being not a mother to being a mother four times over.

RIDDLE: Right. I don't know. We're just going to do it. We don't have one -- we never had have had one child to compare it to so we know -- we don't know anything else. So we'll just do what we have to do.

S. O'BRIEN: You don't like to sleep very much, do you? I mean, you don't need sleep, do you? Because you want to get over that immediately.

RIDDLE: Right. I'll learn very quickly to do things with no sleep.

S. O'BRIEN: No sleep and with one hand as you're holding the babies in the other hand.

RIDDLE: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I want to wish you the both best of luck and a huge congratulations to you. What wonderful news. And of course, we'll check back in in June, when all those -- do you have names picked out already, Tasha?

RIDDLE: Not yet. That's been the hard part for us.

S. O'BRIEN: Because you're having -- you're carrying two girls, right? And Raquel, you've got a boy and a girl?

MITOLA: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, so three girls' names and one boy's name. You got a little time, still. You got some time. Congratulations to you. Thanks for talking with us, ladies.

RIDDLE: Thank you so much.

S. O'BRIEN: Best of luck.

MITOLA: Thank you.

RIDDLE: All right, bye bye.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness! Wowie! Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Wow. Can you imagine having four young kids, Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, gee. Hey, I didn't have them all at one time. I'll tell you that. That's a big difference.

M. O'BRIEN: Pretty close.

S. O'BRIEN: No. No. So no. Oh no. Wow.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is ridiculous.

All right, in a moment, top stories, including new details about Jill Carroll's release in Baghdad.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking out about the immigration debate.

A Senate committee debates whether to censure President Bush.

Naomi Campbell busted for allegedly assaulting her housekeeper.

And picking up the pieces in the Midwest. Severe storms triggered tornados and dangerous wildfires, believe it or not. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Are you looking forward to retirement to do all of those things you never had time for? In our continuing series "Life After Work," you're about to meet one guy who is doing just that.

Here's Jennifer Westhoven.


TOM PATTY, RETIREE (singing): Living on the island...

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Patty is living his dream, retired in Southern California.

PATTY (singing): This is a place where I feel so live.

(speaking): I was never one of these people who lived to work. And I always had a great time every weekend, and I figured if every day could be a weekend, that would be a good life.

WESTHOVEN: Tom used to be an ad agency president, but he was always actively planning to just bike, sail and play his guitar in retirement.

PATTY: Once I stopped working, I got more into music and somebody taught me how to write a song and I like that. It was really neat. I wrote 15 or so songs and whittled it down to ten and decided they weren't awful. And then I got a guy from The Beach Boys to help me produce a CD and it was a wonderful experience. It was really terrific.

WESTHOVEN: Tom's album didn't hit the charts, but he got to do something that he loved -- writing songs that capture his laid-back lifestyle.

PATTY (singing): It's a place where I feel so alive.

WESTHOVEN: Living in the O.C., Tom proves life after work can be one long weekend.

PATTY (speaking): This is my 2,365th day of being on retirement. A very good friend of mine had a great idea: start a journal when you retire. And I've done it every day. At the end of every day, I write another great day in Dana Point.

(singing): This is where I belong.

WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN.


M. O'BRIEN: Looks good, doesn't it? Still to come in "A.M. Pop," a sneak peek at "Basic Instinct 2." Fourteen years after the original made her an icon, can Sharon Stone pull it off, if you know what I mean? Does she take it off or does she risk overexposure? Stay with us. We'll answer those vexing questions ahead.



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