#3 Jose Canseco
Random Thoughts: In the grand old days before super gloss, sticker autos, patches, serial numbered parallels, inserts and yes, steroids, Jose Canseco was about as hot a card as you could pull out of a 1990 wax pack as a kid. The Oakland A's were in the midst of three straight AL pennants. As one half of the Bash Brothers, Canseco was coming off of the first 40 homer/40 stolen base season in history. Despite being limited to less than half a season in '89 due to a broken wrist, Canseco still managed to put up better numbers than most guys did in a full year.
A native of Havana, Cuba, Canseco and his family moved to Miami while he was still an infant. By the time he was in high school, Canseco was already showing amazing strength and power in sports and was eyed by many scouts. Forgoing college, he signed his first pro contract with Oakland in 1982 and quickly moved up the Athletics' farm system showing immense power at each stop. By the time he made it to AA Huntsville in '85, Canseco was already being dubbed "Parkway Jose" for his prodigious blasts that often ended up near a highway that ran past the stadium. Later that year he got called up to the bigs for a brief audition and hit .302 in 29 games. As a full time starter in '86, he ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year award, hitting 33 homers and 117 RBI while batting only .240 with 175 strikeouts. This would establish a career trend of monster home run and RBI stats with high strikeouts totals and a low batting average. After a similar '87 season, Canseco broke out with his MVP 40/40 year and it would be the last time he would hit over .300 during a season. Canseco would bounce back from a injury marred '89 to post back to back big years in '90 and '91, leading the AL in homers with 44 during the latter. Unfortunately a recurring back problem which began to manifest itself in 1990 would haunt him the rest of his career and rob him of what could have been historic numbers. One of my more vivid memories of Canseco was in 1992. Every day when I would get ready to catch the bus for school, I would have NBC News at Sunrise on the TV as background noise. I'll never forget the day they said Canseco had been traded to Texas. I thought it was a joke. How could a team that had so much success trade their best player? I thought to myself "well, that's it for the A's" and it was.
The only two memories I have of Canseco in Texas were when a fly ball bounced off his head for a home run in old Cleveland Stadium and three days later when he convinced his manager to let him pitch in a blowout and hurt himself so badly he required Tommy John surgery. To add insult to injury, Canseco was headed to a second AL MVP award when the '94 strike hit. He would have a few more decent years bouncing around the AL as a DH with Boston, a brief return to Oakland, Toronto and as a member of the Hit Parade with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays (back when they were still called that.)
With his numbers and health petering out, Canseco would latch on briefly with the Yankees and the White Sox, but refusing to retire, he made several comeback attempts. In 2002 Canseco was cut by Montreal in spring training. In 2004 he was declined a roster spot with the Dodgers after a brief spring tryout. In 2006 Canseco would be found playing in the Golden Baseball League.
But it was during this time that Canseco made the headlines for which he is now best known for with his tell-all book about steroids, "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big," which, despite initial ridicule has proven prophetic implicating among others Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, who after early denials have since admitted taking performance enhancing drugs during their playing days.
Canseco has also recently participated in a number of celebrity boxing matches of varying credibility including a loss to former Eagles return man Vai Sikahema (a man five inches shorter to Canseco in stature) and a draw to former Partridge Family star and current radio personality Danny Bonaduce. Canseco has also participated in professional mixed martial arts.
Canseco has often found himself getting into trouble off the diamond as well. In 1989, his first wife, Esther Haddad, whom he married in October 1988, accused him of domestic violence after he allegedly ran his car into hers. They divorced in 1991.
In August 1996, he married Jessica Sekely, whom he met while she was working as a Hooters waitress. He was arrested in November 1997 for allegedly hitting her. In January 1998, he was sentenced to probation and required to have counseling. The couple divorced in 1999. They have a daughter, Josiphene Marie, nicknamed "Josie". In October 2001, he and his brother got into a fight with two California tourists at a Miami Beach nightclub that left one man with a broken nose and another needing 20 stitches in his lip. Canseco was charged with two counts of aggravated battery. In May 2008, Canseco revealed that he had lost his house in Encino, California to foreclosure, saying his two divorces had cost him $7 to $8 million each. On October 10, 2008, Canseco was detained by immigration officials at a San Diego border crossing as he tried to bring a fertility drug from Mexico. He stated the drug was to help with his hormone replacement therapy, needed due to his use of steroids. On November 4, 2008, Canseco pled guilty in federal court to the misdemeanor offense of trying to bring a fertility drug into the USA from Mexico. He was sentenced to 12 months’ unsupervised probation by U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks. Canseco told the judge he had gone to Tijuana looking for a substance to restore his testosterone levels in an attempt to reverse damage done by his admitted steroids use. He was detained at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing in October 2008 after agents searched his vehicle and said they found human chorionic gonadotropin, which is illegal without a prescription.
It's sad that Canseco's lasting legacy will that of a poster child for the Steroid Era rather than the prolific home run hitter he once was.
The Card Itself: Kind of a disappointing photo for a big star of the day. Hard to say what Canseco's laughing about. Did someone say something funny. Did he see something funny? We may never know.
Did You Know?: His identical twin brother Ozzie played briefly with the A's and Cardinals.
Where Are They Now?:Just days after posting this, Jose out-Cansecoed me. He has challenged Herschel Walker to an MMA fight, tweeting, "I guess I may have to show Walker who the real bad boy of the sports industry is," to which Walker responded, "He thinks it's going to be a circus, I will hurt him." Love it.
'90 Fleer Counters:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: 1
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: 1
SILVER SLUGGER: 1