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Ken Burns places Canseco right where he should be

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 2, 2011

It is challenging to get a balanced perspective on Jose Canseco.  He had a successful playing career.  He found controversy at every turn.  He has a significant place in Baseball history.  I’m just trying to figure out what it really is.

1986 Rookie of the Year.  1988 AL Most Valuable Player.  First player to produce 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in one season.  Participant in four World Series.  Owner of two championship rings.  Basher of 462 career homers.  Most famous proponent of steroid use.  A carrier that infected others by showing them how to do effective drug cycles.  Author who exposed steroid-using potential hall-of-famers and journeymen.  Combatant in the Celebrity Boxing ring.  Contestant on the 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice.  Squanderer of $45 million dollars +.

I forgot to mention womanizer, collector of fast cars, generous friend & philanthropist, contract breaker, father, son, husband and brother.  And owner of exotic turtles and big cats.

Jose’s life has been a wild ride.  So wild it is difficult to capture.

What better person to seek perspective on Jose than from Ken Burns, the great Baseball documentarian ?

So, I plopped myself down and watched every second of “EXTRA INNINGS”, the last CD in Burns’ acclaimed 1994 video history.  I also screened TENTH INNING, Burns’ 2010 release.  Between the two, I would see where the historian slotted Canseco in the overall scheme of things.

Canseco’s first appearance in BASEBALL last less than 1 second.  He is in right field,  watching Kirk Gibson’s game winning homer sail over the 360 foot marker in Dodger Stadium to win game 1 in the1988 World Series.  Gibson is soon rounding the bases and doing his iconic double arm pump.  It is Gibson’s moment.  The Canseco sighting is accidental.

Next sighting:  Burns paints the quaked and damaged1989 Baseball season with film and poetry.  He shows us how the Pete Rose gambling story dominated summer. He shows us Pete’s banishment on August 24 and Bart Giammati’s sudden death on Sept. 1.  The sadness is capped on Oct. 17, before the scheduled start of Game 3 of the World Series between Oakland and San Francisco when an Earthquake of 6.9 Richter magnitude struck.   63 in the Bay area are killed. 12,000 are homeless.   As the ABC cameras roll following the 14 seconds of quaking, you see players holding their children, walking with wives & girlfriends to safety.  Cameras whirling, P.A. announcer asking for calm, there is Jose, striding off the field with a group of A’s.  Number 33 is tall and enormously muscled, poured into a tight uniform.  He looks every bit the 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds at which he is billed, with a broad upper body that tapers to an impossibly compact 30 inch waste.  He holds the hand of an attractive blonde in a red dress with his left hand.  Under her left arm is a mink coat.  Jose wears his glove on his right hand while they walk together, exchanging a quick word with an A’s coach as they move off the field. This glimpse of Jose lasts 6 seconds.  Again, J.C. just happens to be nearby as history is made.

Jose’s next appearance is in THE TENTH INNING. This time it is intentional.  This time Baseball is at a major turning point.   We see film of the young star; he is credited for astounding the baseball world with his unprecedented  40/40 in 1988, and the narration by Keith David quickly attaches the label that will someday follow Jose to the grave, “…but something else was helping him achieve such an unprecedented combination of speed and power.  Canseco and others had transformed their bodies by taking heavy doses of anabolic steroids, synthetically produced testosterone.  When taken in large enough amounts it allowed users to lift prodigious amounts of weight every single day, rapidly building muscle mass, while increasing their speed and agility.”   Time on screen:  Six seconds.

Jose does not return to the Burns history until steroids return.  His fourth appearance occurs as Burns gets to the telling of the 1998 season when McGwire & Sosa chased Maris.  Burns sets up McGwire’s homer rampage by talking about the emergence of smaller ballparks, the lack of inside pitching, and a popular new training regimen adapted in 1987 from Mac’s steroid using teammate, Jose Canseco.

It’s the 90’s and homeruns are hit at record rates.  The camera pans over a vintage Maris pose, then to Ken Griffey, Jr., then to a muscle bound Mac.  The next two stills are of Mac and Jose as Keith David  intones, “He began training with teammate, Jose Canseco, the duo became known as The Bash Brothers for their soaring homeruns and the forearm bump they exchanged after each towering blast.  The two sluggers led the A’s to the WS three years in a row.  Over the next few seasons, McGwire continued to add muscle to his already massive frame, and spent months on the disabled list with frequent injuries to his overstrained joints and tendons, but when healthy he hit balls out of the park with astonishing frequency. In 1995, he hit 39 hr in only 104 games.  In 1996 he smashed 52 in 130 games….” Once more, this visage of Jose last just 6 seconds.

Thus far, Jose had not received screen time commensurate with his career accomplishments.  4 appearances.  19 total seconds.  An earthquake.  Two steroid labels.

It doesn’t get better for Jose.

Later still in TENTH INNING, Burns examples the baffling pitching of Pedro Martinez, when we see Jose, in a Tampa Bay Devil Ray uniform in 1999, helplessly taking called strike 3 on the inside corner via a curveball. Pencharo.

In all of the above, missing is film of the mammoth moonshots Jose hit in batting practice.  No where to be seen are the lasers leaving the park in an eyeblink and striking a façade 450 feet away.  Absent is a 40-something Reggie Jackson saying, this kid has so much potential he reminds me of, well…me !

Later still, Burns turns his full focus to steroids and Jose returns.  Bob Costas assigns blame to the Baseball people who “didn’t notice a damn thing when guys showed up looking like they were inflated with bicycle pumps.” Then, as Keith David summarizes baseball’s conspiracy to keep secret the game’s steroid problem the camera reveals a photo of Canseco with finger to his lips, shooshing a gaggle of Fenway autograph seekers.

Tom Verducci soon thereafter explained that by 2000, the steroid mess and the names involved so big, that no owner or player union official was willing to clean it up until somebody made them.  Next we see Jose swinging through the back of his powerful swing, dressed in the home whites of the Chicago White Sox, his 6th and last team.  “In May of 2002, Jose Canseco who would later claim that without steroids he would have never even made it to the major leagues, never would have retired from baseball with 462 home runs.  He told the press that 85% of major leaguers players were taking steroids.  There would be no baseball left if we drug tested everyone.  But hardly anyone took his claims seriously. “  The camera pans over Jose’s powerful pose, then jumps to a close up of him peering thoughtfully below the brim of his Chicago batting helmet.  Screen time:  60 seconds.

Soon, Burns rolls film of John McCain tongue lashing Donald Fehr and Bud Selig for forcing him to give them a whupin’.   We see Jose with McGwire in a fist bumping HR celebration.  4 seconds.

The next 50 seconds define Jose’s lasting contribution to the game.  We see a February 2005 front cover of the NY Daily News, which shouts, “Explosive Book Rocks Baseball, STEROID FIRESTORM, Who used performance drugs, How and where they did it, What they say about it, Fury over Canseco revelations.”  The outed  included Wilson Alvarez, Ivan Rodriguez, Brett Boone, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire.

Next come the Congressional Oversight hearings. We watch Jose tell Rep. Waxman that there is “no doubt in my mind” that team trainers, managers and general managers were aware that some players were using steroids. The iconization of Canseco as the all time poster boy for steroids is complete.

In EXTRA INNINGS, Burns covered 1975 to 1994, showing us the greatness of many Canseco contemporaries including Bo Jackson, Ozzie Smith, and Kirby Puckett.  In TENTH INNING, Burns covered the early 90’s to 2009.  The featured greats include Bonds, McGwire, Griffey, Ichiro, Maddux, Glavine, Clemens and others.

There is no homage to Jose Canseco, the first player to hit 40 HR’s and steal 40 SB’s in 1988.  Instead of a homage to a power hitter that once made everyone around him stop to watch his BP and at bats, we see Jose striking out, Jose keeping secrets, Jose burning bridges, Jose testifying, and Jose’s incendiary writing.

There is only guilt and the destruction he wrought.

There is no puzzlement about Canseco’s treatment on my end though really.

Very early in TENTH INNING”, Burns asserts that even after labor and steroid problems, “Superstars (still) continue to retire as heroes in the full glare of the spotlight, while lesser players continue to quietly disappear, their statistics the only residue of their existence in the game.”

And that is what Jose’s career stats are:  residue.  Silent, dusty statistics on the pages of Baseball Reference and the BB Encyclopedia made moot by the tainting of all stats between 1985 and 2003.  Jose doesn’t get the hero treatment because his career was a drug fueled sham.  He’s not the only one you can say that about.  But he is the only one who has made statements in public to support it.

Once a symbol of power, Jose will forever be a symbol of cheating.

Some months ago, a comedian joked that when Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career home run it appropriately landed in Monument Park between the (fictitious) plaques of Lance Armstrong & Jose Canseco.

I’m glad George didn’t live to “see” that one.

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Jose Canseco es muy macho in the boxing ring. How about Sarah Palin ?

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 24, 2009

Jose Canseco es muy macho in boxing ring

Canseco is muy macho in boxing ring (AP photo)

Readers have been asking for photos of Jose Canseco from his recent appearances in New England.

I’ll share two here.

I snapped one of Jose on Sat., Nov. 9 at the Greater Boston Sports Collectors Convention, in Wilmington, MA., where he was signing autographs for $20 a pop.

Canseco was late to the gig.  He was cordial and business-like as he signed from behind a pair of sunglasses that I imagined hid the lines that could tell a tale of debauchery and orgy from the night before.

The man has a reputation to live up to.

He was actually 90 miles West of Boston in Springfield, Massachusetts,  in a boxing ring the prior evening.  He won a decision over Pittsfield, MA. Native, Todd Poulton.  On the same card, believe it or not, civil rights icon Rodney King won a TKO over former hoopster Derek MacIntosh.

All of this was conducted under the auspices of something called the Celebrity Boxing Federation.

I’m not making this up.

You may already know that Jose boxed former child actor Danny Bonaduce to a draw in January.  A lovely body tattoo shirt was donned by Jose for that donnybrook.

You may also already have heard that Jose was knocked silly in the first round by former Philadelphia Eagle kick return specialist Vai Sikahema in July.

His reported appearance fee of $35,000 helped salve the wounds of the beating by Sikahema, who is 7 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than the former Bash Brother.

Now comes the news that the CBF has offered Kate Gosselin (Jon & Kate +8) a payday to rumble with one of Tiger Woods ex-paramours.   The CBF hopes to fill the card with Jon Gosselin’s 22-year-old ex-girlfriend, Hailey Glassman, pugilistically matched with another one of Tiger’s former flames.

It’s such an ugly concept you can’t turn away.   Learn more at celebrityboxing.tv, if you dare.

Jose is not the first athlete to use his fame to make a buck in a manner lacking dignity.  Babe Ruth was employed as a wrestling referee in the 1940’s.   Pete Rose sang to us that “a Man wants to smell like a man” while flogging Aqua Velva.  Joe Louis, Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays all worked as greeters in Vegas casinos.

He is not the first.  He won’t be the last.

As for the CBF, we can expect to see any imaginable combination of famed combatants.

Here are a few I would like to see:

Battle of the Major League Bellies:  George Wendt vs. Wilbur Wood.

Management vs. Labor:  Outcast Marvin Miller vs. HOF President Jeff Idleson.  Or Idelson’s Grandfather, whichever Idelson is 90.

The Guilty vs. Sons of the Righteous:  Pete Rose vs. Steve, Bruce & Martin Feller.  May their justice be swift.

Height vs. the Mighty Might: 6 ‘ 10” Randy Johnson vs Pocket Hercules, who is 4′ 6″ & lifts 700 lbs.

The Freak & The Narc: Tim Lincecum vs Acting D.E.A head, Michele Leonhart.  Another bust would do her career wonders.

Party Crashers & Bashers: Tareq & Michaele Salahi tussle with Prince & Chanel Fielder.  The name of that book was “Skinny Bitch”, yes ?

Battle of the Hounds: Tiger Woods & David Letterman on ‘roids in the ring in a race to text their gal pals.

Lastly, Sarah Palin going rogue against the liberal lefty, Bill “Spaceman” Lee.  I can see Lee extending the post match peace pipe now.

In America, anything can happen.  Sometimes it makes you shake your head; sometimes you just laugh out loud.

Love the Tatty shirt, Jose.


Behind the Foster Grants.

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Jose Canseco : The Tawdry & Titillating

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 8, 2009

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Jose Canseco’s reputation has rebounded since he was ridiculed for lying in his 2005 book titled, “Juiced”.   Not many believed his allegation that 85% of MLB players were juicers.

When the Mitchell Report came out in 2007, Canseco didn’t look unscrupulous anymore.  His next book, “Vindicated” soon was published.

But don’t confuse Jose Canseco with a do-gooder.

He’s a guy with a lot of bad habits, according to his ex-wife, Jessica Canseco, who penned, “JUICY, Confessions of a former Baseball wife”.  (Regan Books.  2005.  248 pages.)

His career total of  461 HR’s was wickedly inflated by winstrol and testosterone use.  He was married twice and a father twice, but he patronized a call girl service for years while married.  He was a hound.  He transmitted bacterial infections to loved ones through intercourse.  He loved to watch himself have sex.  He was pretty much self-obsessed 100% of the time, and constantly in search of sex.

He was her type.  Large.  Strong.  Handsome.

And he was making $5,000,000 per year as MLB’s highest paid player.

No surprise that Jessica Sekely found Jose’s looks and lifestyle intoxicating.  She loved his 20,000 square foot home, with pool and waterfall.  When he offered to let her use one of his cars, she took his Bentley.  Soon after meeting, he took her to the mall and bought her $4,000 in designer clothes.

Jessica, after describing much cheating, abandonment & abuse, says “the guy is an asshole, but the perks are good.”

Jessica is a middle class girl from Ohio who was on the high school track team.  Her Mom was a Nurse.  Her Dad was a businessman.  She was the middle child in a brood of 3 girls.

She had A.D.D..  She struggled at the local college.  She was not a terribly deep young person.

In 1993, at age 19, she got a waitress gig at Hooters.  On her third day of training, Canseco walked in.  He finessed his way into her station and got her phone number.

The rest is fast moving history.

After one lunch together, and an invitation for sex that Jessica declined, Canseco has his assistant arrange travel for Jessica to Boston, where Canseco’s Rangers were playing the Sox.

Just like that, the 19 year old blonde consented to running with Jose, and was soon doing it in Beantown with the Cuban bad boy.

What follows are 200 pages of everything being done Jose’s way.  Stay home when he wants.  Travel when he wants.  Sit by the pool alone when he wants.  Have sex as he wants.  Feed the baby cougar.  Pet the baby leopard.  Save the giant turtle from drowning in the pool.

The nature of the relationship is boring, demeaning and submissive.  The story is punctuated with an unending series of facials, manicures, boob jobs, and collagen injections.

Any chick with half a tailbone would have been out of there in a month.

She stayed seven years.

At 19, Jessica was hypnotized by Jose’s looks, money and lifestyle.  He gave her a charge card she could use as she wished.  He paid the bill when it came.

By 1999, she was experienced.  By then she had left Jose three times and come back.  She had married him and divorced him and was back living with him again.  She had one baby with him, a daughter named Josie, who is a 7th grader today.

Eventually, she found the path to enlightenment through books and education.  As she grew, Jose opposed her development in every way possible, as if a stupid partner is controllable and thus preferred.

Eventually, she did marry the right guy.  On June 23, 2007, she got hitched to plastic surgeon Garth Fisher at his Bel Air mansion.

There is not much baseball in this book.  Jessica was at the 1993 game when the Carlos Martinez fly ball bounced off Canseco’s head for a HR.  She mentions Jose’s free agent signings, trades and releases and the related moves to Boston, New York and California.  She describes how Scott Erickson asked if she was alright in a Florida parking lot after she and Jose had punched each other.  Kevin Kennedy comes up.  The baseball names are interspersed.  But the author is not a Baseball fan.

She’s a devotee to self-improvement.

Despite its tawdry nature, the book is a glimpse into the life of a modern, over paid, self-important Baseball hero.  It’s a good and fast read.

I won’t mention Jessica’s book tomorrow when I meet Jose at the Greater Boston Sports Collectors Convention

Trashy yet arresting, you cannot put it down.

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Jose Canseco | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »