It’s tough for me to sit by and watch as collectors young and old struggle with the realization that their baseball hero might have been a cheater. I was nine years old when I discovered a Hulk-like superhero named Jose Canseco. While many kids my age were playing catch with their fathers, I would sit in my room fantasizing of a game of catch with my idol, Jose. I was one of those fatherless kids that never had a game of catch, who could never join a little league team because my mother worked two jobs. For me, baseball and baseball cards was all I had. When I looked through my collection on a regular basis, I would study the cards up and down. By the time I turned 13, Jose Canseco was a mythical figure to me. He was a Home Run machine who could do no wrong. When a ball bounced off his head in the outfield and went over the wall for a home run….I did not understand what the commotion was about. Just a bad play, could happen to anyone. The same goes for the time he blew his arm out with Texas coming in as a relief pitcher. No big deal, because to me, my hero was infallible. He may have been a little goofy at times and by my 17th birthday had become somewhat of a one-dimensional caricature, but he was a legend in my eyes, and many others because his gift was God-given, or so I thought.
The day Jose admitted to using Steroids, in 2002 was a devastating day to say the least. Sure, many in and out of baseball suspected Jose had been cheating since the late 80’s but he had always denied it and like a fool, I had always fallen for it. This was different, though. Jose was out in the public admitting to being a cheater and throwing out the names of some of baseball’s greatest, including Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. On that day, I took out my Jose Canseco binder with about 400 cards and put it into a box and threw it into storage where it stayed until late 2007. Baseball? To me it was full of cheaters and liars and the 2001 season became the last year I watched a baseball game, until mid-2007.
It took me a long time to forgive baseball and even longer to forgive Jose. Really, how could I blame him? After all, he did what he had to do to take his game to the next level and when the powers that be turned the table on him, he snitched. The truth of the matter is that Jose has another book coming out in a month’s time. There will be new players named, maybe even some kept off the Mitchell Report and once again Jose’s integrity will be questioned. It’s going to be a tough time for Jose fans but I know that no matter what comes out, I will continue to support my player.
So he wasn’t Superman after all, not even close but in a world full of men lying each and every day, he is coming out like a knight in shinning armor for the first time in a long time. Jose, keep up the good fight.