Back in 1989 I was among the seemingly millions of baseball fans fascinated with the “Cuban Babe Ruth”, Jose Canseco. He had power, speed, giant muscles, an MTV girlfriend, and best of all, attitude. In the 17 seasons Jose played in the Majors I have never once seen a pitcher intentionally plunk him. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s that would have been suicide.
Jose’s following came from many different accomplishments but perhaps the fact that he came out in Spring Training of 1988 and predicted on camera that he would be the first man to have a 40-40 season is what did it for most. That was the year Jose won the MVP award unanimously and hit a Grand Slam in his very first World Series at-bat of his career!
Today you mention Jose’s name anywhere near a sports fan and out come the jokes, the insults, and the accusations. It’s a shame that someone who was once on top of the sports world a decade ago, has nothing left but his tarnished name, a somewhat cute blonde girlfriend, and a “celebrity” boxing match in his calendar for July.
Jose, you will forever hold a special place in this baseball fan’s heart. You may have missed 500 home runs, been far from the 50-50 season and home run records many predicted, and surely you will never get into the Hall of Fame, at least not without paid admission but no one will ever take away your amazing accomplishment of 1989.
I am sure that by now most of you have already gone to Baseball-Reference to see what I am talking about. Unfortunately, you won’t find this interesting if not worthless fact there, you stat nerd. This accomplishment is one of a kind and is lurking in your 1990-1992 Jose Canseco baseball cards.
In Spring Training of 1989 Jose Canseco suffered a broken wrist which caused him to miss the entire first-half of the season. Yup, didn’t play in a single game until after the break. Did it matter to the fans? Of course, not. Jose Canseco received more All-Star votes than ANY other player and was voted to start despite not playing one single game up to that point. If that’s not a fan following, I don’t know what is. Cal Ripken Jr., eat your heart out.
So yes, while Jose’s status has dropped a few levels from Rookie of the Year and MVP to “The Godfather of Steroids”, you cannot discount the excitement the man created what seems like ages ago. Maybe it wasn’t as glorious as Ken Griffey Jr.’s career but it was something special. In the end that’s all that mattered to Jose, instant gratification.
I can guarantee you he loved every moment of it.