I recently picked up Jose Canseco's New York Times Bestseller, Juiced. In his first release on the Steroid Era in baseball, Canseco starts with his life story and works his way toward his major league career. The Cuban born Canseco went from a scrawny 220 pound Rookie of the Year in 1986 to a devastating force at 270 pounds hitting 42 home runs with 40 stolen bases in his 1988 MVP season all because of steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
The six time all-star talks vividly of his use of steroids as well as others that used during his career. Canseco does not devote his book to dropping name after name of who has used performance enhancing drugs in the major leagues, but does have sections where he talks of players he's injected and players that he discussed the effects and benefits of steroids with. After Juiced was released, many tried to say that Jose was a liar and just trying to take the spotlight of steroid use off of himself. After a few years went by and the whole steroid scandal in baseball became public with Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero all having to testify in front of congress, people began to realize that Canseco was not fabricating anything.
The Bash Brothers
In the early stages of Juiced, Canseco talks about his relationship with Mark McGwire. Jose mentions the bathroom stalls that they would inject steroids in together before games, batting practice and weight training. Canseco also set straight the myth of McGwire and himself being like brothers. Jose says they never really hung out outside of baseball and didn't have much in common, other than using steroids and hitting home runs.
Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were two of my boyhood baseball hero's, similar to many of my friends playing little league and senior league baseball. I liked McGwire more than Canseco, resulting in wearing #25 on my jersey and trying to imitate Big Mac's stance at the plate. Jose also talked about that type of situation in his story as well. Canseco mentioned McGwire as the "All-American Boy" that was adored by all and protected by the "powers that be" in major league baseball. All While he, a Cuban player, would never be loved and treated like Mark was.
The Year Of The Long Ball
Canseco also spoke of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa when both were passing Roger Maris' single season record, 61 home runs. Both players ended up passing Maris that season, McGwire was the first to do so and ended the season with 70 home runs. When Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run in St. Louis with the Maris family in the stands, it seemed like a dream while watching it on TV. Mark then went to shake hands with the members of the Maris family that in the stands and the game was put on halt for what seemed to be forever to celebrate the achievement.
The Future Of Baseball
After reading Juiced, it really changed my perspective on steroids in baseball. As of right now my point of view isn't who's doing it, it's who isn't doing it. Jose talked about the congressional hearings, the testing and the lack of effort put forth by the MLB to stop steroids in baseball and honestly, they haven't made much progress since then.
I understand that baseball needed that boost from McGwire and Sosa after the strike in 1994, but at what cost? The home run ball is one of the greatest things to watch when you go out to a ballpark, but I still love the sacrifice fly, the hit and run and stolen bases as well. Players that were genuinely talented still injected steroids or HGH, forcing players less talented to "level the playing field". I don't know what the next step in baseball is going to be, but I am two chapters away from finishing Jose's second book, Vindicated, so we'll be back on the subject again soon.