...how long will that smile last?
surely burned bridges
By MAURY ALLEN
Jose Canseco always seemed huge and dumb when I covered
him as a member of the Bash Brothers, Canseco and Mark McGwire,
with the As and throughout his baseball travels into Yankee
He used to fill up a locker all by himself and loved jousting
with the press. I found him hard to take because his interviews
hardly ever made sense.
There was a fight guy years ago named Blinky Palermo. You couldnt
stop laughing while looking at him. These were in the days before
disabled people were called physically challenged and ethnic
nicknames were the thing.
Canseco would hit 450-foot home runs and we would giggle in the
press box that he blinked all the way home.
He did his blinking recently on 60 Minutes as he
snitched on all his pals by saying he was the steroid minister
of baseball and gave out the names of his flock.
I didnt doubt a word of what he said.
The reason baseballs operators winked if not blinked at
steroids is because they were all in on the joke. Baseball almost
died in 1994 after the World Series was blown and the players
were on strike.
Homes runs by McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and all the rest
saved the game, the same way Babe Ruth saved it from 1920 on
by crashing home runs after the 1919 Black Sox scandal was revealed.
From Commissioner Bud Selig on down, baseball officials reveled
in the new attention these home run hitters were gaining for
the game. The turnstiles were busy, the television fees were
huge and the ball park hot dogs, beer sales and parking fees
Baseball, like all big league sports, is mostly about money.
Thats the dirty little secret. Not the steroids. Not the
illegal drugs the players used and still do. Not the alcohol
consumed by teams on planes, in hotel rooms and private parties.
It is all about making money.
Canseco was a good but not great player. His name alone wouldnt
sell books. His book Juiced is a best seller because
it opens up the gossipy side of steroid use to a non-baseball
Most locker rooms of pro athletes have a sign reading, What
you see here, what you say here and what you hear here stays
here. Sort of like national politics. Keep the press away
and you can march into Iraq, steal a couple of elections and
turn the country over to the rich.
Every so often an insider becomes an outsider. A pitcher named
Jim Brosnan did that with Cincinnati in the 1960s. Jim Bouton
with iconoclastic Ball Four did that in the 1970s.
Ball players drink, chase women and cheat on their wives, Bouton
Bouton was excommunicated from the game and wasnt allowed
back for an old timers game for almost four decades.
Canseco better forget about being welcomed to the Oakland As
He will make some money on the book. As experienced in this area,
he will be shocked to find out he doesnt make as much as
he expects. Publishers are known to hire light fingered Looeys
to do their books.
If Brosnan and Bouton are any examples, after the dust is cleared
and the money is spent, Canseco will miss the thrill of being
introduced before a nostalgic crowd in Oakland or New York.
A year from now he will be forgotten with the next expose and
simply become a footnote to the changing mores of the game and
to American life.
Mickey Mantle, an icon to the end, once told me that the saddest
part of being out of the game was simply missing the bullshitting
in the clubhouse among the players. It is an area no writer no
fan, not even a club executive can understand. It is their eminent
Like Pete Rose, Canseco will never again see the inside of a
big league clubhouse. No former teammate or active player will
pose for pictures with him. When he signs books he will have
to stare down all the purchasers when they ask, Why did
Canseco bragged on 60 Minutes and in his book how
much he knew about steroids and how much it helped him achieve
that athletic success. Ken Caminiti was an MVP and drug abuser.
He is dead at the present time.
Dont make book on Canseco spending his senior citizenry
in a retirement home.
Baseball is finally moving on the steroid question about a dozen
years later than it should. Guys will still use steroids, still
cheat, still beat the drug testing. Some people never learn and
If we did, no one in America would light up a cigarette, overdose
on booze, stuff themselves with fast food or drive a car without
a seat belt.
Canseco will make a splash for a few weeks and then the games
will begin. Fans will turn their attention to Pedro Martinez
as a Met, Randy Johnson as a Yankee and bulky Barry Bonds as
a record breaker.
Willie Shakespeare said, The plays the thing."
I can only add that for most people, The games the
Jose "Blinky" Canseco cant change that. Steroids
or not, alcohol or not, womanizing or not, the Red Sox will be
defending a World Series title in 2005.
I want to know how that turns out more than I want to know who
does or doesnt use steroids.
©2005 by Maury Allen. This column first posted Feb. 21,
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