Jose Canseco brings his act, latest controversy to Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas — Jose Canseco, the disgraced former baseball star and admitted steroid user, still is trying to remain with the game that made him famous. But he’s still haunted by the behavior that made him infamous.


It was never more apparent than on Thursday, when he preceded an appearance with an independent minor-league team by denying sexual assault allegations that arose this week.


“You guy have to realize one thing: I don’t have to rape a woman,” said Canseco, who tweeted another picture of his accuser, who he has called out by name all week, just three hours before he took batting practice. “I think it’s ridiculous. We’re putting together polygraph examinations and trust in me, the truth will always come out. And when I do these polygraphs, it’s almost laughable for an individual to say I raped them and drugged them at the same time.”
    
Canseco, now 48, has a much different role in baseball than he did when he was hitting tape-measure home runs as a member of Oakland’s famed Bash Brothers and the AL MVP.
    
Now Canseco is much like the San Diego Chicken or Max Patkin were, a sideshow draw. That show took Canseco to Fort Worth, where he began an eight-game stint as a player-coach for the Fort Worth Cats in the independent United League.
    
Canseco, wearing the familiar No. 33 and batting third as the designated hitter, still has the bulking 6-foot-4 frame. He also still speaks with the same candor, addressing everything from his role in cleaning up Major League Baseball, being blackballed by the league, and the assault allegations.
     
Having his name dragged into the news is nothing new for Canseco, whose baseball career was marked by everything from a World Series win to dating Madonna. But since the release of his 2005 book “Juiced”, in which Canseco talked about the widespread use of steroids in baseball, he said he’s been blackballed by the majors.
    
That’s led to him taking gigs like the one in Fort Worth, where he’ll make a prorated portion of the $2,000 a month a veteran in the league makes. That’s a far cry from Canseco’s biggest payday of his big-league career: a five year, $23.5-million deal.
    
But he’s still playing.
    
“Because I’m crazy,” Canseco said. “Don’t you guys know that by now? If you guys by now don’t know I love the game of baseball, you should know that by now. I will not let it go. I love the game. As long as I can play the game in any way, shape or form, I’m going to play. It’s that simple.”
    
Canseco hasn’t played in more than a year and didn’t pick up a bat until batting practice before Thursday’s game at the old minor-league park of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He’s still a draw, too. Fans showed up for batting practice and autographs and the park was more than half full by the time Canseco took his first at-bat in the bottom of the first inning, striking out after a he drove a foul deep down the left field line.
    
While Canseco said he regretted taking steroids, he had no regrets about writing his tell-all book. He sees himself as responsible for cleaning up the game.
    
The way he’s been treated since then has taken some of the luster off his 17-year-career that included stints with the Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays and White Sox.
    
“Sad because I’m just an outsider to them even though I thought I did a lot for the game, I cleaned it up completely, and guys, it’s real simple: Back then before I wrote that book, all they had to say to me was, ‘Jose, help us clean up the game,'” said Canseco, who has 462 career homers.


“I could’ve cleaned up the game in three months by myself because I’m the one who basically educated everybody and became successful in using steroids in the point in time. I would’ve gone to every club and said, ‘Guys, it’s over. Stop it right now. That’s it, we know what we’re talking about, it’s got to end.’


“I could’ve cleaned the game by myself but Major League Baseball decided to do what? Use me as an example and get me out of the game to send a direct message to the players. When that happened, when I couldn’t get a job at 36, players were coming up to me saying ‘Jose, you’re being blackballed, watch out.’ The (Rafael) Palmeiros, the Alex Rodriguezes, the Alex Fernandezes were telling me this.”
    
Canseco said he has no contact with anyone in the majors anymore. He said he participated in an open tryout with the Dodgers in which he excelled only to have Tommy Lasorda end that bid by saying he was out of shape. Canseco said he made a team in Mexico but lost that job because the league was associated with the majors.
    
So now Canseco is a barnstormer. He’s still remarkably fit. He said he does no drugs but is heavy into nutrition, working out and avoiding alcohol. Once his stint with the Cats is done, he’s going to Curacao to talk to children about the importance of sports nutrition.
    
He’s also getting to spend a little time with family. His twin brother, Ozzie, manages the Edinburg team that the Cats played Thursday night. Ozzie’s sympathetic towards his brother and happy to see him back in baseball, even if it’s as more of a carnival act than baseball attraction.
    
“Everyone can have their own opinion,” Ozzie Canseco said. “They can look at it as a circus. Just come out and watch the circus and have a good time. It’s entertainment. It’s all entertainment. That’s really what it is. You can call it baseball. You can call it a circus, whatever you like.”
    
Jose made it clear he just wants to play. He hasn’t played major league baseball since 2001, when he hit 16 home runs for the White Sox. He said he thought he could have played 10 more years. He was a little disappointed he found out about the Cats deal so late because he would have liked to have been involved in the team’s spring training.
    
But by first pitch Thursday, Canseco was content.
    
“What is there not to love about baseball – the grass, the dirt, the diamond, the mound, the outfield, the scoreboard, hitting home runs, the fans, the whole thing,” Canseco said. “What is there not to love about the game?”