OAKLAND –- It was no surprise to see Jose Canseco swarmed by reporters and photographers Friday during a media session involving members of the A’s 1989 World Series team.
More unknown was how Canseco would be accepted by his former teammates for this weekend’s 25th anniversary celebration of that club. Canseco didn’t exactly make a lot of friends for naming names in his 2005 book “Juiced,” which exposed a number of players as alleged steroid users, including former Athletics Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi.
The early indication is that the former Bash Brother is being welcomed like anyone else, at least judging from the comments shared Friday.
“Without a doubt, he is a part of this family,” said former pitcher Dave Stewart, the MVP of the ’89 Series. “Who would I be to look down on Jose and not accept him if he's asking for forgiveness?”
And a theme that ran through Canseco’s comments Friday was regret.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m pretty disappointed in myself for writing that book,” Canseco said. “And I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it. It’ll always be something that I deeply regret doing. And believe me, I’ve had my share of nightmares because of it, and continue to have nightmares because of it.
“I hurt a lot of people. But when you really look at it, the fact of the matter is I hurt myself the most. These were my teammates. We could confide in each other.”
Canseco said he received death threats after writing “Juiced” (he came out with a follow-up book in 2008, “Vindicated”, which also was centered around steroids). He said his daughter got harrassed in school, with teachers holding up Canseco as an example of what not to do, even in his daughter’s presence.
After Canseco’s first book came out, more and more major league players were linked to steroids after the release of the Mitchell Report, which seemed to boost Canseco’s credibility to a degree. But he says he regrets the effect his books might have on some who are being held out of Cooperstown.
“(A lot) of these people who I mentioned in the book belong in the Hall of Fame,” Canseco said. “I’m very worried about the way they are trying to hold these players out of the Hall of Fame. It’s almost saying that an individual who used a PED, that that PED made them a superstar athlete. That’s so incorrect.”
Canseco may have been a main attraction Friday, but this weekend is centered on a 1989 team that many feel didn’t get the recognition it deserved. The A’s swept the Giants in four games -– the last World Series title Oakland has won -– but the storyline of that series centers on the Loma Prieta earthquake, which struck right before Game 3.
Still, the Canseco angle couldn’t be ignored Friday after the former slugger found himself in the same room with many of his old teammates for the first time in years.
“It’s been a long time,” Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley said. “Time heals all wounds. I don’t know if it’s even forgiveness (Canseco needs). You have to understand people, accept people. I'll tell you what, I’ve said (regretful) things. I just haven’t said it in a book.
“If he had attacked me, it’d be a different story. It’s not for me to say. Talk to Mac. But part of me is glad (the book) happened, because I like people being exposed (for wrongdoing).”
McGwire, the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is not attending the reunion weekend. But McGwire eventually admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his career. So did Giambi.
Canseco has no idea what kind of reception to expect from the Coliseum crowd Saturday night, when the ’89 team is honored in a pregame ceremony. Former A’s infielder Tony Phillips is one person who’s glad Canseco will be here to experience it.
“I love Canseco,” Phillips exclaimed. “Without Canseco, I wouldn’t have been a world champ! I texted him, ‘Are you coming to Oakland? Bring your (butt) on here.”