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Posts Tagged ‘Jose Canseco’

I don’t know how many people remember 1-900-234-JOSE, but it’s obvious now that Jose Canseco was probably the first pioneer in the effort by pro sports players to forget the media and talk directly to fans with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. The difference is that Canseco actually made money from his communications: it cost $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter to hear Jose talk, and you got daily updates from Canseco. It’s as though somewhere deep inside he knew he’d need the extra income someday.The hotline started about a month before the Loma Prieta quake. On September 21, 1989, the S.F. Chronicle reported:

Jeff Borris, Canseco’s Beverly Hills agent, said public response has been “overwhelming” since Monday, when the Oakland A’s star started filing daily reports on a 900 number. Callers pay $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter.
Yesterday, fans learned what kind of pitch Canseco hit in the first inning of Monday night’s game (a curve ball down and away that he lined past the third baseman) and what he had for lunch (Italian food at the mall). They also learned that their hero feared for his safety when a bat – the live version – circled above him in the outfield in Cleveland and that he faced the prospect of going hungry because there was no room service in his hotel after 10 p.m.
It was “basically kind of a boring game,” he mentions twice in the recorded message, even though the A’s won in extra innings. The pennant race notwithstanding, it also was a “boring” day on the road with a first-place team, Canseco says in a recorded five-minute message.
Borris said Canseco is the first sports figure to make a personalized phone message work to his financial gain, although he did not want to talk about how much the slugger stands to make.
“The telephone company says they’ve never seen a 900 number with the “hang time’ Jose is getting,” Borris said. “Most of the callers are on for five minutes or longer.”
Frustrated by baseball writers who refuse to see and write the truth as he sees it, Canseco decided that the 900 number was the best way to speak directly to the fans.
“How it originally came out was, the media stuff was happening with the speeding and the guns, and people weren’t getting the story from the horse’s mouth,” Canseco said. “I just wanted to tell my side of the story.”

He put out ads on ESPN, MTV and USA, leaning against his white Porsche 930 Cabriolet turbo on the track of the Malibu Grand Prix next to the Oakland Coliseum and saying: “Hi, I’m Jose Canseco. I want to speak to you, so call 1-900-234-JOSE . . . I’ll give you the latest scoop on baseball and what’s happening in my personal life. If you want to know if I take steroids, how fast I drive, or why I was carrying that gun, call me at 1-900-234-JOSE.”

Here’s what he had to say about a day in Cleveland: “It was boring, I guess, because there were only about 400 fans (actually 5,931) in the stands, sort of like one of those Triple A (minor league) games where no one shows up. I like it when there are 40,000 or more. The most exciting thing for me was, I looked up once and saw a bat that must have been three or four feet long flying over my head. I kept looking up because I thought it might come down and bite me on the neck.
“My personal life was kind of boring. I woke up late again – like I say, I like to sleep late – and went to a mall with my friend and ate Italian food. Then I came back and watched TV for a while. It was one of those boring days.
“But I guess the worst thing is happening now. This hotel where I’m staying doesn’t have room service after 10 p.m., and I could starve to death. I guess I’ll call out for a pizza.”

A lot of people made fun of Canseco for his 1-900 number, so it’s interesting to take a look at what ballplayers are putting out on Twitter now for comparison’s sake. Here are a few recent tweets from Barry Zito:
“Sitting on the plane about to fly to Seattle. We’ll be turning it around up North..”
“The bay area’s weather is more perfect than SoCal right now, call your friends and gloat.”
“I mean, we’ve heard all the theories but what’s really the cure to a hangover? Some say grease, I say B vitamins.”

And here’s Tony La Russa’s response to 1-900-234-JOSE: “I saw the commercial when we were in Boston, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I once heard him say he was going to be very careful about the types of commercials and endorsements he does. In my opinion, I wouldn’t have done this.”

Canseco also tried to sell his dirty socks at about this time.

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It was a sign of the escalation of the baseball card and memorabilia bubble in early September 1989 when the San Francisco Chronicle sent Steve Rubinstein to the All-American Sports Memorabilia Show at the Moscone Center and he came back with this report:
A pair of dirty socks was selling for $150 in San Francisco last weekend.

Not just anyone’s dirty socks, but baseball star Jose Canseco’s dirty socks.

“They come with a certificate of authenticity,” said salesman Curt Wenzleff. “They haven’t been washed. They are just the way they were after Jose took them off in the locker room.”

Dirty socks are the latest item to be offered up as memorabilia. Most of the items at the show were more mundane fare – baseball cards, balls and bats – although an autographed bottle of Ted Williams brand root beer was fetching $75 and a dirty batting glove worn by Reggie Jackson was on the block for $150.

Wenzleff said he had considered washing the green-and-yellow socks before placing them on the market but decided it was too risky and might decrease their value.

At the far end of the giant hall, baseball players were greeting their fans and signing autographs, cash up front.

Nineteen players sat at tables, felt-tip pens in hand. You buy a ticket for the player of your choice and stand in line.

Baseball is as American as the free market system. Reggie Jackson and Jose Canseco each charge $15 to sign their names. Will Clark, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson and Steve Carlton are $10 apiece. Orlando Cepeda is only $5.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the man at the microphone, “may I remind you that Rickey Henderson must leave soon. In a few years he is going to be in the Hall of Fame, and the value of his autograph is sure to rise! And Roger Clemens, a future Hall of Famer for sure – there’s an autograph that can only increase in value!”

Kids wandered around, pockets full of tens and twenties. On everyone’s mind was the Pete Rose scandal, and its effect on the game.

“It’s real bad,” said Grant Hower, a 12-year-old fan from Larkspur. “I’ve got two Rose autographs. Now that he’s kicked out of baseball, they might be worth a lot less. I sure hope not.”

I wandered back to the booth with Canseco’s socks, to see if anyone had snapped them up. They were still available. Perhaps, I told Wenzleff, no one believed they were authentic. Wenzleff suggested I give them a sniff.

I sniffed. They were the real thing, all right.

It was a rare opportunity for a shrewd buyer, Wenzleff said. Only four pairs of Canseco’s dirty socks were on the market. Canseco is making no more of them available. When they’re gone, that’s it.

No, Wenzleff said, there is nothing odd about selling dirty socks, considering that he once sold Canseco’s dirty jockstrap. He wouldn’t say how much it fetched but he did reveal that it went to a misty-eyed woman who was very pleased to have it.

“Look,” the sock man said, “we couldn’t sell this stuff if people didn’t buy it. Someday, some player is going to come up with a limited edition autographed snot rag, and you know what? A fan will pay $100 for it, easy.”

Canseco also started his own 1-900 number late in the ’89 season.

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The ’89 A’s were the least powerful team of the A’s dynasty, and the injury to Canseco’s wrist that kept him out for the first half of the season was much of the reason why. On March 8, David Bush of the Chronicle described Jim Abbott’s spring debut and the last at-bat Canseco had before the wrist troubles emerged:

“The atmosphere at Phoenix Municipal Stadium yesterday more closely resembled that of a World Series game than the A’s fifth exhibition game of the spring.

The game’s 90-degree weather and the intimacy of the ballpark were springlike enough, but a throng of national media on the field before the California Angels whipped the A’s, 9-4, was worthy of the postseason.

The reason for all the attention was Jim Abbott, the Angels’ remarkable rookie pitcher who was born without a right hand.

Abbott, the Angels’ first-round draft choice last June out of the University of Michigan and a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, came on in the fourth inning and left in the sixth, giving up one run that wasn’t his fault and earning the victory.

Abbott had walked two hitters and had two outs when Canseco came to the plate. On the 1-2 pitch, Abbott dipped an inside slider onto Canseco’s fists and the A.L. MVP waved at it.

“I knew I had a base open but I didn’t want to give into him,” said Abbott. “It was a thrill to face Jose Canseco. That’s what this game is all about. I know it is early in spring training, but for me that was a pressure situation.”

“He’s legit. He’s got a good fastball and above average slider,” said Canseco. “I am just trying to concentrate on the ball. It (Abbott’s handicap) had nothing to do with my at-bat.”

On March 23, Bush reported: “It took two weeks to get Jose Canseco into the lineup and just two swings to remove him.

The A’s right fielder, making his first start since March 7, felt more pain in his tender left wrist and left yesterday’s game against the Giants in the first inning.

San Francisco eventually won the game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, 6-4, in 11 innings.

Canseco has felt pain in the wrist since the beginning of spring training. After striking out against the Angels’ Jim Abbott on March 7, Canseco’s duty has been limited. The A’s said the idleness was merely a precaution, and once the pain disappeared completely, Canseco would have sufficient time to prepare for the regular season.

With 11 days remaining until the opener, time is running out and Canseco has batted just nine times in spring-training games.

“Even though I haven’t played very much I saw the ball well today,” said Canseco. “But I do need to be in games and face some live pitching to get my timing back.”

Canseco took part in a simulated game on Tuesday, and said afterward that his wrist was a little stiff but that he would be able to play yesterday.

But when fouling off pitcher Dennis Cook’s second pitch on a check-swing, Canseco said he felt sharp pain in his wrist. “It hurt, but I thought I could play through it.”

After taking the next pitch for a ball, Canseco swung and missed at a high fastball. At that point he walked away from the plate and into the clubhouse. “On the second one the pain was even worse, and I told the bench that I should come out,” said Canseco.

His wrist wrapped in ice, Canseco said the pain was worse than it had been all spring. “It doesn’t hurt when I move it up and down, but it does when I move it sideways, which is the motion you use to hit.”

Canseco said he has had no previous problems with his wrist. His twin brother, Ozzie, broke the hamate bone in his left wrist early this spring.

“It’s just coincidence,” said Canseco, who paused, rolled his eyes skyward and said, “but then again, you never know.” Canseco seemed hardly distraught with his ill fortune. “I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “If I get frustrated and angry, that might only make it worse.”

In mid-July, Canseco finally came back, in an 11-7 win over the Blue Jays in SkyDome, in the teams’ first game following the All-Star break. He hit a home run and a single, driving in three runs and stealing a base.

Canseco had missed the A’s first 88 games of the season, and his return overshadow the equally anticipated return of reliever Dennis Eckersley, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his first appearance since May 27. Canseco’s third RBI of the game, coming on a ninth-inning single, increased the A’s lead to four runs and deprived Eckersley of a chance for a save.

Jose, after the game: “I was a little nervous, and I just tried to keep it simple,” agreed Canseco, whose rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Huntsville (Ala.) produced an undistinguished record of four hits in 23 at-bats. “”I didn’t do that well in the minor leagues, so I just brainwashed myself into thinking I had been hitting. Then it seemed like yesterday that I was hitting line drives.”

Meanwhile, Eckersley said of his return: “I felt all right. I’m glad it wasn’t a one-run game, because you don’t know how you are going to do.

“It is hard to be confident if you haven’t done it in a long time. I thought I was so-so. One pitch would be good, and the next not so good. But as long as it doesn’t hurt, I will be all right.”

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This cover of a book Jose Canseco and Dave McKay put together after the ’89 season had ended, talking about Strength Training for Baseball:

p1030148

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This is a bit of a departure from this blog’s strict focus on the 1989 season, but I happened to come across a game account for Tony La Russa’s first game with the A’s on July 7 of 1986, in which Dave Stewart, making his first A’s start, picked up his first win since September of 1984 by beating Roger Clemens in Boston. It seemed relevant since Stewart and La Russa are so integral to the 1989 A’s, so here’s some lines from the account, by Bruce Jenkins of the S.F. Chronicle: “Canseco and Kingman put on a batting-practice display that bordered on the surreal. Kingman hit one monstrous drive after another, way over the left-field wall. Canseco preferred the distant bleachers in center field, routinely rocketing 450-foot shots toward a wildly appreciative group of fans.”

Also before the game, La Russa said: “If I’m boring, I apologize. It’s just that I can’t get my mind off this game. I’ll be the same way later – thinking about tomorrow.”

And, in the sixth inning, with the A’s and Stewart already up 3-1, and Lansford on first: “Clemens tried a slider on the first pitch, and Canseco drilled it into the left-field screen for his 20th homer of the year. Then came Kingman, hacking a head-high fastball into the night – just like batting practice – and the A’s had a 6-1 lead.”

Second baseman Tony Phillips also “made two sensational plays, diving to his left to rob Boggs (fifth inning) and racing far into center field to snare a blooper by Don Baylor (sixth).”
Phillips gave this quote: “Hey, I’ve got to show that man I can play. If I don’t produce, he won’t stay with me too long. I’ve got to prove I should stay in the lineup.”

Stewart pitched six innings plus and gave up three runs for the win before leaving, then a guy named Dave Von Ohlen, in his first appearance for the A’s, came in with runners on first and second, no one out, in the seventh. He gave up an inherited run, then Bill Buckner bunted, and Jerry Willard sprang out to pick up the ball and threw to third to start a double play. Ohlen left and a guy named Doug Bair came on to get the save with seven straight outs.

Afterward, Canseco, who was boasting even as a rookie, said about Fenway: “I think I’d hit 50 homers a year if I played here. That’s how much I like it.”

Lansford said: “It just felt like we finally had the right guy (manager) on the bench. A guy with experience and a proven record. Tony La Russa just exudes confidence – and you play like your manager acts.”

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