Jose Canseco remembers Oct. 17, 1989, vividly. The Oakland A's powerhouse was running sprints at Candlestick Park, just 30 minutes before Game 3 in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
“I suffered from migraines, so I remember running toward the outfield and suddenly feeling a little bit nauseous,” he told SF Weekly. I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, this can't be happening now — getting a migraine before one of the games in the World Series.” I turned around and looked up and could see the lights waving back and forth like 15 to 20 feet either way. I thought, “What kind of a migraine is this where I'm hallucinating?” Then you hear a huge earthquake hit, so it made sense that the ground was moving under me, and that's why I was feeling out of balance, and the lights were shaking in the aftermath.”
[jump] As earth-shattering as this experience was, Canseco, who'd go on to win the World Series with the Oakland A's that year, wasn't thrown off or out of his game till 2005 when he released his tell tell-all book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, in which he opened up about his own performance-enhancing drug (PED) use and widespread steroid use among his teammates.
Today, a Major League Baseball outcast, Canseco hopes to start rebuilding his reputation with a new, award-winning documentary: Jose Canseco: The Truth Hurts, which premieres to the public on June 26 in Concord. The baseball legend spoke to SF Weekly about the film, the professional milestones he's most proud of, and why he should be allowed back into the MLB.
You'd already written two tell-all books about your experience in baseball: Juiced (2005) and Vindicated (2008). What did you hope to accomplish with this documentary?
I think that there are a lot of questions that have not been answered. I think that a lot of people want to know exactly what happened in that era and want the details. Who better to tell the story than myself, the individual who was involved in it? This documentary explains the intricate details of how the game was run back then, how the players were, what they were using, and what the industry was about. I think if we convert it into a film, we can really go in detail and dissect how that happened. What you're going to see in the documentary is exactly what happened without modification, without changing names or entities, and without exaggeration.
One of the claims you made in the film was how you were instrumental in making baseball popular again. Can you elaborate on this?
Being part of the PED or chemical era, however you want to put it, I think when baseball went through that last strike that they went through, they had lost upwards of 25 percent of the fanfare. Really, the two individuals who had brought back baseball at the time were Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They kind of united baseball in the sense that they both ended up breaking Roger Maris's home run record in the same year. But Mark McGwire actually broke the Roger Maris record first. So even people that weren't into baseball or into sports were watching this race. You had an all-American and then a Hispanic going after his record, which brought together all kinds of races and creeds and people from other sports watching this home run record. That brought back a lot of notoriety and fanfare to baseball to where next year there were actually records being broken in attendance.
You have a lot of professional milestones, yourself. You're the 1986 American League Rookie of the Year, a two-time World Series Champion, a 6× All-Star, AL MVP, a 4× Silver Slugger, 2× MLB home run leader, and MLB RBI leader. You're also part of the 40-40 club. You rank 4th in A's history with 254 home runs and are one of 11 in MLB history with 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases. Is there one honor that means most to you?
Baseball-wise, I think doing the 40-40. Coming to spring training one year, when no one had ever done the 40-40 and saying I was going to do the 40-40, and all the media basically laughed at me, because it had never been done before. And that's a whole lot of pressure to say something that had never been done and trying to accomplish it in the game of baseball and actually accomplishing it. So once I did, I was ranked probably the best player in the world. And after accomplishing that goal, winning the World Series in '89.
With all those accomplishments, you have still not been granted admission into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Should an athlete caught using steroids be granted entry into the Hall of Fame?
As there is right now, there are players who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and ones who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame shortly that were using PEDs, and Major League Baseball knows about it. So you can't be hypocrites. You either don't let any players that qualify as members who used PEDS or are suspected of using PEDs into the Hall of Fame or you admit all. So that's how you have to look at it.
The Truth Hurts title suggests that the truth that you spoke both hurt the players that you outed, but also ended up hurting you since you're now ostracized from Major League Baseball. What's the incentive then for you or others to keep speaking it?
Wow. I guess it depends on the way you were brought up. It depends on if you want to tell your story in its entirety, then you have to tell your truth. You have to not hide anything from certain stories. Of course, I have no affiliation with Major League Baseball, so I'm one of the few individuals that have played a sport that can really tell a story of how it happened without modifying or changing it. This is really the true story of what happened in my life and Major League Baseball.
You outed Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Iván Rodríguez, and Juan González for steroid use. Have you made amends with any of these players?
No, no one in MLB will deal with me or speak with me. Of course, I would love to be a major league coach at any point and time, because I have the experience and the knowledge and I've accomplished so much in the game. I could also teach young kids where all the landmines are and how to avoid them. But no, since the book, I have no affiliation with MLB at all.
One celebrity that you were linked to in the '90s, but you only gloss over in the film is Madonna. What was the nature of your relationship?
It was scary. I was a very young kid. I visited her a couple times and she did propose marriage and being with her and having children, and so forth. I was a big fan of hers, but it just didn't work out.
Recent news reports warn of more PED suspensions. Would you say that blowing the lid off steroid use has had an impact? Or are players still using steroids rampantly?
I think the book definitely pushed Congress into having some meetings and trying to dig into what's really happening in sports. I think basically the book instigated everything in a sense of cleaning up the game properly.
Do you think any Giants or Athletics players will appear at the Concord screening?
I have no idea, but that would be interesting to see.
What are you doing today outside of promoting the movie?
I stay really active. I am active in charity events. I like to play poker, bowling, and golf. I work out all the time, do home run competitions, softball, and baseball. Basically, I'm trying not to age too fast. I turn 52 in July. I spend time with my daughter and friends and so forth and just try to have fun.