OAKLAND (AP) — Jose Canseco was nervous and scared about showing up to the reunion for the 1989 World Series champion Oakland Athletics this weekend.
Until Friday, Canseco had not been back to the Coliseum since his playing days ended and he wrote his infamous book that alleged rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout baseball. He had no idea how his former teammates, coaches and fans would receive him — or if they would receive him at all.
“I’m kind of putting myself out there in the most vulnerable state possible,” said the 50-year-old Canseco, who was still looking big and buff in his white A’s jersey.
After meeting some of his former teammates at the ballpark, the slugger sported a smile of relief. He said he was pleased to get a positive reception from most of them, and many said it was great to see Canseco again.
But the one person Canseco most wanted to see, Mark McGwire, couldn’t attend. Canseco’s former “Bash Brother” is now the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were playing at St. Louis.
Canseco reiterated that he regrets writing the book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big,” which most notably accused McGwire of using performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire has since admitted to using them.
“Mark, to me, when I played with him, I looked up to him,” Canseco said. “I idolized him for a lot of reasons — the guy was on the field, he was off the field. It haunts me till this day that I said those things about him, even though obviously they were true. I could have gone about it a different way and gotten my point across.”
Neither Canseco nor McGwire attended the team’s 20-year anniversary, and Canseco said he has had no contact with McGwire since the book came out in 2005.
“I regret writing the book for sure,” Canseco said. “I battled and fought with the thought of, ‘I wish I never used chemicals or steroids.’ But I don’t see how back then when I was only 19, 20 years old, I didn’t really know the situation. There was no testing, no rules about it, no one really knew much about it. Teams and organizations and coaches never said, ‘Don’t use PEDs.’ So obviously, I wish I never encountered that or encountered the individual that said, ‘You want to become bigger, faster, stronger? Use these chemicals.’”
Former A’s pitcher Dennis Eckersley said he had spoken with Canseco at some card shows since the book surfaced. He said he holds no hard feelings toward Canseco — but he also acknowledged that nothing negative was alleged against him in the book — and believes most of his teammates feel the same way.
“I mean, come on, man. It’s been a long time. Time heals everything,” Eckersley said. “I don’t know if it’s even a forgiveness thing. Just understand, understand people and accept people. I’ll tell you, I’ve said things. I just haven’t said it in a book.”
Former A’s pitcher Dave Stewart agreed.
“I’m glad to see him. It’s been years since I’ve seen him,” Stewart said. “He was a big part of all the things we were doing back in the day. Whatever took place back then, as far as the team is concerned, we were always in position to win. And he was a big, big piece of that. I’m glad he’s here. And as I look back on it, I’m glad that I had an opportunity to play with him.”
Despite the initial awkwardness with some of his former teammates, Canseco said he was looking forward to reliving the “old days” with them.
The A’s swept the San Francisco Giants in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series. The A’s will honor the team on the field before Saturday’s game against Baltimore.
“I’ll always remember the Oakland A’s,” Canseco said, “as being my family.”