Mercer baseball head coach Craig Gibson has never shied away from bringing in big-name players who had off field issues for the Bears’ annual First Pitch Classic, and this year is no exception.
Pete Rose, Darryl Strawberry and Roger Clemens all have been featured speakers for the event. Talent-wise, all should be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it is questionable if any of trio will make it. If you are a baseball fan at all, you know about Rose’s gambling problems, Strawberry’s issues with drugs and alcohol and Clemens’ involvement with steroids.
Jose Canseco, one of Oakland’s “Bash Brothers” will make an appearance at the First Pitch Classic on Feb. 7 at Hawkins Arena at Mercer. The Cuban-born Canseco was one of the poster boys for performance enhancing drugs during his career, and unlike many others from that era, he has admitted it. In his 2005 tell-all book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big,” he claimed that the majority of major league players used steroids when he was playing.
And he called names, mentioning former teammates Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Giambi and saying that he injected all of them. Interestingly, Rodriguez was just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week.
Due to his use of anabolic steroids, Cansceco’s accomplishments between the lines are somewhat discounted or not considered at all, but there is no question he was a talent. Even though he didn’t play varsity baseball until his senior year in high school he was a 15th-round draft choice of the Oakland A’s out of Miami Coral High School in 1982.
He spent four years in the minors and was named minor league player of the year in 1985 before being called up to the A’s big league team at the end of the season. In 1986, he was named the AL Rookie of the year after hitting 33 home runs with 117 RBI. In 1988, Canseco became the first major leaguer to hit 40 home runs and have 40 stolen bases. He was the AL MVP that season after hitting .307, with 120 runs scored, 124 RBI, 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
In 1987, Canseco was joined in the Oakland lineup by McGwire, and they became known as the “Bash Brothers” and led the A’s to a World Series title in 1989, sweeping San Francisco in four games. Despite missing 97 games that season with a broken wrist, Canseco hit .357 with a home run in the World Series.
During his Oakland career, which ran from 1985 to 1992, he averaged 32 home runs per year, had five 100-plus RBI seasons, claimed two home run titles, won three silver slugger awards and was selected to five All-Star games. After being traded to the Texas Rangers in 1992, he played in the big leagues until 2001 with the Rangers, Boston, Oakland again, Toronto, Tampa Bay, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.
Canseco ended his career with a .266 career batting average, 462 home runs and 1,407 RBI.
Since his retirement from baseball, he has been a guest on numerous television programs and has had a couple of promoted boxing matches. He has also been involved in numerous legal controversies.
All of his life experiences should provide plenty of material for an entertaining speech Feb. 7. Tickets for the First Pitch Classic can be obtained by calling Ian Humphrey at 301-2738 in the Mercer baseball office or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com