SI Vault
 
Tall Tales
Edited by Mark Bechtel
February 06, 2006
Don't tell Oprah, but James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) isn't the first author to play fast and loose with the facts in a memoir. Here are a few from the sports world who have put the fiction into nonfiction.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 06, 2006

Tall Tales

View CoverRead All Articles

Don't tell Oprah, but James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) isn't the first author to play fast and loose with the facts in a memoir. Here are a few from the sports world who have put the fiction into nonfiction.

Jose Canseco, Juiced (2005).
The story: Canseco named names, writing that he "often" injected Mark McGwire with steroids and that he talked with Bret Boone at second base about the juice after Canseco doubled in a 2001 spring training game. He also told tales of a mammoth homer off Walt Terrell at Tiger Stadium as a rookie and a strikeout in Game 6 of the 2000 World Series.
The real story: Canseco never doubled against Boone's Mariners that spring, he didn't homer off Terrell--or anyone--in Detroit as a rookie and the 2000 World Series only went five games. When pressed on 60 Minutes about McGwire, Canseco backtracked, saying he injected Mac "once or twice."

David Wells, Perfect I'm Not (2003).
The story: Threw a 1998 perfect game while "half-drunk" from a Saturday Night Live wrap party the night before.
The real story: After David Cone, who was with him on the night in question, said Wells "maybe had a few drinks," Wells fessed up: "I wasn't drunk. I took some aspirin and had a headache the next day."

Shaquille O'Neal, Shaq Talks Back (2001).
The story: The Big Aristotle claimed he came up with the idea for the Taco Bell Chihuahua.
The real story: A federal jury ruled that two Michigan men (who sued Taco Bell) pitched the pup.

Wilt Chamberlain, A View from Above (1991).
The story: Wilt said he'd shagged 20,000 women.
The real story: After Chamberlain's death, his lawyer, presaging Frey on Oprah last Thursday, said that his client had exaggerated and "was trying to say that it was better to be with one woman 1,000 times than to be with 1,000 women one time."

Charles Barkley, Outrageous (1991).
The story: The author had unkind words for several teammates.
The real story: Barkley swore they weren't his. Said teammate Hersey Hawkins, "I don't know how you can be misquoted in your own autobiography."

Pete Rose, My Story (1989).
The story: Page 238: "I never bet on baseball. Never."
The real story: My Prison Without Bars (2004), page 316: "Yes sir, I did bet on baseball."

Larry King, When You're from Brooklyn, Everything Else Is Tokyo (1992).
The story: A long one, involving a car trip to New Haven with Sandy Koufax in search of cheap ice cream when they were teens in Brooklyn.
The real story: When Koufax said he didn't know King from the neighborhood and had never in his life been to New Haven, King responded, "What makes Sandy's memory perfect?" Then he conceded, "I'm embarrassed."

1