The most riveting testimony, though, came from Palmeiro and McGwire. Palmeiro, on the cusp of accomplishing the rare double of 500 career home runs and 3,000 hits, couldn't have been more emphatic in his denial of Canseco's claim that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. "I have never used steroids, period," Palmeiro said, and then came what would soon be the most infamous finger-pointing since Clinton claimed he "did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Canseco, sitting at the other end of the table, says his jaw dropped. "I thought, What is he doing?" Canseco says. "This is Congress. You're under oath. If they catch you, you're going to jail. Don't do that, Raffy."
McGwire, on the other hand, looked guilty from the start. In his tearful, quavering opening statement he came off like a miserable schoolboy tormented by his conscience. He didn't rebut Canseco, and he held off any questions about past steroid use with his weak stand-in for the Fifth Amendment, "I'm not here to talk about the past." For those who had seen him the day before, it was no shock: When McGwire and his lawyers met with Davis, Waxman and committee staffers on March 16, he seemed, according to one observer, "in agony." According to Davis and Waxman, McGwire wanted blanket immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, a deal Congress cannot grant without Department of Justice approval. Waxman walked away from the meeting with the impression that McGwire had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Davis came out of it with an even more detailed read.
" McGwire wanted to tell a story," Davis says. "But it's a five-year statute of limitations for steroid use, and he'd been retired four years. You put everything at risk [here]. You've got the BALCO [case] in San Francisco; he played there [with the Oakland A's]. So he was very reluctant to do it without any kind of immunity. He was willing to sit up there and tell everything."
Told of Davis's comments, McGwire's lawyer, Mark Bierbower, declined to comment. McGwire also declined. During his testimony the former home run king volunteered to serve as baseball's spokesman against steroid use, but he hasn't spoken on the issue since. "I think when his five years are up, it may be a different situation," Davis says. "That's what he indicated to us. If this had been a year later, it would've been a different hearing."
Palmeiro also volunteered to "heed the call" and join the committee's antisteroids task force. He was accepted on the spot. On July 7 he took part, by teleconference, in the task force's 90-minute meeting, and on July 15 he doubled to left for his 3,000th hit--on both occasions neglecting to mention that, on May 4, he had tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, a finding he had learned about two weeks later. On Aug. 1, after Palmeiro had exhausted the appeals process, baseball announced his 10-day suspension for violating the sport's drug policy. The clip of Palmeiro pointing his finger was suddenly everywhere: The Steroids Era, likely to end up as notorious as the Black Sox gambling scandal of 1919, now had its "Say it ain't so, Joe" moment.
By then six months had passed since the publication of Juiced. Canseco had been roundly criticized for the book's errors and undocumented allegations. Yet no one he named as a steroid user had sued him. Meanwhile, Palmeiro's explanation of how the drug got into his body--from a B-12 shot given to him by Tejada--conformed to details in Canseco's book. Canseco wrote that he gave Tejada "advice" about steroids. ( Tejada has denied having taken steroids.) Stanozolol, also known as Winstrol, was one of the drugs Canseco claimed to have injected into Palmeiro when they were teammates with the Texas Rangers. Players, Canseco claimed, jokingly referred to their fixes as "B-12 shots."
That kind of connect-the-dots exercise remains the only route to something approaching the truth about steroids and baseball. On Nov. 10 the House committee decided not to bring a perjury complaint against Palmeiro. That he had ingested stanozolol was not in question; what couldn't be proved was that he had taken it before that day in Congress. By November, in any case, the Orioles had made it clear they wanted nothing more to do with him. Pressured by the committee's threats of legislative action, Selig had in April cornered the players' association with the toughest proposed drug policy yet: three strikes and you're out. On Nov. 15 the union buckled, and an even more stringent policy was adopted, with a first positive test now bringing a 50-game suspension. As Selig told Davis, that change never would've happened without the hearing. And the hearing would never have happened without the book.
"I went in blinded," says Serrano of his perception of Canseco before the hearings, "as a fan saying, 'Why is somebody trying to ruin my game?' But months later I realized he was the most honest guy in the crowd."
One Sunday in November, Canseco stood against a bar off a hotel lobby in Santa Monica, Calif. He was working, not drinking. The American Film Market, a convention for independent film producers and distributors, unearths its share of sleeper hits, but it's also a trade show for straight-to-video bombs and Asia-bound slasher flicks, and it has a reputation, as one A-list director puts it, as " Hollywood at its most desperate." At that moment Canseco was the biggest name there. A man sidled up, dropped a name from Miami.
"A lot of women say they know me, they've been to bed with me," Canseco told him.