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Whaddaya Say, JOSE?
Rick Reilly
August 20, 1990
A's slugger Jose Canseco has been burned by the spotlight, but he's way too big to hide from it
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August 20, 1990

Whaddaya Say, Jose?

A's slugger Jose Canseco has been burned by the spotlight, but he's way too big to hide from it

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Jose Canseco loves a good monster movie, with only one complaint. "Every time, the good guy wins, the good guy wins," he says. "Why can't the monster ever win?"

Jose Canseco sits on the Oakland A's bus, looking out at 500 people who can't decide whether they want to bronze him, buy him a beer or bust him right in his handsome mouth.

Canseco has come out of the players' entrance at Cleveland Stadium and hopped on the bus without signing an autograph, and now the crowd is thinking Attica. Canseco doesn't sign because the fans mark up his shirts with their pens, paw at his clothes and smother him so tightly that "all they end up getting is something that looks like an X," he says. Besides, in Arlington, Texas, once, a little boy was pinned against a railing by a rush of Canseco autograph seekers. A group of reporters had to come in and free the youngster.

On the bus, Canseco yells to a reporter, "You go out there. You'd come back with no clothes and one arm."

The 500 get desperate. Some try the sweetness approach. "Can-SAY-co! Can-SAY-co!" They can see him vaguely through the tinted glass of the bus. They know it's Jose, and they're pining for just a dollop from his pen on their posters and hats and baseball cards. Some try threats. A man in an orange hat is screaming into the open door of the bus, "Too much money! Too much goddam money!" Some try insults. "Hey, Jose, give us the five-million-dollar wave!" "You bum, come out here!" "Let's see your steroid muscles!" Canseco grins.

As the bus pulls away, the desperate ones do something curious: They try to take pictures of him through the dark glass—with flashes, no less.

"Why do they do that?" a player on the bus asks. "They know it won't come out."

With Jose Canseco, you take what he gives you.

Jose Canseco's world is big. His home runs are big. His houses—in Miami and Oakland—are big. His Cigarette boat is big, 42 feet from stem to stern, with room for 20 people. He was the major leagues' biggest vote-getter for this year's All-Star Game in Chicago, yet he drew by far the biggest boos in Wrigley Field. His wife, Esther, is little, but her hair is big. His pile of money is very big; he makes $4.7 million a year, or $536 an hour, even as he sleeps. His laugh is big. When he screws up, he screws up extra big. His talent is enormously big, almost as big as his potential. He's big physically—6'4", 240 pounds—though his waist is small, size 33. His bat is about the biggest anybody swings—35 inches and 35 ounces. His public image is big: arrogant and immature, armed and dangerous, egocentric and selfish. But the misconceptions are even bigger. You think you know this guy? Big mistake.

Jose Canseco is the subject, and San Francisco Examiner columnist Bill Mandel, a man who has never met him, offers this: "I'm from New York and in New York there is a word for guys like Canseco, and that word is schmuck."

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