December 5, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Sunday, May 26, 2013
Today is the 20th anniversary of the most bizarrely comedic moment in Jose Canseco’s baseball career, when a fly ball doinked off his head for a home run.
Any young’uns out there in reader-land might not believe this, but once upon a time Canseco was one of the biggest and brightest stars in the baseball universe. Though he’s a punchline nowadays, he was huge. For a brief while, people were saying and hoping the same things for him that they now say and hope about Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
As a 21-year-old, Canseco won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1986, which was especially impressive because there were a number of fine rookie performances that year. Two years later, he did something few Rookie of the Year Award winners later do: he became AL MVP.
Just 23 years old, in 1988 Canseco created the 40/40 club with 40 steals and a league-leading 42 home runs. Though he battled some injuries over the next few years, he was still a key part of the A’s juggernaut that claimed three straight pennants from 1988 to 90. In 1991, a healthy Canseco again led the AL in homers with a career-best 44.
An MVP, three pennants, two home run titles, a 40/40 season, a Rookie of the Year Award—all of this by the end of his age-26 season. He looked to be entering the prime of a Hall of Fame career. Instead things completely went to hell.
Canseco had an ineffectual 1992 season, batting around .250, when the A’s shocked the baseball world by trading the slugger to Texas. Frankly, the trade worked out poorly for both sides, as all the prominent players were underachievers (Ruben Sierra and Bobby Witt were the big names going to Oakland).
But when May 26, 1993, began, things still looked bright for Canseco. Though he had “only” eight homers a quarter the way through the year, he also had 13 doubles and a .291 average. He had power, a decent average, and durability. He wasn’t making headlines with eight homers, but he would sure make headlines with a homer today. They just wouldn’t be headlines he liked.
Never much of a glove, Canseco was in right field for the Rangers-Indians day game. In the top of the fourth, Cleveland DH Carlos Martinez led off with a shot to right. Canseco went back and toward the wall. Martinez didn’t quite have enough muscle to knock it out, and Canseco had a play on it if he could just get there in time. Oh, he got there in time, all right.
He looked up and promptly lost the ball in the sun. He stuck his arm up to where he thought/hoped the ball would come down ... and got a nasty surprise. The ball missed his glove completely. In fact, it missed his arm entirely. I bet Canseco wishes it missed the rest of him.
As you can see in this video, instead of hitting his glove, the ball bonked Canseco in his least vulnerable spot, his head. Okay, that’s funny. But what happened next made it hilarious. The ball bounced off Canseco’s head and landed in the stands. By rules, it was a home run. It was the rare off-the-Canseco home run. Oh, and it turned out to be the winning run, as the Indians topped Texas, 7-6.
In some ways, that play came to symbolize post-Oakland Canseco, the bright young talent that didn’t pan out. In fact, less than a week later, he blew his arm out on the mound while throwing some garbage-time innings to save the bullpen.
Canseco remained an effective slugger but couldn’t stay healthy. He’d have just one season with over 120 games played after this one. He also became one-dimensional as he soon lost his speed and his average dropped. Eventually, Canseco was out of the game.
His post-baseball life hasn’t worked out well. That hasn’t been at all funny, most notably last week when police investigated him for rape. But what happened 20 years ago was funny, when he looked like an utter dunce on the field in a classic follies moment.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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