Jose Canseco : Balls, Homeruns, Head

“High fly ball deep. Canseco back to the track, looking up and it’s off…his head!”

Jose Canseco was on his way to being one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1986; in 1988 he was the first major leaguer to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same year and went on to win the award for Most Valuable Player; the following year, as one half of the prolific slugging tandem the Bash Brothers, he helped the Oakland Athletics win the World Series.  All of this was before he turned 26.  Impressive stuff, but what he is really remembered for are the events that took place late May in 1993.

After being traded to the Texas Rangers at the end of the ’92 season (while standing in the on-deck circle preparing step to the plate), Canseco’s legend took a sharp right turn.

It was a typical early afternoon game, Canseco was starting in right field.  There were no indications that anything out of the ordinary would occur.  Carlos Martinez, the designated hitter for the Cleveland Indians, hit a fly ball to right.  Canseco gave chase catching up to, and ultimately getting aHEAD (pun foreshadowing) of, the long fly ball.  Canseco lost the ball in the sun.  He extended his glove hand to the sky with hopes of meeting the ball but, those hopes were destroyed.  Fortunately, something far more exciting occurred. As number 33 awkwardly flew towards the wall, the ball missed his glove but connected solidly with his skull.  Then, the ball bounced of his genetically modified melon and proceeded to clear the wall for the most famous of Jose Canseco’s 463 career dingers.  Well, 462, if you’re only counting long balls that he actually hit with a bat.

A case can be made that the trauma of that incident had lingering effects.  Evidence of this may lie in the poor decision making that went on later that week. In a game that the Rangers were losing in spectacular fashion, the manager chose to let Canseco pitch (the potentially concussed superstar apparently had been begging for the opportunity).  Yes, the six-foot-four 250 pound beast came to the mound and hurled 33 pitches.  He was awful and he looked awful doing it.  While this was painful to watch, fortunately, there were only two casualties – Canseco’s pitching career and his season.  Yup, he blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season.

Sometimes, train wrecks don’t involve trains at all…