|ESPN.com: Canseco's message now: Told ya!|
Yet Canseco, a veteran of 17 seasons in the majors, hardly was thanked for bringing the issue to light. Rather, while he awaited his turn to testify, he was isolated from the other players in a separate room. And when he appeared before the House panel, Sammy Sosa's lawyer was seated between Canseco and the other players. It was as if Canseco were contagious.
"I just couldn't believe how I was being treated," Canseco says. "It was very difficult and uncomfortable for me to have me separated from the other players."
But it might not have been any more comfortable for Canseco had he been seated among them. In his book, Canseco alleges that he personally put steroids into the bodies of two of his fellow panelists, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. And he labeled Sosa an "obvious" user.
AP Photo/Mary AltafferThe hearings might have pumped up book sales as much as the juice pumped up Jose.
Back then, it was easy to poke holes in Canseco's credibility, and they all took their shots at it. Canseco held grudges, suggesting that he'd been blacklisted by teams at the end of his career, which is what left him 38 home runs short of the 500 home run plateau. He endured financial problems, despite career earnings of more than $45 million. His rap sheet included charges of domestic violence and aggravated battery.
Leading up to and during the congressional hearing, Canseco's detractors fired back.
"This book, which attacks baseball and many of its players, was written to make a quick buck by a guy desperate for attention, who has appeared on more police blotters than lineup cards in recent years, has no runs, no hits and is all errors," sports agent Arn Tellem told the New York Daily News in February 2005. (One of Tellem's clients, Jason Giambi, was labeled by Canseco as "the most obvious user in the game.")
Canseco knew he had some strikes against him, as evidenced by this passage in the book's introduction: "To all my critics, to everyone who wants to turn this into a debate about me, Jose Canseco, let me quote my favorite actor (besides Arnold Schwarzenegger, that is) and say, You can't handle the truth."
That didn't stop the flow of criticism from other players who appeared at the hearings.
"The allegations made in that book, the attempts to smear the names of players both past and present, having been made by one who for years vehemently denied steroid use, should be seen for what they are: an attempt to make money at the expense of others," testified Curt Schilling.
STEROIDS: ONE YEAR AFTER
Here's more on the wake, one year later, left by the House Committee on Government Reform's hearings on steroids in baseball: • Rep. Tom Davis: Questions and answers • One Year Later: Curt Schilling and Frank Thomas • One Year Later: Rafael Palmeiro • One Year Later: Sammy Sosa • One Year Later: Mark McGwire • SportsNation: Who will survive? • Chat wrap: Jerry Crasnick
Despite hearing Schilling call him an opportunist and a liar and everyone but McGwire (who refused to say whether he did or didn't use steroids) deny any involvement with performance-enhancing drugs, Canseco stood up strong that day and refused to give in to the players who were once his friends.
"From what I'm hearing, I was the only individual in major league baseball to use steroids," Canseco told the panel.
Most who were testifying, and probably most who were watching, must have known that wasn't the case.
McGwire's refusal to talk about his past made him guilty in the eyes of many. Others were perplexed by how Sosa seemingly had forgotten how to speak the English language that many fans had heard him speak during the home run race of 1998. And Palmeiro, who denied ever using steroids -- and even had the public backing of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos -- was suspended for 10 days in August after he tested positive for a steroid that was banned under baseball's new drug policy.
"When that day ended, that was the first time the public started to believe that I was telling the truth," Canseco says now. Aside from writing that steroids could be safe and effective when used correctly (which he admittedly regretted), Canseco's performance a year ago was flawless. And if the latest details in the book "Game of Shadows" are true, he can claim another feather in his cap. Canseco also has called Barry Bonds an obvious user.
AP Photo/Richard DrewHow much of a baseball pariah was Canseco? He wore No. 521 during a 2004 tryout with the Dodgers.
Canseco has at least one believer in Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide, an act believed to be connected to his steroid use.
"As much as I don't care for the parts in the book in which he glorified steroids, I do believe that the picture he painted with respect to what was going on in major league baseball was accurate," Don Hooton said last week. "I hate to say he called it, but he called it right."
Before the players spoke, Hooton and others who lost their children as a result of steroid use testified before Congress last March. Hooton, who founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation in memory of his son, says it's never easy to talk about it, but he was delighted by the attention the topic was given.
"There's no question in my mind that Jose's book was a major catalyst for the step-up of the activity by the government," Hooton says. "Maybe those hearings still would have happened; but absent his revelations, it would not have garnered the surreal media attention that it received."
Canseco says now that widespread steroid use among players has been exposed, it's time to go after another segment of the baseball population that is just as culpable.
"It's now time for Congress to fully investigate the roles the owners, general managers and managers had in all of this, and take the focus off the athletes," Canseco says.
And the confident Canseco isn't too shy to tell his doubters, "I told you so."
"It's a complete turnaround from a year ago," Canseco says. "Everyone I meet today wants to shake my hand and thank me for writing the book. They call me the truth sayer, because in the end, they realized that I wrote the bible."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.