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8/4/2006  

Canseco was telling the truth after all

By Larry Knowles July 31, 2006 San Diego--I could see an apology, or some sort of amendment would be needed. There he was, standing in front of the visitors dugout, alone except for the little person by his side. I lingered around the home dugout, a few feet from a half dozen cameramen, and watched him interact with the slender girl with long blonde hair. He held her hand as the two sauntered around the first base line. She bounced with youthful energy, swinging her father’s hands and looking up for attention. He looked down at her with affection and spoke in a voice too soft to carry across the field. The scene was touching. For all the negative press the man had gotten over the years, all the boos, the heckling, here was a redemptive moment that would likely never make the news. I broke from the cameramen, who’d set up their tripods and stood bantering about focal lengths and uplink capacity, and walked towards the father and daughter. I wanted to shake the man’s hand for both telling the truth and being an attentive father. She was Josie, I knew that from the press releases and articles. He’d placed her well-being above that of the organization I was covering, which didn’t sit well with the media, mostly because they didn’t buy it. Some reporters had suspected he’d used his daughter as a flimsy excuse to force a trade after one game in the hometown uniform. But now this. Here she was, not an excuse—a reason. A lovely, lively nine-year old reason. It became clear after a minute of watching them: My god, Jose Canseco was telling the truth! Canseco noticed me approaching and continued to play with his daughter. I felt slightly intrusive, but I was there to cover the press conference in which he’d field questions about why he ditched San Diego for Josie. He knew why the cameras were there. “Hi, Jose. I write for a local news site and wanted to introduce myself,” I said, extending my hand. We shook hands. “This is Josie,” he said. Josie and I shook hands and I commented to Jose on what a lovely daughter he had. “She got all her Mom’s looks,” he quipped. “Thank God.” The press conference was held out past the visitors dugout, a small affair of five or six camera crews and three print journalists. While Canseco fielded questions, Josie stood among the print journalists, in the care of Golden Baseball League co-founder Amit Patel. There were the usual questions about steroids—one about Floyd Landis and the Tour de France—and his book, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.” Then someone asked him how Josie was enjoying her summer. “Josie, that’s for you,” he said, nodding to his daughter. “Go ahead.” Josie walked to the podium and stood next to her Dad. “It’s good, I guess…" “Go ahead, Miss Hollywood,” Canseco said, then chided his daughter to take off her glasses. “Never talk to the press with your glasses on,” he explained, “because they’ll write bad things about you.” The glasses quickly came off and rested on the podium, and what stood before us was a wonderful bit of serendipity: father, with 462 big league home runs, deferring to nine-year-old daughter. “I like it because I get to see my Dad play,” Josie responded, “and I think it’s great that he became a professional baseball player.” She then took the opportunity to help boost her old man’s image. “He was the first one to hit forty home runs and steal forty bases,” she reminded the press. “I didn’t tell her to say that,” Canseco added, appearing slightly embarrassed, but mostly proud. I had written an article ("Surf Dawgs look back at the Canseco era") that, by way of satire, had expressed a hearty skepticism over Canseco’s reason for bailing on the Surf Dawgs. I don’t think sports writers need to apologize any more for an article than a slugger does for going oh-for-four. But the record should be set straight. Based on the unabashed affection that Jose showed for his daughter on Friday, it’s clear that Josie really was indeed the reason he demanded a trade away from San Diego. Believe it or not, Canseco was telling the truth.