See? It wasn’t the ‘roids that made Jose Canseco good, so much as that time lightning struck his bat in this 1991 Fleer card. Canseco became a lightning rod for controversy in 2005 when his book Juiced exposed the world of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Canseco’s life after baseball has become such a joke that it is easy to forget how strong his baseball resume was. As a member of the “Bash Brothers” tandem with Mark McGwire, his accolades are impressive: Rookie of the Year, 6x All-Star, 2x World Series Champion, the first player ever to join the 40/40 club (40 HRs, 40 SBs), and the only player ever to hit a home run with his head. I think that header knocked a screw loose.
In a blowout loss a few games later, Canseco convinced manager Kevin Kennedy to let him take the mound. Three walks and three earned runs later, Canseco threw out his arm causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Canseco had some productive power hitting seasons to round out his career, but he never seemed quite the same after that headshot. Whether defending his contentious book, kissing the canvas in a celebrity-boxing match with Vai Sikahema, or sharing a house with Balki Bartokomous on Surreal Life, Canseco’s post-playing career has been one shit show after another.
Some of my favorite baseball cards are art cards like this one. Going way back to the mid-1800s, photography and printing methods were so primitive that some of the first cards that existed were artist renderings of players. Donruss brought this style back in the early ‘80s with the Diamond King series featuring cards of baseball’s stars made from prints of sports artist Dick Perez’s oil paintings. Fleer introduced more of a super hero style with this recurring Pro Vision subset, featuring a bionic Bo Jackson and Mike Greenwell with a menacing “Green Monster” in the background. By the mid ‘90s, every card manufacturer was putting a subset of art cards in their annual sets, and I will always make room in my collection for them.