The most common player to appear in my Bizarre Baseball Culture feature is, as far as I can tell, Cal Ripken Jr.
However, the person who perhaps most represents Bizarre Baseball Culture is a man who, to the best of my knowledge has never appeared in an official installment: Jose Canseco.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given that this is a man who once had a home run bounce off his head and that arguably isn’t even in the top three strangest things to ever happen to him. His outsider status after he was one of the main whistle-blowers about steroid use in baseball has only increased the oddity.
So, let’s take a look back at the Bizarre Baseball Cultural Life of 2016 HOVG inductee, Jose Canseco:
1989: Reading Rainbow
It started innocently enough. After all, the Reading Rainbow series by Kunta Kinta/Geordi La Forge portrayer LeVar Burton is basically the most innocent television show of all time. In the 1989 episode “Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo”, Canseco and fellow Bash Brother Mark McGwire made an appearance, alongside other Oakland A’s.
Sadly, I can’t find any video of this episode (the no-doubt complicated rights of Reading Rainbow and the books involved, mixed with the rights to baseball highlights, mean they have been taken down from YouTube), but from what I can tell, it involved LeVar going to A’s Spring Training and hanging out, followed by Ed Asner reading a book about a family that meets a baseball-loving dinosaur. What was Canseco’s role in this? That may well be lost to history (or at least some old VHS tapes somewhere).
1991: 2 Legit 2 Quit
Stanley Kirk Burrell AKA “M.C. Hammer” famously got his name because, as a youth, he was the batboy for the Athletics, and they thought he looked a bit like Hank Aaron. So it’s fitting that the very first athlete who shows up in his music video for his hit song “2 Legit 2 Quit” is Jose Canseco, one of the most famous players in the history of the Oakland Athletics.
He briefly appears around 3:47 in the video. Here’s a screenshot:
1992: Baseball Superstars Comic
I have never actually read the Baseball Superstars bio-comic on Jose Canseco. I’ve read similar books for other players, and they all inevitably are boring and formulaic. However, Michael Clair did a post on the book back in his “Old Time Family Baseball” stage of baseball internet development, and it’s possible that Jose Canseco’s bio-comic may be an exception, if only for the fact that it has a panel that involves a young Canseco marveling at a shark in na issue of National Geographic. Check out Mike’s old post for more.
1992: The Simpsons
Ah, the classic “Homer At The Bat”. What can be said about it that already hasn’t? It was once named one of the five most essential episodes of the entire series! And, of course, our friend Jose was there, playing left field for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team. Well, he was until he got sidetracked saving a woman and her belongings from a burning house, missing the final game.
An interesting fact is that apparently his story was originally supposed to see him sleep with Mrs. Krabappel, but he demanded it be changed to something more heroic.
1993: Ninja Baseball Bat Man
Not really a Jose Canseco appearance, so much as a homage. This obscure video game, which I covered a bit previously, is a beat-em-up game in which somebody robs the Hall of Fame, so the Commissioner commissions (pun intended) four ninjas to retrieve the artifacts. Those ninjas are called Ryan, Straw, Roger… and Jose.
Yes, there exists a game where you can play as a ninja named after Jose Canseco.
Truly, this is a great world.
1998: Nash Bridges
The 1996-2001 cop show starring Don Johnson and Cheech Marin had Jose show up in an episode called “Hardball”, in which he played Chus Ortez, a Salvadoran defector/softball player on the run from the INS. Basketball HOFer Karl Malone also shows up, because, sure, why not? I can’t find much more info on it, but Jose says that he should have gotten an Emmy for it, and who am I to argue?
2003/2005: The Surreal Life
After making a few appearances in 2003 (according to IMDB, but this might be an error), Jose Canseco was a member of the cast of Surreal Life in 2005, alongside such “stars” as Janice Dickinson, Omarosa Manigault and Bronson Pinchot. This was something of the beginning of the post-career celebrity stage of Canseco’s life.
2004: Mail Order Wife
A faux-documentary comedy/drama about, well, a mail-order bride scheme, Jose Canseco had an inexplicable cameo in this. Now, I haven’t seen this, but a Deseret News review declares that his cameo is “pretty much the last straw” and among jokes that “aren’t that funny”.
You win some, you lose some, Jose.
2011: The Celebrity Apprentice
As amazing as it may sound, GOP Presidential Nominee and noted quasi-fascist Oompa-Loompa impersonator Donald Trump was once a reality show host! I know, crazy, right? But anyway, in this season of the Celebrity Apprentice, Jose played to get money for his charity, the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T., which helps baseball people who have fallen on hard times). During his time there, he questioned the leadership of Survivor winner Richard Hatch, argued with country singer John Rich, played baseball with Gary Busey, played a gay guy in a commercial, and then, finally, quit to go care for his ailing father, who sadly passed away shortly after.
2014: Piranha Sharks
The HOVG covered this back when it’s original trailer came out.
2016: Slamma Jamma
This movie, apparently set to hit theaters in late October, is apparently about an ex-basketball star prisoner who is preparing to take part in a slam dunk contest. Canseco will appear as himself for some reason because, really, it is the role he was born to play.
So, with that quick overview of Jose Canseco’s Bizarre Baseball Culture career, allow me to join everyone else in congratulating him on his much-deserved entry into the Hall of Very Good!
The Hall of Very Good™ Class of 2016 is presented by Out of the Park Developments, the creators of the wildly popular baseball simulation game Out of the Park Baseball. Out of the Park Developments has made a generous donation to The Hall.