Jose Canseco Pitching in 1993

I’ve already reprinted the story of the homer that bounced off Jose Canseco’s head on May 26, 1993 in Cleveland. Here’s the partner story of how, on the same road trip, three days later, on May 29, 1993, Canseco pitched the eighth inning against the Red Sox in Fenway. The Boston Globe reported:

Most days, a 15-1 victory over the Texas Rangers would satisfy the appetites of the Fenway Faithful. Certainly, with the Upper Deck Heroes and a squad of Red Sox old-timers lingering among the 32,817 in attendance yesterday, there would be no reason to think anybody would go home unhappy.

But this was a day in which Fenway Park offered a tasty dessert. Would you believe slugger Jose Canseco pitching against the Red Sox? It happened in the eighth inning, as Canseco allowed three runs on two hits and three walks.

“I wasn’t all that surprised,” said Red Sox manager Butch Hobson. “I know they wanted to save their bullpen. Jose has pitched before.”

But never in the big show. Sure, Ted Williams did it long ago, and in an era when versatility went with the territory. But it could be decades before another slugger of Canseco’s caliber does the ultimate turnaround.

“I’d told my guys in bullpen that if the situation came up like it did today, I’d use Jose,” said Texas manager Kevin Kennedy. “Why not? He’s got a good arm. He was a pitcher in high school.”

Canseco entered with the Red Sox smoking, and they soon added to a 12-1 lead on two RBI singles and a sacrifice fly. It could have been worse. Hobson could have let Roger Clemens hit.

“I thought about it,” Hobson said. “But I like my job. It just wasn’t going to happen.”

Said Clemens, “Spring training, I might have asked to hit. But not during the regular season. I didn’t think there was any chance of that happening.”

The Canseco Caper capped a long day of baseball (3 hours 13 minutes just for the regular game) at Fenway Park. The crowd cheered loud and hard for the Negro leaguers who were honored in pregame ceremonies. Then the old-timers game looked like a lock for the Upper Deck Heroes until a two-run single in the final inning by Mike Easler tied it for good, 2-2.

Once the real game started, Boston got down to business by giving Danny Darwin (5-4) a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Rangers got an unearned run on two errors in the third inning, but not to worry — Boston scored three times in the third, once in the fourth and five times in the sixth.

Mo Vaughn made three errors but had the second four-hit game of his career. His fourth came off Canseco on a 3-2 pitch.

“I was glad we scored all those runs,” said Vaughn. “Those errors didn’t wind up meaning much. You’re going to have those kind of games.

“Actually, I didn’t want to get up [against Canseco]. I’m swinging well, and it’s hard enough to concentrate in a game like that because you’re up a lot of runs. All these at-bats count, and I didn’t want to give away anything.”

In explaining why he put Canseco in, Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy said:

“Someone has to take the initiative and throw strikes. We’re constantly behind in the count. If that’s too much pressure, then you’re in the wrong business. I’m not going to accept mediocrity and I’m sick to death of leadoff walks in the first inning.

“We’ve been behind in about 80 percent of our games, and if that made some people mad today, I’m glad because that’s exactly why I did what I did. I’m not going to keep going to my bullpen in blowouts.

“We threw up on ourselves. I’m not frustrated, I’m numb. I think there are some guys in our room who haven’t responded. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call to them. I don’t think you can be any more embarrassed as a ball club than we were today.

“I’m not happy about it, but I’m not going to go to my bullpen every day in the sixth inning because I won’t have a bullpen left by August.”

And, Kennedy added something he might still be trying to forget:

“This is not a joke. I wouldn’t do that to one of my players and try to hurt one of my players. Jose’s pitched in high school.

“I said I would use him if I had to. I’m not going to keep going to my bullpen in blowouts because I won’t have a bullpen in August. I don’t think you can be any more embarrassed as a ballclub than with what we did (yesterday).”

Kennedy also gave a longer, more convoluted explanation in Twice Around the Bases, the book on baseball he later wrote. However, on June 7 came news of the blowback from Canseco’s 33 pitches:

He started just one time in the next seven games and didn’t hit the ball out of the infield in five at-bats. Canseco underwent a magnetic-resonance imaging test Friday to determine the cause of pain in his right forearm. The pain and stiffness arose after Canseco threw 33 pitches. Kennedy said he now regrets having used Canseco as a pitcher.

“I don’t feel good about it,” he said. “I’ll take any heat you want to throw my way.” General Manager Tom Grieve said Canseco’s pitching days are over.

On July 9, Jose had Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles: a tendon from his right forearm was grafted into his right elbow to reconstruct his torn ulnar collateral ligament.And this story doesn’t stop: here’s a quote from Jose before the surgery:

“I’m going to spend a day or two deciding whether or not to have the surgery. There has been a good recovery rate with this type of injury, but there is always the possibility that this is a career-ending injury.

“Anything can go wrong during an operation. I could die in the middle of it, or I could have a bad reaction to the anesthesia. These are all things that must be considered.”

Also, if you’re looking for inspiration, not just laughs, on this same May 29, 1993, a news service described a near no-hitter by the one-handed Jim Abbott:

Jim Abbott pitched 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball Saturday before Bo Jackson singled as the New York Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2.

Abbott (4-5) gave up two hits, walked four and struck out six in eight innings before Bobby Munoz got the last three outs in his major-league debut.

“I really wasn’t thinking about it too much,” Abbott said. “I was just trying to throw strikes.”

With one out in the eighth, Jackson lined a clean single to center field that landed on the outfield grass, well behind second base. Ron Karkovice then hit a 3-1 pitch into the left-field stands for his fifth homer.

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Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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