At the end of his career, Jose Canseco, the self-proclaimed “godfather of the steroid era,” was effectively forced out of baseball. As revenge, Canseco conceived a tell-all memoir in which he would call out his fellow players for steroid use. Within a month of its publication, Juiced sparked a congressional hearing. This is the story of the book’s wild ride from idle revenge fantasy to publishing sensation.
JODY AVIRGAN: Hello, and welcome to 30 for 30 podcasts, our series of original audio documentaries from ESPN Films and ESPN Audio. My name is Jody Avirgan.
And this is the first episode of our fourth season. Last season, we brought you a five-part series on the world of Bikram yoga, this season, we’re going back to individual documentaries – five different moments in time.
Our first one is one that applies a small lens to a big story – steroids in baseball. For years, especially in the 90s, steroid use by major leaguers was kind of an open secret, but not one that any players were willing to talk about.These players, by the way, were huge. Giant necks, bulging biceps, enormous home runs.
And one of the biggest – and most controversial players – was Jose Canseco. He was the one that finally decided to break the code of silence. And he did so by writing a book. This is the story of how that book came together., and it’s also a look at whether an important message will ever be heard when it’s coming from a notoriously unreliable narrator.
A quick warning – this episode contains mature language.
Now, here’s 30 for 30’s own Andrew Mambo, with “Juiced.”
* * * * *
JOSE CANSECO: The very first time I had the idea of the thought of the book “Juiced” when… I’ll tell you exactly, I remember it.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose Canseco had always talked about writing a book. But on this day in March 2004, something changed.
Canseco had retired from baseball two years earlier. But he was only 38 home runs shy of 500, a magical number that use to guarantee a spot in the Hall of Fame. And he was trying to get back in.
JOSE CANSECO: I remember going to an open tryout for the Dodgers,
JAY HARRIS: ‘Two and a half years after his last major league appearance when he hit 258 with 16 homers for the White Sox, Canseco grabbed his bat and glove and went to tryout for the Los Angeles Dodgers today.’]
JOSE CANSECO: And there were a lot of people there. The media was there… and Lasorda was there.
ANDREW MAMBO: Tommy Lasorda, the legendary LA Dodgers manager.
PETER GAMMON: Canseco with the number 521 on his back signed-in, stood around, ran a six-nine sixty…
JOSE CANSECO: By the end of the tryout, and I’ll never forget what Lasorda said, the media asked him, “So tell me Tommy did Jose make the team?” Lasorda says “He didn’t make the team. He looked like he was out of shape.” I’ve never been out of shape in my life.
So for a chub little fat troll like Tommy Lasorda who is, you know, the worst Humpty Dumpty out of shape pasta eating moron I’ve ever seen. To tell the media that I was out of shape. That’s a slap in the face to an athlete.
ANDREW MAMBO: Especially to an athlete who was a former MVP, World Series champion, and the first player in baseball history to hit forty home runs.
[ROYALS VS. A’S 1988,
ANNOUNCER: ‘There’s a high drive. That might be number 40. It’s on the way. And there…’]
ANDREW MAMBO: And steal 40 bases in the same year…
[A’S VS BREWERS 1988,
ANNOUNCER: ‘He’s running. There’s the throw. Number 40! Jose Canseco the first man ever in…’]
ANDREW MAMBO: But the six time all-star had another side to him. At times comical.
[RANGERS VS. INDIANS 1993,
ANNOUNCER: ‘It hit Canseco in the head. And bounced over the wall for a homer. Look at this. Boink.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: And at times dark…
[A’S VS. YANKEES 1991,
ANNOUNCER: ‘Canseco’s going over to the stands here. I don’t know what he’s doing. I think he’s after somebody.’]
PEDRO GOMEZ: Well, I think Jose always had that cartoon figure kind of in him where he… he probably was more of a WWE actor, than he was a, you know, serious baseball player.
ANDREW MAMBO: Pedro Gomez is a baseball reporter who’s followed Jose’s career ever since they went to high school together.
Jose always had an up and down relationship with Major League Baseball. He felt they loved him when he was hitting home runs, breaking records and taking teams to the World Series, but as he got older, he felt baseball was shutting him out.
PEDRO GOMEZ: Clubs had probably grown tired of all of the other things that come with Jose Canseco.
ANCHOR: ‘Oakland’s Jose Canseco is accused of attacking his wife Jessica early this morning.’]
ANCHOR: ‘Already under house arrest for violating his probation…’]
ANCHOR: ‘Jose Canseco has been arrested on suspicion he…’]
ANCHOR:’… If convicted Canseco could be sentenced to up to one year in jail…’]
PEDRO GOMEZ: I think a lot of clubs say well is it worth all the baggage to have him on the roster. That probably played a role in the Dodgers saying thanks but no thanks.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose felt betrayed, because he thought the game still owed him something.
JOSE CANSECO: Major League Baseball was saying, “Jose we don’t care what you do, we’re not going to let you in this game again.” When I went home I said, people have to know my story. I am not going to go silently into the night. That’s not my character. And one of the very few ways back then to get the story out. Was through writing a book.
DANIEL NAYERI: At that time at Regan Books, they had pornographers, they had celebrities, and worst of all they had like politicians.
ANDREW MAMBO: Daniel Nayeri was an associate editor at Regan Books, a branch of Harper Collins publishing. They specialized in sensational titles like Jenna Jameson’s “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star”, and the infamous O.J. Simpson book “If I Did It”.
DANIEL NAYERI: When you walk through the doors you kind of knew what was happening you were doing books that were that were intended to be ummm… controversial.
ANDREW MAMBO: A force in the publishing world, Regan Books was led by its namesake founder Judith Regan, a badass no nonsense publisher, who demanded the best from her staff.
DANIEL NAYERI: Once I remember she said, “good work” about something and I still remember, I remember where I was standing.
ANDREW MAMBO: Where were you standing?.
DANIEL NAYERI: We were standing next to her assistant pool and she… I had run over just before she was going to go out for a dinner to show her copy. Previously that day she had read it and called me an illiterate monkey. And then I rewrote it as fast as I could so I could catch her before she left. And I gave it to her. The next draft she read it and she goes good work. I always remember the good work. Like, that’s the one that stuck with me.
ANDREW MAMBO: But Judith Regan wasn’t just a tough boss, she had come into the publishing world and flipped the game.
DANIEL NAYERI: I really credit Judith for having an acquisition style that’s very active. You’re out there hunting for the coolest people in any given topic.
ANDREW MAMBO: At times Judith would take that on herself, finding stories wherever she saw them, and leaving torn out pages from magazine articles around the office.
DANIEL NAYERI: I see that article on my chair and it means get a hold of this guy because by 2pm Judith wants to talk to him because that model that she had was – meet interesting people, they have interesting stories.
JUDITH REGAN: My name is Judith Regan, I am the publisher of Regan books.
ANDREW MAMBO: In early 2004, Judith got a call. It was from Jose’s agent, he was requesting a meeting for his client. Jose Canseco had an explosive story about baseball.
JUDITH REGAN: It really wasn’t a genre that I was that familiar with and I’m not somebody who knows the minutia of the sports industry.
ANDREW MAMBO: Baseball wasn’t really Judith’s thing, but she was willing to meet with Jose.
JOSE CANSECO: Met her one time. Came down to the office…
JUDITH REGAN:I had a conference room next to my office and Jose Canseco walked in…
JOSE CANSECO: And Judith Regan is sitting there with a couple of her assistants…
JUDITH REGAN: And here was this guy you know big guy with muscles and of course I’d seen his picture before and I said, “I’m going to be honest with you Jose. I’m not a sports person and I think you were in People Magazine and I think you had sex with Madonna or dated her or something.”
JOSE CANSECO: So I guess she knew me more – of the individual who dated Madonna or whatever or hung out Madonna than a baseball player.
ANDREW MAMBO: Judith was interested in Madonna, but she also knew Jose was there to talk about something else.
JUDITH REGAN: So I asked him where he got his muscles and he told me and he started talking about steroids.
ANDREW MAMBO: He told Judith when he was a young minor league player, he made a promise to his mother on her deathbed.
JOSE CANSECO: You know she’d never seen me play professional baseball. And you know I cried my eyes out and I promised her I was going to become the best player in the world for her.
ANDREW MAMBO: But to do that he needed to get faster and stronger so he went to see an old friend from high school, who was bodybuilder.
JOSE CANSECO: We were at his house and just you know casual conversation like kids do all the time. You know what happened to my mom and the promise I made her. And what can I do. He mentioned, “Jose why don’t you use steroids? Why don’t you try ‘em?” And you know funny cause he had it right there in his house. So it wasn’t a big deal and he just loaded up the needle and I was watching him get it out of the bottle. He basically said, “you ready.” I said, “yeah.” He injected me. I really didn’t feel it that much. He says, “that’s it”. I go, “that’s it?” He goes, “that’s it.”
ANDREW MAMBO: Steroids quickly transformed Jose’s physique. He put on fifty pounds of muscle in less than a year. And his newly enhanced body helped take him from minor league nobody to major league star.
JUDITH REGAN: And he started telling me about, you know, kind of behind the scenes and injecting other baseball players in this whole world of… of drugs in the baseball community.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose described being in tiny bathroom stalls injecting teammates and showing them how to inject themselves.
But with every detail he told Judith and her team, no one ever thought to ask why he was spilling baseball’s secrets.
JUDITH REGAN: I’ve – again – published so many thousands of people. I didn’t get that this was a bitter guy. I really didn’t. I felt that he was hurt, but I didn’t feel that he was bitter.
JOSE CANSECO: I was fucking angry at Major League… There’s a difference. You know, upset doesn’t blind you. Angry blinds you. And that’s what I was angry. You fat fuck Tommy Lasorda, all you do is fucking eat pasta all day and look like Humpty Dumpty.
ANDREW MAMBO: Judith paid Jose for the rights to publish his story. And then it got passed to Daniel Nayeri. His boss handed him two folders with stories to go into the production pipeline.
DANIEL NAYERI: One of them it says ‘Mr. Big.’ And it’s the memoirs of this guy who has a thirteen-inch penis. And the other one it says “Juiced” it is Jose Canseco and he wants to do a tell all about you know steroids in sports.
ANDREW MAMBO: But Daniel could only choose one to get started with.
DANIEL NAYERI: … I was like ‘aw geez. Let’s see what’s going on with this guy’s cock I guess.’
ANDREW MAMBO: Mr Big was a book Judith optioned after she read an article in Rolling Stone magazine about the complicated life of the man with the world biggest penis.
JUDITH REGAN: Come on…. That’s a fascinating… subject.
ANDREW MAMBO: The only problem was Mr Big wasn’t the happy-go-lucky-guy-winning-in-life that you would expect.
DANIEL NAYERI: I mean you had this guy who was sort of this maladjusted dude who had the luck or the misfortune of having a huge cock.
JUDITH REGAN: He became this kind of oddity, and people wanted to look at it… you know … They just thought of him as a penis.
DANIEL NAYERI: And the question was, “is there a book here?” And you could just tell if we had done a book, it would have ruined his life. Halfway through we were like, “alright I guess we got to go back and see what this Jose book’s going to do.”
ANDREW MAMBO: Regan Books was ready to write a book with Jose. But for the book to stand out, they needed something no one else in baseball had done to this point – they needed Jose to name names.
JOSE CANSECO: I spoke with Judith and she said, “Jose, you’ve gotta put names because no one’s going to believe this to be true and we won’t print it we won’t waste our time printing this”.
JUDITH REGAN: I think that he, like most authors, was reserved and didn’t really want to name names and people get very bashful about that and they don’t want to make enemies and they don’t want to hurt their buddies’ feelings.
JOSE CANSECO: And I had lost sleep and I had nightmares with one little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other shoulder. The devil’s saying do it for what they did to you people need to know your story. The angel saying no don’t do it. Forgive and forget. But you know what? The little devil won because I was angry at Major League Baseball.
ANDREW MAMBO: So, Judith gave the green light, and the real work got started. First up – find a ghostwriter. The man for the job? Steve Kettmann.
STEVE KETTMANN: I had to convince my agent that this was a good project for me. He thought that the, you know, unsavory aspect with Jose was a reason not to do it. And I said, “this is going to be an important book.” It’s worth doing and I’m the person to tell this story.”
ANDREW MAMBO: Steve was a sports writer based in Brooklyn.
STEVE KETTMANN: As I watched what was happening in baseball, in the mid-nineties when I was a beat writer for The Chronicle, I was like a lot of people – alarmed. Clearly a lot of guys were using steroids.
ANDREW MAMBO: He was so alarmed that he wrote an article for the New York Times in the middle of the 2000 season. In it, he directly called out baseball for looking the other way when it came to performance enhancing drugs.
STEVE KETTMANN: I had really tried to get people just to open their eyes. I just felt that it was a huge story that such a large percentage of players in baseball were using steroids. And I felt the general public really had no understanding of what was going on.
ANDREW MAMBO: Right away Steve and Jose got to work – kind of.
STEVE KETTMANN: The first time I went out to California to see him, I had only a weekend with him and I want to get going.
ANDREW MAMBO: Steve was there to write a book, but Jose wasn’t so ready.
STEVE KETTMANN: Jose was doing everything he could to make excuses. So I get there. He wants to show me around his ridiculous McMansion that he had with horrible choices on display everywhere. And you just looked around and you thought, “Does anyone actually live here?”
ANDREW MAMBO: Steve kept trying to work, but Jose was avoiding it.
STEVE KETTMANN: So this night when I showed up to talk to him for the book he of course wants to go out in a limo and hang out in clubs and maybe try to impress me. I don’t know.
JOSE CANSECO: Um… hang out with people and then maybe after that, depending on what after parties going on, go to an after-party.
STEVE KETTMANN: You know I’m just looking around at all this, I don’t know, enhanced cleavage and very L.A. scene and it seemed pretty pointless.
ANDREW MAMBO: When they finally got back to the house it was late, so they agreed to start first thing in the morning.
The next day Steve kept trying, but Jose just wasn’t interested.
STEVE KETTMANN: Doing a book is really hard. It’s a marathon. And to do it, you have to really want to do it, and you have to either have a good idea of what you want to say or you have to have the stamina to hang in there to find out what you want to say.
ANDREW MAMBO: On the second night, Steve finally got Jose to sit down and talk.
STEVE KETTMANN: And the way we did it is we would go upstairs to his bedroom. He had this big canopy bed with satin sheets and he had back issues. He had a lot of back pain. So the only way he got in the mood to talk was to lie flat on his satin sheets in his bed, I think in like boxer shorts.
JOSE CANSECO: We spent a lot of time in person just sitting down like you and I, talking hours upon hours upon hours.
STEVE KETTMANN: But I would sit in a chair next to the bed ask him questions and he would… he would talk and that was really the heart of the interviews for the book.
ANDREW MAMBO: And for days that was the flow. Jose laying in bed and Steve sitting next to the bed with a tape recorder, furiously taking notes.
Jose started from the top. He told Steve about his mother and the first time he took steroids.
And then he told him about 1988, when the steroid rumors first began to spread. Thomas Boswell, a Washington Post reporter, had gone on national TV and called him out.
THOMAS BOSWELL: ‘I have heard very well-known ballplayers in baseball say casually talking about steroids they call them a Jose Canseco milkshake. It is absolutely a given in baseball clubhouses that he is the most conspicuous example of a player who made himself great with steroids.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose told Steve how he felt singled out, but he wasn’t going to let Boswell’s accusations take away from his MVP season.
[Reggie Jackson: The last 10 days you’ve been all over the media.… Tom Boswell a fellow out of Washington has made an accusation about you using steroids.
Jose: uhh, the statements that he’s made are false. I mean, somewhere…]
JOSE CANSECO: Of course I’m not going to admit that I’m using PEDs… because they had no proof whatsoever. I never tested positive for PEDs.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose told Steve how as the season went on the crowds began to boo. And there was one town in particular that really let him have it.
[1988 ALCS GAME 1,
GARY BENDER: ‘Today live from Fenway Park in Boston, it’s game one of the American League Championship Series between the Oakland A’s and the Boston Red Sox. It’s a cool day…’]
JOSE CANSECO: Now we’re playing the playoffs. I’m in right field. And the fans just went crazy, just saying, “steroids.”
[1988 ALCS GAME 1,
ARCHIVAL: Fans Chanting “Steroids”]
JOSE CANSECO: So I actually just turned around, gave him a big flex and they went nuts.
[1988 ALCS GAME 1,
ARCHIVAL: Fans Cheering]
JOSE CANSECO: They went crazy. They were on my side applauding cause, you knew, really we’re entertainers and fans should just want us to acknowledge them.
ANDREW MAMBO: That year Oakland swept Boston but went on to lose in the World Series to the L.A. Dodgers. The next year, they marched back and won the whole thing. Jose Canseco was a world champion.
[1989 WORLD SERIES GAME 4,
AL MICHAELS: ‘…flips to Eckersley…yes! He’s there in time and the A’s are the World Champions!’]
ANDREW MAMBO: 15 years later, laying in his bed on satin sheets, Jose told stories that confirmed Steve’s biggest hunches – that more and more players were using steroids. And that Major League Baseball essentially had a don’t ask-don’t-tell policy. In 1991, the league sent out a memo that using steroids was against the rules. But it was a joke, because no team ever tested for them.
JOSE CANSECO: They didn’t care what I was doing. They wanted me to do whatever I had to do. To promote the Oakland A’s. To hit monstrous home runs. To do the forty-forty because I was filling up the stadium by myself.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose told Steve story after story about how players were always coming up to him asking him questions about steroids – the same stories he later told Pedro Gomez.
PEDRO GOMEZ: You know let’s say he hit a double. The opposing second baseman or shortstop would come up to him during the game, like right when the double was hit, and say, “hey man what are you on? I gotta get some of that.”
STEVE KETTMANN: An important thing to understand about the Jose Canseco mindset at the time that we were working on the book is he really did see himself as the Pied Piper of better living through chemistry.
JOSE CANSECO: Here’s the question – if at one point in time everyone in Major League Baseball is using PEDs, it’s an even playing field. Why are you cheating? You’re not.
ANDREW MAMBO: Up to then, Jose had told Steve about himself, his career, his use of steroids. Now, he was going to have to share dirt on other players.
JOSE CANSECO: I mean there were some sleepless night in there too because these guys were also my friends my teammates.
ANDREW MAMBO: But Jose had promised Judith a book with names in it, and if that’s what it was going to take to get back at the league, then that’s what he was gonna do.
PEDRO GOMEZ: I think he just pulled out his Rolodex and said, “you want names? I got names. Here are all the players that have ever talked to me or that I know firsthand what’s going on.”
ANDREW MAMBO: And it wasn’t just “this player asked me for advice” or “I heard a rumor about this second baseman.” Jose gave specifics.
JOSE CANSECO: When I injected Juan Gonzalez he had the nicest ass out of the bunch. So I kind of say jokingly “Palmeiro had a little bit of a flat ass, Juan Gonzalez had the best ass,” so… it’s kind of funny.
STEVE KETTMANN: Jose introduced countless ballplayers to steroids. That was all obviously true. I had background reporting on it. I knew a lot of people in the A’s organization who I talked to over the years. I knew that we were on very solid ground.
ANDREW MAMBO: For the editors at Regan, all the details in the book were fascinating – even juicy – but ghostwriter Steve Kettmann knew they were game changing.
STEVE KETTMANN: I understood I was at the center of a very large storm and it was surreal in those weeks leading up to publication when really no one else understood that, including the publisher. But, they didn’t understand how this would be perceived in the world of baseball or the world of sportswriting.
I understood what we had and I understood the impact it was going to have.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose walked into Judith’s office in early 2004. Writing began in November. And the plan was to have the book out before spring training in March 2005, one year after the failed tryout with the Dodgers.
DANIEL NAYERI: I was told it was going to be a much faster production. It was gonna to be a crash book.
ANDREW MAMBO: Daniel Nayeri was used to editing quickly. That was the norm at Regan Books. But “Juiced,” that was a whole new level.
DANIEL NAYERI: This is not going to be a book where you write the whole thing and then you turn it in months later. This is a book where every two chapters you’re going to start mailing it back so we can get started on the editing.
I remember Christmas Eve 2004, it’s midnight and I called my girlfriend to wish her Merry Christmas from the office while I’m editing “Juiced” in my pajamas. Like, that’s how I spent Christmas Eve that year. So it was just me and the lights are down, and so yeah it was it was very very fast. It was… it was definitely the fastest book I’d ever been a part of.
ANDREW MAMBO: But around the New Year, ghostwriter Steve Kettmann heard some troubling rumors.
STEVE KETTMANN: It got back to me that Judith wasn’t sure she wanted to publish it. That she was giving some thought to killing the book.
ANDREW MAMBO: Steve was not going to let that happen, and he had an idea how to save the book.
STEVE KETTMANN: So, we added the athlete sex life chapter.
JOSE CANSECO: My agents and myself and some players, we would go to a club with a couple of limos, bring back about twenty girls, back then I had really big suites. And we would have beauty pageants, and my suite would have fake cards with markers. And the top like, five contestants… We continue the party at night taking them out with us to all these exotic club stuff like that. The rest of the girls have to go home.
STEVE KETTMANN: I knew that Judith Regan would find it interesting. Entertaining. And it would be something that could interest people who weren’t, you know, seam heads. They weren’t crazy baseball fans. This was more human interest. It was more the bigger than baseball side of Jose, Madonna and that chapter of his life.
JOSE CANSECO: And when I mentioned Madonna – that I had a run in with her and she wanted to date me and she wanted to have my kids and get married. And the whole combination… Judith Regan found that incredibly interesting.
DANIEL NAYERI: I think it goes to show you how, in-house, Madonna was an actual hook for this book.
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose was always telling anyone who would listen that one day he would write a book.
STEVE KETTMANN: It was something he was always talking about to the point where, in the glory days, it was a kind of a joke, you know. In the clubhouse guys would even kid him about “you gonna put that in your book Jose?”
PEDRO GOMEZ: The beat writers who covered the team – we’d laugh about it like, “what could Canseco possibly write a book on?”
ANDREW MAMBO: But the joke wasn’t funny anymore. Word was getting around that Jose had actually done it.
PEDRO GOMEZ: I just remember players talking to me and asking, “What is he going to say in this book? What do you think is going to be – come out of this?” And I said, “you know Jose it could be anything.”
ANDREW MAMBO: Pedro Gomez – Jose’s high school friend and longtime baseball writer – soon found out exactly what was in the book.
PEDRO GOMEZ: I remember receiving a big brown envelope that came in the mail, and there it was. And I opened it. It was from a publisher. And I grabbed a glass of wine. I sat down and I started reading “Juiced.”
ANDREW MAMBO: The book called out people like Canseco’s former bash-brother teammate Mark McGwire, MVP Juan Gonzalez, and All-Star slugger Rafael Palmeiro.
PEDRO GOMEZ: I remember getting it about a week-and-a-half, two-weeks before and thinking, “oh my god this is gonna blow the lid off of baseball.”
ANDREW MAMBO: February 14, 2005, Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced” hit bookshelves.
[PARDON THE INTERRUPTION,
TONY KORNHEISER: ‘How much of what Jose Canseco says should we reasonably believe?’]
PEDRO GOMEZ: You could see the, the amount of energy that was going into trying to trash the book immediately.
[PARDON THE INTERRUPTION,
MIKE WILBON: ‘I am not going to extend my benefit of the doubt to Jose Canseco who has been a loose cannon at times.’]
TERRY STEINBACH: ‘You know whatever motive Jose’s doing this for we don’t know, you know whether it’s financial whether it’s fame, I mean …’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose had broken a code by talking about what happens in baseball locker rooms. And people didn’t just attack the message, they attacked – the messenger.
[PARDON THE INTERRUPTION,
TONY KORNHEISER: ‘What will happen with Canseco and I would do this if I was the lawyer for somebody else, I’d deny everything that happened and I would attack Canseco’s character.’]
[LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN,
DAVID LETTERMAN: ‘I’m on steroids, I’ve been on steroids, I’m full of juice right now.
PAUL SCHAFER: Gives you that extra edge, yeah.’]
[PARDON THE INTERRUPTION,
MIKE WILBON: I have a hard time believing Jose Canseco I have to have a second or third source on this one.’]
MATT LAUER: Do you have money problems?
JOSE CANSECO: Absolutely not.
MATT LAUER: Do you need to make money and did you write this book and not care what you said in it just to make money?]
TERRY STEINBACH: ‘You know what’s the guys character about. Look at what Jose’s track record has been throughout his major league career as well as since he’s been out of the game.’
PEDRO GOMEZ: A lot of the media that cover baseball view themselves as guardians of the game. And I think that they wanted to take on the mantle of protecting the game and saying no this is not true at all. And… or at least most of it is not true.
ANDREW MAMBO: There was a lot of push back to the book. From some of the biggest names in baseball.
Legendary manager Tony La Russa.
TONY LA RUSSA: ‘I’m very upset because the claims that he’s making are personally and professionally gonna taint teammates that deserve the truth and that’s not what Jose is throwing out there.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Juan Gonzalez.
[JUAN GONZALEZ PRESS CONFERENCE
JUAN GONZALEZ: ‘Canseco’s comments hurt my feelings you know. Because I never have used the steroids or somethin.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Barry Bonds.
[BARRY BONDS PRESS CONFERENCE
BARRY BONDS: ‘I was better than Jose then and I’ve been better than Jose his whole career so I don’t have anything to talk about Jose.’]
JUDITH REGAN: Look you know did he betray people? Did they feel that he was a rat? Yeah of course they did. You know because he told the truth about what was actually happening behind the scenes. And nobody likes that. Nobody wants to hear the truth, nobody wants us to pull the curtain and see the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. Right? But he did.
PEDRO GOMEZ: You had a lot of players who were humiliated and their only recourse was to call Jose a liar at the time. But, sure enough I mean Jose’s credibility when it came to naming names, you know, to use a baseball term, he hit for a very high average.
JOSE CANSECO: And of course, we find out after time that no one sued me because obviously you can’t sue the truth. It’s just ridiculous.
ANDREW MAMBO: Within a month, “Juiced” hit number one on the bestseller list.
And it was also becoming clear that the impact was gonna go beyond the bookshelves.
Jose’s wasn’t the only steroid story making headlines. By this point, the FBI had opened an investigation into superstar Barry Bonds and the steroid manufacturer BALCO; they could easily come after Jose next.
STEVE KETTMANN: In the period when the book was coming out I was very concerned about a knock on our door. And having the FBI come in and want everything.
ANDREW MAMBO: As a ghostwriter, Steve Kettman had recorded all his conversations with Jose.
STEVE KETTMANN: I had them in some like special hiding place and then I tossed them all at one point because I just considered them too hot. I often recycle tapes anyway, so I don’t want to make it sound like I was tampering with evidence or something. But I made a point of not only getting rid of that but I think I had some notes transcript that I also, um, took off my computer and put on a disk and then hid somewhere.
FRED HICKMAN: ‘Steroids will again take center stage before Congress March 17th.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Jose didn’t get wrapped up in the FBI investigation. But just weeks after the book’s release, his allegations did get some attention – from Congress.
FRED HICKMAN: ‘Members of the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office along with former player Jose Canseco have been asked to appear as the House government reform committee investigates…]
ANDREW MAMBO: Congress was going to take up the issue of steroids and baseball.
[GOOD MORNING AMERICA,
KATE SNOW: ‘…sports talk radio this week has been about what are they doing meddling in baseball?’
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: ‘If baseball is America’s pastime, hearings about baseball are one of Congress’ favorite pastimes I think there were two dozen…’]
DAVID MARIN: Remember this was this was you know the early 2000s.
ANDREW MAMBO: David Marin was the communications director for the House Government Reform Committee.
DAVID MARIN: We were in the middle of the Iraq war. We were in the middle of debates really partisan debates over over tax cuts, regulatory reform. The atmosphere on the hill was fairly toxic.
ANDREW MAMBO: The representatives on the committee needed an easy win. They were looking to hold hearings on a subject where they could show bipartisan support, and when Jose’s book came out they thought they’d found it.
They figured nothing would rally Americans more than Congress standing up for the sanctity of America’s favorite past time.
[THE DAILY SHOW,
LEWIS BLACK: ‘Intelligence reform, bogged down. Gas prices at an all time high, and millions of kids without health care. It was comforting to see congress take on the most pressing issue of all. Do baseball players use steroids? Here’s a hint… YES!’]
ANDREW MAMBO: March 17th 2005. When the hearings started the committee members were all seated facing a row of empty chairs. Dozens of photographers stood by waiting for the players to arrive. One by one, these giant men in custom suits and somber faces entered the room.
[CONGRESSIONAL HEARING MARCH 17, 2005,
TOM DAVIS: We’re going to swear each member in before they testify individually. We have a very distinguished panel here, obviously in front of us. Mr. Jose Canseco the former member of the Oakland Athletics. Mr. Sammy Sosa, current member of the Baltimore Orioles. Mr. Mark McGwire, former member of the Oakland Athletics. Mr. Rafael Palmeiro, current member of the Baltimore Orioles. And Curt Schilling, current member of the Boston Red Sox. Mr Canseco, thank you very much for being here…
JOSE CANSECO: ‘Thank you. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, distinguished guests. My name is Jose Canseco and for 17 years I played professional baseball…’]
ANDREW MAMBO: Over the course of two and a half hours, the players denied and evaded almost everything thrown at them.
[CONGRESSIONAL HEARING MARCH 17, 2005,
MARK MCGWIRE: ‘I do not intend to dignify Mr. Canseco’s book. It should be enough that you consider the source of the statements in the book.’
RAFAEL PALMEIRO: ‘Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroids use by all athletes”
CURT SCHILLING: ‘First I hope the committee recognizes the danger of possibly glorifying the so-called author scheduled to testify today or by indirectly assisting him to sell more books through his claim that what he was doing is somehow good for this country or the game of baseball.’]
ANDREW MAMBO: The statements were carefully crafted to walk a fine line, because admitting to steroid use could have landed a player in prison for up to a year and up to 5 years for perjury if they lied.
[CONGRESSIONAL HEARING MARCH 17, 2005,
SCHILLING: ‘I can’t answer that.’
MCGWIRE: ‘That’s not for me to determine.’
SOSA: ‘Um, To my knowledge I don’t know.’
CONGRESSMAN: You didn’t know?
MCGWIRE: ‘I’m not going to get into the past.’
SOSA: ‘I had no idea. I’m a private person I don’t really go you know ask people whatever it is.’
PALMEIRO: ‘I’ve never had that problem.’
MCGWIRE: ‘My message is, that steroids is bad. Don’t do ‘em, it’s a bad message. And I am here because of that.’]
JOSE CANSECO: The one I didn’t like when Rafael Palmeiro shook his finger at Congress and said…
[CONGRESSIONAL HEARING MARCH 17, 2005,
PALMEIRO: Let me start by telling you this, I have never used steroids. Period. I do not know how to say it anymore clearly than that. Never. The reference to me in Mr. Canseco’s book is absolutely false.’]
JOSE CANSECO: It was ridiculous because I injected him.
[CONGRESSIONAL HEARING MARCH 17, 2005,
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: ‘I have heard a discrepancy of opinion about the seriousness of the problem. Mr. Canseco says, it’s rampid. Mr. Schilling says he’s not so sure. He doesn’t really think it is a terribly serious problem. So, let me start off. And I know this is a hard one. Are we talking about 1% of players to your judgement doing it? 10%? Is Mr. Canseco the only player in the world to have done this? Mr. McGwire, would you like to speculate.’
MCGWIRE: ‘I wouldn’t know but, there’s a big reason why we’re here today to talk about it.’
SANDERS: ‘OK. Mr. Palmiero?’
PALMEIRO: ‘I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t take a guess. I just think as long as… even one percent it’s too high.’]
JOSE CANSECO: This is a joke. This is a fucking circus. This is a goddamn joke.
ANDREW MAMBO: Nothing was really accomplished that day, there were no admissions from players…but the integrity of the game was now in question. Baseball’s biggest heroes had been asked tough questions, and their answers hadn’t convinced anyone.
PEDRO GOMEZ: The most important thing for any, any pro sport is the – that it has to be legitimate. And ah, the fact that PEDs were so widespread, led to a lot of people to believing that the outcomes were illegitimate because who had the better chemist was going to win the game.
ANDREW MAMBO: Baseball’s reputation was damaged, and now they would have to take the issue of steroids seriously.
PEDRO GOMEZ: What Canseco’s book did was basically push baseball toward testing because Congress got involved because of Canseco’s book. And I think for that reason baseball said, “we will take care of this, we will clean up our sport.”
MIKE GREENBERG: ‘Today MLB and the players union agreed to a new policy that toughens penalties for steroid users. 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third.’]
PEDRO GOMEZ: I think that as as much as baseball may want him to just go away and you know never mentioned his name. He is going to be mentioned throughout history of the game because of the role he played really in pushing for testing.
ANDREW MAMBO: But, even still, Jose Canseco himself doesn’t seem to fully grasp the impact and the consequences of writing “Juiced.”
JOSE CANSECO: I wanted to tell my story and I wanted to attack Major League Baseball for what they did, and what they allowed to happen.
JOHN ANDERSON: ‘Big story of the day Rafael Palmeiro suspended 10 games by Major League Baseball today for testing positive for steroids.’]
KEVIN CONNORS: ‘Historic suspension handed down by major league baseball, 105 games for former AL MVP Miguel Tejada.’]
JOSE CANSECO: So anything in the way of me getting to them, I took it down. Which later on I realized, it was very wrong thing to do. When your anger subsides and all the dust clears and you realize, you know, you kind of see atomic bomb went off.
REPORTER: ‘That period is tarnished forever.’]
[ROME IS BURNING,
JIM ROME: ‘It’s going to be very difficult as these sluggers and players become eligible for the hall of fame to decide what to do.’]
JOSE CANSECO: And then went all the debris clears years and years down the line, you see the devastation and the damage.
SCOTT VAN PELT: ‘St. Louis democrat wants McGwire’s name stripped from a 5 mile stretch of Interstate 70.’]
BUSTER OLNEY: I think today’s testimony probably will cost Mark McGwire a first ballot induction to the hall of fame.’]
PEDRO GOMEZ: There’s no getting around the fact that these players will forever, you know, be tarnished. It will probably be in their obituaries.
ANDREW MAMBO: For an entire generation in baseball, performance enhancing drugs were the elephant in the room, the growing problem that no one wanted to acknowledge – And then “Juiced” came along. 300 pages of petty revenge. With the book, Jose Canseco, the man who in many ways was most responsible for the spread of steroids in baseball lit a match, and burned the reputation of the game and some of its biggest stars to the ground.
ANDREW MAMBO: Do you see the impact that your book and you had on changing the game?
JOSE CANSECO: Let me tell you something. The only thing my book destroyed was me. Everyone else benefited but me. I was destroyed the most. By just telling the truth. I suffered the most, period. And we’ll leave it at that.
Jody Avirgan, Host, Senior Producer and Series Editor
Erin Leyden, ESPN Films Senior Producer and Series Editor
Andrew Mambo, Reporter and Producer
Julia Lowrie Henderson, Editor
Mitra Kaboli, Sound Mixing
Taylor Barfield, Production Assistant
30 for 30 Podcasts
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Kate McAuliffe, Tony Chow, Kate LaRue, Roger Jackson, Brendan Choisnet, Sarah Ventre, Brad Ross, Kate Elazegui, Linda Tran Tutovan, Justin McCraw, Mitchell Clements, and Laura Hernández.
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