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Matured Canseco focuses on home runs, Hall

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 10, 2001

In his youth, Jose Canseco was a blur. Fast cars. Faster lifestyle. Shy on discipline. Trouble-prone. Something of a James Dean in a ballcap, sans souci with a touch of crash-and-burn mentality.

I wasn't sure Canseco would live to be 36, much less still be wearing a baseball uniform. More and more, the Miami hunk embraces traditional values. Like being ravenous for Hall of Fame immortality.

So, take a bow, Jose, in the dim diamond lights of Newark, wearing the duds of bush-league Bears, an off-Broadway passion play where Canseco keeps swinging hard in search of one more major chance.

Last summer, he was dispensed by the lowly Rays, experienced a sweet but brief flash with the Yankees en route to another World Series championship, then found nobody in the American League or National League interested for 2001.

Jose is rich. Unless he insanely squandered, Canseco's vault should teem with $5-million-plus. He could retire, puff on smuggled Cuban cigars, flex gorgeous tanned biceps for passersby and take extensive pride in a 446-homer career.

But the parade moves on. . .

There he is, the old Oakland hot dog, playing for Newark peanuts, a $6,000-a-month deal for a fellow who once made a hundred times that much. Showing a wealth of determination. By now a quite mature attitude. Hoping for loud enough ding-dings that a scout from the Cubs, Twins, Orioles or whomever will perceive a few more drops of Canseco juice for big-league squeezings.

"This year, if I get an opportunity, then a healthy season in 2002 should get me 500 homers," Jose told the Los Angeles Times. "Hall of Fame, man. That's the ticket."

History says he's right.

Seventeen smackers have reached 500. Fourteen already enshrined in Cooperstown. Eddie Murray, retired with 503, goes on the Hall list of eligibles next year and should be a cinch. Mark McGwire (556) and Barry Bonds (526) still are playing and unquestionably will be first-ballot honorees five years after they quit.

Funny, as we consider Canseco possibilities for the Hall of Fame, seldom is there trumpeting of the candidacy of Fred McGriff. Crime Dog has 428 homers, including at least one in every park but Yellowstone. If he plays two more D-Rays seasons, 500 is reachable. But does that make Fred a Hall lock?

Canseco has family company with the Bears. Twin brother Ozzie is also a Newark slugger. Last summer, he hit 44 homers, but nobody called from the majors. Together, at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, the Cansecos keep making their stabs. Playing to crowds of 2,000. Waiting by cell phones. Ozzie eager for bigger paychecks. Jose hungry for the Hall.

HOOKS: Tell me, when do high-torque sales of Dale Earnhardt stuff, from clocks to T-shirts to coolers, cross the line of dignity, from tribute to full-blast crass? ... Is it too early to campaign for an organization that would have to be called Tattoos Anonymous? ... Speaking of stock cars, QVC is pushing a miniature vehicle with Muhammad Ali's autograph? Huh? What's next, a skateboard signed by Wayne Gretzky, a sneaker signed by Ivana Trump or a Strad violin copy autographed by Allen Iverson? Who buys such misfit junk?

HERE'S WHATEVER: The Chief can't hide, being a 7-footer. Soon after asking whatever happened to Robert Parish, my e-mails stacked, from Andrew Mason, Linda Borgia and David Scheier plus a half-dozen more, reporting the old Boston stoneface is coaching the Maryland Mustangs of the USBL, hoping for a shot to boss an NBA team.

READER'S SHOUT: Hank Wilson asks, "In light of the Times' role in uncovering Gator football violations of NCAA rules, with your status as longtime coverer of UF sports, (how about) some comments on coach (Charley) Pell?"

So, I'll say this. . .

Pell was a talented coach, abundant with charisma, but refused to believe old-time cheating in college football recruiting had by the '80s become better policed, including by media investigators.

Shame is, Charley, with fully legal use of skills, could've been the same ballfield success with Clemson and the Gators. Pell did wrong, got caught and paid a whopper price, but I never ceased liking the man, a lot. His death is deeply saddening.

JABS: For years, Terry Bradshaw worked brilliantly at disproving critics who doubted the QB's intelligence in his early Steelers seasons. Winning four Super Bowls can do that. But now, in his 50s, the Louisiana bloke works overtime, on Fox-TV and in 10-10-220 telephone commercials, to prove he is a lunkhead after all. ... Cheers for Chipper Jones, showing consideration and good sense by giving up tobacco chaws after his mother-in-law and a brother-in-law developed throat and lip cancer, respectively. ... Hockey watcher Don Donion of South Pasadena wonders why ABC has such announcer overkill on Stanley Cup playoffs, airing Michaels, Thorne, Clement, Saunders, Melrose, Davidson, Pang and Engbloom. It's called video showoff, a network in full drool, something that comes to an ear-warping apex at Super Bowls.

Whatever happened to Frenchy Fuqua?

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