|Monday, May 13
Updated: May 14, 6:28 PM ET
Canseco retires, gives up pursuit of 500 homers
CHICAGO -- Former AL MVP Jose Canseco announced his retirement Monday, 38 home runs shy of the 500 mark he hoped to reach to bolster his Hall of Fame chances.
Canseco, 37, was cut by Montreal in spring training and signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox on April 18. He was hitting .172 with five homers and nine RBI in 18 games at Triple-A Charlotte.
"Jose felt that because of personal reasons and a strong desire on his part to spend more quality time with his young daughter, it was time to announce his retirement," Alan Nero, Canseco's agent, said in a statement released by the White Sox.
Messages for Nero and the White Sox were not immediately returned.
Canseco didn't come to the ballpark Monday, and Charlotte Knights manager Nick Capra said he found out the slugger was retiring through a news release.
But it wasn't a total surprise, Capra said.
"I just saw some frustrations that Jose was having this year," Capra said. "He just didn't look comfortable at the plate."
Canseco's decision leaves him with 462 home runs, 23rd on the career list, three behind Dave Winfield. A career .266 hitter, Canseco finishes with 1,407 RBI and 200 stolen bases in 1,887 games with Oakland, Texas, Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay, the New York Yankees and the White Sox.
He's one of only nine players in history with 400 homers and 200 stolen bases.
"I thought he was the most complete athlete I've ever managed," said the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, Canseco's manager in Oakland. "This guy really could run and when he was concentrating, play defense. And he loved to take the tough at-bat. Injuries just took the important part of his career from him."
His numbers would probably be even more gaudy if not for all of his injuries. He spent time on the disabled list in seven of his last 10 seasons, mostly with back problems.
"He's one of the most knowledgeable hitters I've been around," the Mets' Mo Vaughn said. "He was the first 40-40 guy, MVP, rookie of the year, and he's got a couple of rings under his belt. So he's had a tremendous career."
As one of the Oakland Athletics' "Bash Brothers" along with Mark McGwire, Canseco was once one of the most colorful players in the game. Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, he was called up by the A's on Sept. 2, 1985. One week later, he hit his first major league home run.
He hit 33 homers and drove in 117 runs the following year, earning him rookie of the year honors. In 1988, he led the majors with 42 home runs and 124 RBI, and he was a unanimous choice as MVP. He became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, and he led the A's to the first of three straight AL pennants.
Oakland won the World Series in 1989, but it was Canseco's homer in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series that stands out. He put Mike Flanagan's pitch in the upper deck of Toronto's SkyDome, some 480 feet away, a place where no ball had been hit before during a game.
But it wasn't just the way he crushed the ball that made him famous. He was as entertaining off the field as he was on. He drove his cars fast, and was cited several times for driving violations such as speeding. He was once arrested for having a gun in his car at a hospital.
He bashed the car of his first wife, Esther, and had a rendezvous with Madonna. He once brought a large land tortoise into the Oakland clubhouse, and drew complaints from his neighbors because of his unusual collection of pets.
Even his misfortunes were the stuff of tabloid fodder. When he blew out his right elbow on May 29, 1993, he was pitching mop-up duty for the Rangers late in a rout by Boston. The injury eventually cost him the last half of that season.
He once let a ball bounce off his head and over the wall for a homer.
"Jose had done some things in his career that gave the impression that he wasn't very smart -- but he was very smart," Vaughn said. "To really get to know him was great. He had a tremendous amount of knowledge on the offensive side."
He was still drawing crowds in Charlotte, with attendance at Knight's home games jumping more than 50 percent in his first week with the team.
"He had a flair for the game. People were coming out of the woodwork to see him," Capra said. "He brought out a lot of people not just to the ballpark here in Charlotte, but when we were on the road, too."
He was good in the clubhouse, as well, Capra said.
"A very professional man," he said. "He was nothing but a positive thing."
Released by the Angels in spring training in 2001, Canseco did a stint with Newark of the independent Atlantic League. He signed with the White Sox last June as a replacement for the injured Frank Thomas, and hit .258 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI. He played 76 games, almost all of them as a DH.
But with Thomas healthy again, the White Sox didn't have a place for Canseco and he became a free agent. He went to spring training with the Expos but was released after being told he wouldn't be an everyday player.
"I think he does," Vaughn said when asked if Canseco belongs in the Hall of Fame. "He's got tremendous stats. And if you just judge him on the numbers and don't think about the (public's) perception, he has as much of a chance as anybody else."