Remember When A Shirtless Jose Canseco Really Meant Something?S

The year was 1990 and the times were simple. Boston was still pink hat-less. Barry Bonds was a skinny Pirate. Billy Beane was one year removed from a 54 OPS+ season, his final one. And Jose Canseco appeared on various baseball cards in blue jeans—no shirt. The image was used for several cards, but none better than Daytona's Power & Glory.

It sounds impossible, but the back of the card is just as magnificent as the front. It overwhelms with information. Jose Canseco has a Cigarette boat, and it is big. His houses—houses—are also big, even though his wife is not big. The square footage, though, probably accommodates the enormous pile of money Jose has thanks to his $536 per hour paycheck, so it works out.

But excess was the hallmark of the 90's wasn't it? The dot-com bubble. 70 home run seasons. Zubaz. It was a free for all. It makes the minimalism of the front of the card almost beautiful. No shirt. No sideburns. No society. Just Jose and the desert sun bronzing his big (except for the waist) physique. Look at his face. He cares not for the trivial. Where did that ball go? 450 feet? To Mars? Are we on Mars? It doesn't matter. Nothing matters when you are a giant. Jose might say the same to the stupid-with-dehydration McCarthy protagonist who wandered into the tangential realm of this baseball-bat-wielding Adonis in the middle of the California desert for 10 pages, looking for answers.

Canseco has the expression of a man completely at peace with himself and his place in the world he walks. "Picture of me swinging in just my jeans? Why the fuck not—I'm Jose Canseco?" he appears to say. In 1990, that probably justified a lot. It all went away, of course; the power and the glory. "Write a book about steroids in baseball? Why the fuck not—I was Jose Canseco."

Jose Canseco was right about a lot of things in baseball, of course. His book exposed a culture some say run amok. But the price he paid was a hefty one—"when he screws up, he screws up extra big"—he ostracized himself from the sport that made him.

The theme of the baseball card is size, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. It describes Jose's world as big: his physique, bank account, houses and his bat. His bat was "the biggest anybody swings." His success was great in 1990, but success does not just happen. Sacrifices must be made. We now know not everything about Jose Canseco in 1990 was big and we now know why he was described as an athletic flower and not something more virile.