OAKLAND -- Will Jose Canseco be booed or cheered here this summer when he shows up for the A's 1989 World Series 25th anniversary celebration? More to the point, will Canseco be strangled by any of his ex-teammates during introductions?
Sorry, we must wait for the weekend of July 18-20 to learn the answer. But I salute the A's for finally starting to get their history right in terms of reunion parties and promotions. Bless the Athletics front office for doing so.
And I'm not talking just about the 1989 team. This weekend at O.co Coliseum, the 1974 World Series champions will be honored in a 40th reunion celebration. Saturday evening, all eight starting position players from that 1974 team -- Billy North, Campy Campaneris, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Gene Tenace, Joe Rudi, Ray Fosse and Dick Green -- are scheduled to take the field for bows along with Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and others.
Such an excellent sight that will be. Too often, the A's have thrown together mere half-baked reunions of their four superb world title teams. Invitations to players would sometimes go out late. Certain ones wouldn't show. Others claimed they weren't contacted. Still others backed out after committing. Media exposure would fall flat.
The look was especially clumsy because, across the Bay, the Giants were producing well-staged reunions for teams from the 1960s and 1980s that never even won a World Series. Meanwhile, back at those awkward A's reunions, here was the most common off-the-record quote: "If they let us know more than six weeks in advance, I think more guys would have come. I wish everyone was here."
Saturday, virtually all the living 1974 players will be. Thus, speaking as someone who criticized the previous flawed reunion attempts, I commend this one -- and even more so for the A's decision to go full-bore with the mid-July reunion for the 1989 team. That is the one I am really anticipating.
Informally, I am calling it the "Will-Any-Former-Teammate-Put-Atomic-Balm-Inside-Jose's-Bicycle-Shorts" promotion.
An Athletics source says that all players on the 1989 roster have been invited to the 25th anniversary proceedings. Canseco has confirmed that he will attend. And that is where things could get interesting.
We all know about Canseco's adventures since his last major league game. He wrote a book exposing steroid usage on the A's and his other teams. He named names and made enemies, including some inside his old clubhouse. Mark McGwire basically accused Canseco of lying and exaggerating, even after McGwire came clean about his own PED usage. Canseco's former manager, Tony La Russa, also had choice words about him. Carney Lansford once said he no longer considered Canseco to be part of the 1989 team.
So what happens in July when the old gang gets back together? Two members of that 1989 team who are on the current A's coaching staff, Curt Young and Mike Gallego, say it might not be as awkward as you'd imagine.
"It'll be great to see all the guys who come, including Jose," Young said. "Obviously, he was a pretty big part of that team. I hope we get a chance to see him and a lot of the other guys."
Gallego swears he feels the same way.
"Hey, I always enjoyed Jose's presence," Gallego said. "He was always great to my kids. I always enjoyed being with him. ... We all know there've been some issues around him. But life goes on. Life is too short. If he shows up, I think people will like seeing him."
It might help that McGwire is an unlikely attendee because he's busy as the Los Angeles Dodgers' batting coach. Walt Weiss is managing the Colorado Rockies, so he also won't be there. Terry Steinbach and Rick Honeycutt are also major league coaches.
The manager should definitely be on hand. The team is having a La Russa bobblehead night as part of the weekend festivities. The hunch here is that, even though he's now employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, La Russa will find a way to be part of the A's reunion, bite his lip and tolerate Canseco.
And the rest of those A's? Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Henderson, Dave Parker, Dave Stewart, Lansford? It would be fun to see them together again, given their accomplishments. They didn't include just the 8-1 postseason record and their World Series sweep of the Giants. The 1989 A's team was remarkable because it survived an earthquake and (even more remarkably) drew regular-season sellout crowds to the Coliseum.
This reunion will surely be a more upbeat occasion than five years ago, when the A's threw together a sloppily executed 20th anniversary celebration of the 1989 team that was borderline sad. The steroid odor was still hovering over baseball in general. Canseco and McGwire stayed away. Only a few of the starting position players showed up, plus Stewart.
But it's the right call to invite Canseco this time. Yes, in spite of everything. It would be nice, sometime in the future, to see those 1989 Athletics find the same warm camaraderie that the 1974 Athletics will embrace here this weekend. Applause to the A's front office for trying to make it happen, at long last.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org.