One look at Jose Canseco’s bulging biceps and the word “steroids” comes to mind. And in his personal memoir, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, Canseco admits to not only using steroids but perfecting them to an art form, and showing other players how to do the same.
Juiced won’t win any awards for being well written, but this controversial book certainly provides a juicy inside look at what goes on behind the scenes in America’s favorite pasttime, and Canseco even names names. The book reveals the evolution of his love affair with steroids (not to mention a brief fling with Madonna!) and how the use of of human growth hormone changed the look of baseball. Though much of the credit Canseco takes for becoming a walking chem-lab of steroid delights may seem arrogant and a bit overblown, it sure looks as though the use of ‘roids has indeed spread throughout the sport, with such devotees as Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi, who Canseco refers to as the biggest “juicer” in the game.
Canseco talks about plenty of big-name players, and does the “some do, some don’t” dance to the question of “who takes ‘em?” There are stories of his own baseball records, highs and lows in the game and in life, and what it was like for a Cuban-born Latino to play in the big leagues. There is plenty of name-dropping and gossip, including Canseco’s opinion that George Bush turned a blind eye to steroid use when he was owner of the Texas Rangers (hey, no big lead there…he turns a blind eye to everything!), but mostly the book is about Canseco, and his pain and glory as a player, a husband, a dad and a man, complete with sad tales of near-suicide and the suffering of divorce with his second wife, his love for his daughter, and the usual stories of groupies and hi-jinks on the road – all the mandatory “celebrity” memoir fodder. There are some color photos of Canseco and his big, bulging biceps playing the game and posing for the camera, all of which really drive home the fact that the bodies we see running the bases on Sunday afternoon at the ballpark are not the result of a healthy low-carb diet and weight training!
But the real star of Juiced is baseball itself, and how steroid use has altered and transformed the entire game, and how customized use of these drugs has made the sport what it is today. Canseco’s opinion that in the future, medical supervision of steroid use could be a good thing for the sport is, well, his opinion. The writing itself is pretty forgetful, but the gossip and anecdotes and behind the scenes details, whether true or just a figment of one big-muscled, slightly cocky player’s imagination, make for fun reading over a big bowl of popcorn and a cold drink.