Once upon a time, Jose Canseco was the next “next” guy.

He was young, powerful, speedy, muscular.

He was good looking, too, and charismatic.

Heck, he even had that lush, thick mustache any 11-year-old boy would be proud to call his own.

And the home runs Canseco clouted in the minor leagues were the stuff of legend.

Yessir, Jose Canseco was the next Mickey Mantle .. the next Babe Ruth … the next Willie Mays … the next Cary Grant … the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And not just individually, but all those guys rolled up into one irresistible, all-world package of baseball dynamite!

The funny thing is, Jose pretty much lived up to the hype for a few years there.

Consider what he accomplished:

  • 33 home runs, 117 RBI, 15 stolen bases to win the 1986 American League Rookie of the Year award at 21 years of age
  • Another 31 dingers and 113 ribbies, along with a 17-point batting average boost as a sophomore in 1987
  • 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 40 stolen bases, .307 batting average to win the 1988 AL MVP award

That 1988 season, of course, was also the first 40-40 campaign in history and helped the Oakland A’s win their first of three straight division titles, and the first of three straight American League pennants.

And, in between World Series losses, the A’s swept the San Francisco Giants to take the crown in 1989.

Jose Canseco was on top of the world, a star among stars, headed for the Hall of Fame.

And then …

Well, and then we started hearing about Madonna and cars and guns, and we saw an ever-growing body that produced up-and-down results and occasionally allowed a batted ball to bounce off its own forehead and into the stands.

Jose Canseco became an adventure, a distraction.

Eventually, he became sort of a cartoon, and then a pariah when he spoke out about steroids in baseball.

And so it was that we arrived at the precipice of a 2002 season that fond Canseco on the sidelines of the game. After bouncing through five other franchise from 1996 through 2000, Jose had caught on with the Chicago White Sox for 76 games in 2001.

His 16/49/.258 line on the South Side weren’t enough to keep him around, though, and the ChiSox released him in November.

And there he stayed, in baseball limbo, until the Montreal Expos came calling with a free agent at the beginning of Spring Training in 2002.

Alas, as appealing as it was to contemplate Canseco panning for attention in such a remote baseball outpost, he couldn’t make the cut, and so he was cut, on March 27.

The world at large would never see Jose in the Expos red, white, and blue.

Except …

Topps apparently believed in the big galoot.

Believed in him enough, in fact, to snap a shot of him in Expos garb during Spring Training and plop him there on card #435 of their 2002 base set:

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Boom!

Holy untucked glory, Bat Man!

As it turned out, though, this card wasn’t just about high fashion and glamour.

No, this was a career-capper:

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Because Jose never did make it back to the Major Leagues (though he played 18 games at Triple-A for the White Sox in 2002).

So that unassuming little baby-poop-gold Topps card told the complete career story of one of the greatest players the game has ever witnessed turn himself into a caricature.

You know, minus a couple of bumps on the noggin and stunt-blown elbows and needle jabs and “personal training” sessions and …

2002 Topps Phil Rizzuto 1952 Reprint card

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2002 Topps "Weekly Wrap Up" #295 Tom Brady CSG 9.5 Mint Plus

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Willie Mays 2002 Topps Heritage Baseball Auto RO WM

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