When 19-year-old Jessica Sekely first laid eyes on famous baseball player Jose Canseco in 1993, she had no idea who he was. Little did the Hooters trainee know that three years later she would become Mrs. Canseco.
Jessica's experience as a baseball wife was a tumultuous one, and she reveals all the page-turning details in "Juicy: Confessions of a Former Baseball Wife." Her marriage, wrought with infidelity, ended in divorce in 2000. She learned that the players and their wives would turn a blind eye to cheating, so no one would tell her when they saw Jose with other women when he was on the road.
She also contends that she would inject Jose with steroids and even tried them once herself.
Below is the first chapter of Jessica Canseco's memoir.
Chapter 1: Mr. Gorgeous
At the age of nineteen, when I still knew very little about life, and even less about myself, I fell hopelessly in love with the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. It took me the better part of a decade to get over that horrible addiction.
I was a college student at the time, strapped for cash, and one of my housemates, Cathleen, told me about Hooters, the national restaurant chain. She worked at the Cleveland branch, and she said the waitresses made very good money. "You're real pretty, and you have real nice breasts," she observed. "You'll do great."
I went in and filled out an application. The manager glanced at the application, took a considerably longer look at my breasts, and asked when I could start. I reported for work that same week, a Hooters-trainee. I had to learn the names of about a hundred beers, both the ones on tap and the ones in bottles, and I had to familiarize myself with about a dozen house wines. Those first two days were torture. When someone explains something to me in person, verbally, I'm real quick, and I don't need to hear it twice. But when I'm forced to process written information, it's sheer hell.
I was a terrible waitress. I was so nervous in my tight little Hooters outfit that I kept messing up my orders. I couldn't even keep my tables straight, or tell one set of customers from another, but the men never complained. "That's okay, honey. Don't worry about a thing. Why don't you pull up a chair and tell us about yourself?"
On my third day of training, three absolutely gorgeous men walked into the bar. One of them was wearing bright yellow pants and a vibrant red shirt, an outfit that practically screamed for attention. I thought he was the epitome of cool. Then again, that was more than a decade ago, in May of 1993, to be specific, back in the days when I was wearing gold-colored shorts and collared Izod shirts, so my own fashion sense left a great deal to be desired. Still, his clothes were the least of it. He was as stunningly handsome a man as I'd ever seen, and he took my breath away.
The man in the yellow pants noticed me, too. "Can I sit at one of your tables?" he asked. He was a perfect gentleman about it, soft-spoken and low-keyed, but I pointed out that my entire section was full. He suggested I borrow a table from one of the other girls, and that's what I did. "There's this guy and his friends who want to sit in my section," I explained to a fellow waitresss. "Would you mind?"
"This guy?" she repeated, incredulous. "Don't you know who that is?"
"No," I said.
"It's Jose Canseco," she said.
"Jose Canseco," she repeated. "The baseball player."
It still meant nothing to me. I could have told you more than you wanted to know about Metallica or Pink Floyd, but I didn't know anything about professional sports.
"He's the forty-forty guy," the bartender said, piping up.
He explained that the benchmark for a great season, going back a hundred years, had been thirty home runs and thirty stolen bases, and that Canseco had come along in 1988 and raised the bar with forty home runs and forty stolen bases. At that point in time, no other player had matched his record, and it would still be a few years before Barry Bonds reached the same milestone.
"That's nice," I said, and I went off to show Jose and his friends to an empty table. I smiled my Hooters smile and asked them what I could get them.
"How about your phone number?" Jose said, making his eyebrows dance.
"We'll see," I said, trying to be a true professional.
They guys finally ordered -- sandwiches, no drinks -- and I went off to put in their order. When I stopped by the bar to fetch water for the table, the bartender asked me what Jose had said.
"Nothing," I replied. "He asked for my phone number."
"And you blew him off?"
"What was I supposed to do?"
He was incredulous: "It's Jose Canseco!" he repeated.
One of the waitresses was standing within earshot, shaking her head from side to side. "You don't want to mess with him," she warned me. "He's a wife-beater." I didn't know whether that was true, but I knew she was jealous. All the waitresses were ogling Jose and his two friends, including my housemate, Cathleen, but I was getting the attention.
When I returned to the table, Jose smiled up at me. "So what about that phone number?" he said.
"Aren't you married?" I asked. I didn't know if he was married, but he couldn't very well be a wife-beater without a wife, so I simply assumed he was, whether or not there was any truth to the ugly rumor.
"No," he said. "I'm divorced."
"Are you sure?"
"Are you really Jose Canseco?"
One of the other players grabbed Jose's hand and showed me a birthmark across the back of it, as if that would somehow confirm his identity. I didn't know who he was, so how was I expected to know he had a birthmark? And it was one butt-ugly birthmark, believe me: a big brown spot about the size of an egg, with fur-like hair growing out of it. It looked sort of like a cockroach. For a moment, I thought about shaving it down and drawing little legs along both sides to make it look even more roach-like.
"That's very attractive," I said.
Jose laughed. "Can I take you to lunch sometime?"
"Okay," I said. I didn't think there was any harm in that. I jotted my number on a paper napkin and slid it across the table.
"Thanks," he said, pocketing the napkin. "I'll call you later."
They ate quickly and left -- I heard them talking about going to The Circus, a nearby strip club -- and I went on with my day, feeling a little giddy about the encounter. He was so handsome, with that dark skin and jet-black hair, and so polite. And on top of that he was a famous baseball player.
He called Hooters a couple of hours later, looking for me, and asked if I'd meet him at the Radisson when I got off work. I didn't think that was a good idea, but I spoke to my housemate, Cathleen, and we decided there was strength in numbers.
When we got there, Jose was waiting for us with one of the other players, and it was clear he wanted to hook him up with Cathleen, but that wasn't going to happen. Cathleen wasn't into the guy, and she said she wanted to leave. I honestly didn't feel right, either. I didn't like being in Jose's hotel room, and I felt icky in my greasy Hooters outfit. I have this thing about cleanliness. I feel better when I'm clean and pretty.
I told Jose that we were going to take off, assuming he'd make time for me if he was genuinely interested. He was disappointed, but he didn't get all pouty, like most guys do. He asked me if I'd have lunch with him the next day, and I said yes, and he told me to come by and pick him up before noon.
"You certainly handled that well," Cathleen told me on the way out.
"Have you ever seen a more beautiful man?" I asked her.
"He's not bad."
On the way to the hotel parking lot, I stopped to pick up a little rock that was lying next to the path.
"What's that for?" Cathleen wondered.
"A memento from the night I met Jose Canseco," I said.
"You're crazy," she said, laughing.
"Maybe I'll get him to sign it," I said, only half-joking. I realized I was being a bit of a dork, but I was really attracted to him, and I felt that something good was about to happen.
I called my mom when I got home, still giddy, and told her all about Jose.
"Who?" she asked.
"Only like the most famous baseball player in the world!" I said. "He did that forty-forty thing."
"He asked me to meet him for lunch tomorrow," I went on. "He's really cute."
"That sounds really exciting," she said. "Let me know how it goes."
I had a hard time falling asleep that night because I was thinking about my lunch-date. The fact that Jose had noticed me, when there were so many other pretty girls at Hooters, made me feel special. I know it sounds silly, but I was young and not terribly worldly, and he seemed like a very sophisticated adult.
In the morning, my sort-of boyfriend, Steve, called to say hello, and to see what I was up to, and I told him that Jose had come into the restaurant the previous day. He knew all about Jose, of course. Not only did he follow sports, but he had one of those Sega baseball games in which Jose was a featured player. "Did you talk to him?" he asked, and there was a little catch in his voice.
"Not really," I said. "Just to take his order and stuff."
I felt awful about lying to Steve, but I didn't think I should torture him unnecessarily. After all, nothing had happened. And in all likelihood nothing would happen. I was going to have lunch with the man, and then I'd probably never see him again.
I took my time getting ready. I put on just the right amount of make-up, got into my geeky shorts and a peach-colored Izod shirt, and drove over to the hotel.
I parked in the Radisson lot and went up to his room, and it took him a while to answer. He opened the door, his eyes still cloudy with sleep, and invited me in.
"Oh, hey. Hi. What time is it?"
As I stepped through, he shut the door behind me and crawled back into bed. I was a little annoyed. I had expected him to be at least a little excited about our date, but here he was, still in his underwear, watching The Price is Right. For a moment, I was reminded of my father, who spent a lot of time in front of the television, in his underwear. But that's where the similarities ended.
"It's almost noon," I said.
"Why don't you come lay down with me for a few minutes?" he suggested.
"I thought we were going to lunch."
He took my hand and drew me onto the bed and tried to kiss me, but I was nervous and pulled away. He smiled, amused, and I managed to smile back. It was kind of funny. This big huge tan guy lying on a rumpled bed, watching a game-show.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
"Nothing. I'm hungry."
"Okay, okay," he said, and off he went to get ready.
I watched TV as I waited, trying to guess the prices of various every-day objects, and Jose appeared a few minutes later. He was wearing expensive slacks and a nice dress shirt, and plenty of jewelry. I remember a Rolex watch and a sparkly bracelet. He went over to the table and picked up his cell phone. This was back in the days before everyone had a cell phone, and I was impressed by that, too. I thought it was very glamorous.
We went downstairs and into the parking lot, and I remember watching this huge, handsome man squeeze into the passenger side of my little Honda CRX. He was twenty-eight years old. I was nineteen. I felt small and young and inexperienced, and for a moment I wondered what I was doing with him.
"You like Cleveland?" I asked.
"Not really. You?"
"I don't know it very well. I just come here for work."
I tried to make conversation on our way to the restaurant, but he didn't say much, and I thought maybe he was still tired, so I concentrated on the road. I didn't know my way around too well, and I practically broke into a sweat when I couldn't find the restaurant, but then I saw it halfway down the block and almost wept with relief. "There it is!" I said, as if we'd stumbled across the Holy Grail.
"Yes it is," he said, and he looked at me funny, with this kind of half-grin, and did that thing with his eyebrows again, where he makes them dance.
We went inside and sat down, and I saw that people noticed us. Him, anyway. I realized that he really was pretty famous, and I thought I should try to do a little research on the guy before our next date -- if there was a next date.
"So," he said, after we'd ordered. "You like working at Hooters?"
"It was only my third day," I said.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No," I said. "Not really."
"What does that mean, not really?"
"Well, he lives in Ashland. And we hardly see each other anymore. And we've been sort of drifting apart anyway."
"What does he do?"
"He works at the college bookstore," I said. I guess Jose didn't realize that my boyfriend was still a kid, like me. "He's a student."
The food arrived, and I was so nervous I could hardly eat. Under normal circumstances, I have a huge appetite, and I could have managed a big plate of meat and potatoes. But I had ordered a small, lady-like salad, and I could barely put a dent in that. Jose had no trouble scarfing down his sandwich, though. I noticed that, for a man his size, his hands were unusually small.
"So," I said. "Tell me about your marriage."
"I'm divorced," he said, as if that said it all, and he began to attack the second half of his fast-disappearing sandwich.
After lunch, he squeezed back into my car and asked me what I wanted to do. It was sort of a relief, to be honest. I thought he was going to ask me to drive back to the hotel and try to take me to bed, and I was so weak-kneed that I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to resist.
"I don't know," I said. "What do you want to do?"
"Is there a mall around here? Can we go to the mall?"
"Yes," I said, and I pointed the car in the right direction.
"So, you got any brothers and sisters?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "I have a younger sister at home, and an older sister in Boston."
He didn't say anything else. He just looked at the road, straight ahead. I didn't say anything, either. I can talk to anyone, but around him I was completely tongue-tied.
We got to the mall and parked and started walking around, looking at the various stores, and before we'd gone very far people were coming over to ask for autographs. Jose signed one or two, but he wasn't comfortable with it, and he hurried me along to get away from the fans. I felt like such a geek next to him. He seemed so confident, and he looked like such an adult in his fancy clothes, and there I was, next to him, in my little shorts and my Keds. What a total nerd!
When we finally got away from the fans, he took me into the Calvin Klein store. "Let's look at some stuff," he said. For a moment, I felt kind of bad. I thought he must be ashamed of the way I looked, and that he wanted to dress me up. But the feeling quickly passed. He kept pointing at items on the racks -- dresses, slacks, nice shirts -- and the fawning clerks would hurry off to get them. I kept slipping in and out of the changing room, parading the various outfits in front of him, and I began to feel like a flesh-and-blood Barbie doll. It wasn't such a bad feeling.
"You know something?" Jose said at one point. "You have an amazing body."
The clerks kept bringing me stuff -- a cashmere top, skirts, leggings -- and Jose kept telling me that I looked great in everything.
"You really think so?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "Most women, you're going to see some flaws. But not you, Jessica. You are absolutely flawless."
Nobody had ever said anything so nice to me. It's a wonder I didn't swoon.
When he'd seen enough, he picked out one of the outfits -- an elegant skirt with a matching top -- and told me to I should wear that instead of my shorts. I felt grown-up, almost transformed. In fact, I felt like a whole new person.
We walked toward the register, where he made me try on a few pairs of sunglasses. "There," he said, looking straight at me. "Those are perfect."
I thought he was going to buy me the outfit I was wearing, and the sunglasses, but I was wrong. "We'll take all of it," he said.
It came to more than four thousand dollars.
I didn't know what to say. I kept thanking him and thanking him, and he kept telling me it was nothing, not to worry about it, that he was glad to do it. And as we left the mall, with people staring at him, and other people coming by to ask for autographs again, I suddenly felt like we were the perfect couple. Little Barbie had been remade, and she looked absolutely perfect next to her Latino hunk.
I drove him back to the Radisson, and he didn't invite me up. He had a game that night, and he had to leave for the ballpark shortly.
"I had a really amazing afternoon," I said. "I can't thank you enough for all of the beautiful things you bought me."
"It was nothing," he repeated.
I couldn't wait to get home to call my mother and tell her all about my day. I was so naïve. I never stopped to think about the moral implications.
"Didn't you say you had a sister in Boston?" he asked, opening his door.
"We're playing in Boston this weekend. Why don't you fly up and meet me there?"
"Sure. I'll have my assistant make arrangements."
"Wow." That's the best I could do: Wow.
"You want to come watch me play before we go?"
"I can't tonight. I'm working. How about tomorrow?"
"Can I bring my friend from work?"
"Sure," he said. "I'll have my assistant leave two tickets at Will Call."
He leaned over, gave me a little kiss, and lifted his huge, hulking frame out of the car. I watched him walk into the hotel, then I pulled away.
When I got home, I ran inside with my Calvin Klein bags and boxes and called home.
"Oh my God, mom, you're not going to believe what he bought me. Dresses and cashmere and even these really cool sunglasses."
"He must be rich."
"He made them keep bringing me stuff. I thought he was going to buy me a pair of pants or something, but then he said, 'We'll take all of it'. And it came to over four thousand dollars!"
"Leave it to you to find a man like that!" my mother said, laughing.
"And he invited me to a game tomorrow night!"
"That's wonderful," she said. "Let me know how it goes."
My mother never made any judgments about anything or anyone, and at the time I used to think it was pretty great. Everything and anything I did was okay with her. But in the years to come, it began to bother me. I kind of wished I'd had better parenting. I'm not blaming my parents for the way I turned out, but I wish they'd given me a little more guidance, I wish they'd been a little stricter. It's not that my mom didn't care, but that she thought I was perfect.
I went to work that night, floating on air, and kept messing up everyone's orders. It didn't work against me. The patrons were as nice as ever.
The following night, May 26, 1993, wearing one of my brand new outfits, which was probably a little much for baseball, Cathleen and I drove to the game. The tickets were being held for us at the window, and we got a good seat near the front. Jose looked cute in his Texas Rangers uniform. He saw me and waved and smiled. The people around us noticed. I tried not to gloat, but it was hard.
Then I looked around and saw a group of women in some seats near the diamond, even closer to the field. I figured those were the wives. A couple of them were looking in my direction, but they turned away when they saw me staring.
When the game finally got underway, I was totally shocked. I had never been to a baseball game, and it was arguably one of the most boring things I'd ever done in my life. Even the announcer sounded bored.
There was one bright moment, however. Jose was in the outfield, and Carlos Martinez of the Indians, the guy at bat, had whacked a good one right toward him. Jose looked like he was about to make a leaping catch, but the ball hit him on the head and bounced over the wall for a home run. I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen, and I couldn't stop laughing.
After the game, Jose told me that that had probably been the most embarrassing moment in his career, but he was able to laugh about it, too, which I found kind of endearing.
"I thought that's how the game was played," I joked. "You try to bounce the ball over the wall to get points for the other team."
He laughed and shook his head, then told me to meet him back at the hotel. "I've got to deal with these a**holes from the press," he said. "But I left a key for you at the front desk. Go on up to my room and wait for me."
I dropped Cathleen off at her car and drove to the Radisson, excited. They had a key for me at the front desk, as promised, and the clerk looked at me kind of funny. It didn't fully register, though. I went up and sat on the bed and watched TV for about an hour, then he walked in.
"Hey," he said. "You hungry?"
I thought we would go out, but he ordered room-service. We had sandwiches and a couple of beers, and just as we were finishing his cell phone rang. He said hello and listened for a couple of seconds, then cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and told me he'd be right back. He stepped out on the balcony, shutting the door behind him, but I could still hear some of what he said. He was talking to his ex-wife, Esther, and I caught a few phrases here and there: "I miss you. ... I'm just here on the road. ... We're going to Boston this weekend and I wish you'd come."
I was listening but trying not to listen, and it bothered me because it sounded like he was still in love with her. When he came back, he snapped out of it and moved the dishes off the bed and tried to kiss me.
"I don't even know you," I said.
"This is a good way to start," he said. I let him kiss me, and he was a real good kisser, and I even let him mess around with me a little. But the harder he tried, the more I fought him off. "I can't do this," I said.
"I'm not a one-night stand type of person."
"Who said this was a one-night stand?"
"I've only ever had two boyfriends my whole life."
He kissed me again, but when he tried to remove my clothes I pulled away. "No," I said. "I mean it. I'm not doing this."
I kind of expected him to get mad, but he didn't get mad. He smiled and kissed the top off my head. "Okay," he said.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" I asked.
"Why don't you spend the night?" he said.
"I told you already."
"Just to sleep," he said. "We don't have to do anything."
So I spent the night. And he didn't try anything. He actually stayed way over on his side of the big bed, which was kind of disappointing, since I wouldn't have minded cuddling a little. I was a little nervous, though. I kept waking up and looking over at him, but he never even moved. He slept like a baby and snored real loud.
In the morning, he was up and dressed before I was even out of bed. He said he had to leave to go the park, and he repeated what he'd said about his assistant, and the travel arrangements for Boston. The team was leaving that night. He wanted me to fly up the next day.
"Okay," I said.
He noticed the newspaper under the door, and he picked it up and turned to the sports pages. They had made a big deal about the way the ball had bounced off his head, and he seemed a little less amused than the night before. "Schmucks," he said.
"Who?" I asked.
"These reporters. They always make me out to be the bad guy of baseball." He opened the door and turned to face me. "Would you do me a favor?" he asked.
"Can you pack my stuff for me?"
"Pack your stuff?"
"Yeah. Just put my things away and tidy up a little. That way I won't have to do it later."
"Okay," I said. I thought that was a little weird, but what did I know?
He took one of my hands in his and studied it for a moment. "And get your nails done," he said.
"Here." He handed me two hundred-dollar bills. "Get yourself a nice manicure."
"It costs that much?"
"I'll see you in Boston," he said, and off he went. I lay there for a minute, studying my nails. They looked like working-girl nails. I guess he wanted me to look a little more glamorous. Then I went off and got his suitcase and started packing his things. It was really strange. I'm putting away his underwear and folding his fancy shirts and fancy slacks like I was his wife or something. I thought back to the conversation he'd had the previous night, with his ex-wife, and I wondered about that, too. I was increasingly confused, but I was also very attracted to him, and I decided I could live with a little confusion.
I drove home and called my mom and told her he'd invited me to Boston, and that I thought it would be fun to go because I'd get to see my sister, Sam, who was up there working for a radio station.
"Sounds exciting," she said. "But be careful. Don't have sex with him. And have fun with Sam. You guys call me, okay?"
I knew this was happening too fast, and I knew there was something wrong about having let him spend all that money on me, but I didn't have the sense to stop myself. And I didn't really want it to stop, so in that sense I was doubly to blame.
The weird thing is, I kind of wish my mother had tried to talk me out of going to Boston. I probably wouldn't have listened, but I might have reconsidered. Still, it wasn't her fault. As far as she was concerned, I could do no wrong. Maybe she really was excited for me. Shortly after I got off the phone with her, Jose's assistant called with my travel information. I was suddenly more excited than ever.
Then I remembered that I was supposed to drive to Ashland that night to hang out with Steve and his best friend and his best friend's girlfriend, but for obvious reasons I didn't feel like going. I got into a hot tub and thought about calling Steve, but I didn't want to deal with it, so I called his best friend instead. "Listen," I said, "I'm not going to make it tonight. Do you mind telling Steve for me?"
"He's home. I just spoke to him. Why don't you tell him yourself?"
"I can't," I stammered. "I, uh -- I met someone. But please don't say anything to Steve."
"Canseco?" he said.
"How did you know?"
"Steve told me you said he'd come into the restaurant. He said he had a bad feeling about it."
I felt worse than ever. "Nothing happened with him," I said. "I just don't feel like driving to dinner tonight."
"Are you going to tell him?"
"Yes. I'll tell him I can't come to dinner. But please don't say anything about Jose yet."
"You're going to break his heart."
When I got off the phone, I called Steve and told him I couldn't come to dinner -- I said I had to go to work -- and got off the phone quickly. I didn't want to think about Steve. I wanted to think about Jose. I hardly knew the man, but I was already beginning to fall in love with him. And, if not him, at least the idea of him.