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Welcome Back, Jose Canseco!

As the team of 1989 gathers in the Coliseum to celebrate 25 years, we look back at a member who was out of the fold, but is peeking back in.

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

So we kicked off this weekend by honoring the team from 1989 for the 25th anniversary of the A's last World Series; highlighted by Jose Canseco's return to the Coliseum. Understandably, I have mixed feelings about Canseco, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Canseco was--without a doubt--my favorite Oakland Athletic, maybe of all time. I loved him in the way you can only love someone or something in your teen years; passionately, with your whole pure heart, long before you learn shades of nuance and complication and heartbreak. Many a teenager has his or her heart broken at summer camp, or when first love ends, or when love is unrequited, but for me, it was the first time I'd I realized that the baseball players you root for--you live with daily--can leave. I was fifteen in 1992; the A's season ended on my sixteenth birthday that year. But that unexpected exit on the bittersweet day when I listened to the A's as I took my driver's license exam paled in comparison to August 31st, 1992, when Canseco was called back from the batting circle. I remember hoping against hope that he was hurt; his back? I was sure that was it. But instead, we heard the unbelievable news that a fan favorite was removed in the middle of the game and traded away. I cried.

Over the years, the court of public opinion (helped a great deal by Canseco himself) made Canseco the poster athlete of the steroid crisis. Canseco apologized tonight in an interview for writing his now-infamous book, which no doubt led to his baseball blackball. Controversially, I always thought that the scorn heaped on Canseco was hypocrisy at its very finest. He was unapologetic for what he saw as bettering his game, doing something that everyone else did, and those who decried Canseco's role in the emerging steroid crisis always conveniently forgot to disclose how much they benefited from the towering home runs and the swagger of the late 80's and early 90's. And Canseco's honesty; true, couched in a good measure of weasel-ness, was a lot more than we've ever heard from other players mired in the same quicksand taint of the rest of MLB at the time. And if you're going to sign current tagged players, and cheer for them, and invite them to All Star games, in this day and age when there isn't any excuse, then the Canseco hate has to officially come to an end.

But still, on the other hand (I'm not keeping track of hands), is Canseco either the hero or the villain? Was he as opportunistic as he was made out to be; selling out his teammates for cash? Was he trying to set the record straight and calling out all those who wouldn't or couldn't tell the truth? Was he the best role model for a 15-year old girl, or should I have hung my hat--and my heart--on better quality? Why is it that when his name is announced at the Coliseum that I'm right back in high school, navigating my way through a sea of teenage hormones, dreaming about Jake Taylor and baseball and Jose Canseco and the only World Series for the A's in my lifetime? I'll never know why, but I'm right back there.

What are your memories of the '89 team? Do you see any of the players differently now than you did back then? And where are you with Jose?