Rumor became shocking reality. Denial among some fans turned into voracious appetite for the whole sordid truth. A decade of whispers grew into a roar: We want more! Canseco suddenly went from steroid junkie to expert.
The public finally seems ready to get to the very bottom of what it has been watching the last 15 years: home 'roids flying out of parks in record numbers.
I'll admit that I've heard the whispers about Canseco and McGwire "juicing" as Oakland A's Bash Brothers since the late '80s. What's more, I heard rumors about Texas Rangers "juicing" even before that. So why didn't I write about it?
Not for the same reasons that sportswriters of the "Ball Four" era looked the other way. They generally felt that ballplayers' drinking and carousing had nothing to do with their performances. Those sportswriters often drank and caroused with the players. They strictly covered the games those players played.
I would have written about steroid use in baseball if I could have proved it. I did write about several Dallas Cowboys experimenting with steroids in 1982 -- including Hall of Famer Randy White and Pro Bowl defensive end John Dutton -- because they talked to me on the record about it. In those days, I was naively aware only of the potential benefits of a wonder drug that could make you stronger and faster and allow you to recover quicker.
I had no idea about the potential deadly side effects. I don't even remember knowing that anabolic steroids were a prescription-only drug.
But you could not accuse a baseball player of acquiring and using an illegal drug without stand-up-in-court proof. And if a player confessed to you, or you witnessed a player injecting himself, or a teammate ratted him out, you couldn't get the story past your editor.
So why is Canseco hell-bent on breaking baseball's "thou shalt not snitch" commandment? Tony La Russa, who managed Canseco and McGwire -- and loves only McGwire -- told "60 Minutes" that Canseco "is in dire straits and needs the money" and "has a healthy case of envy and jealousy."
Some truth in both the alleged motives. But I saw Canseco do several interviews in 2002 in which he said he had been "blackballed" by baseball because he was suspected of being a steroid user. Which he was. But his point was that so were a whole lot of other famous players.
So to me, "Juiced" is also about revenge. If Canseco's legacy and Hall of Fame chances have been ruined, he's taking down the highly popular and protected guilty with him.
And that's fine with me.
I want baseball's dirty little secret dragged as far out into the sunlight as possible. I want every fan to hear every detail I've been hearing -- but couldn't prove -- for 20 years. I want the most casual of fans to hear Jose Canseco, MVP in 1988, say: "I would never have been a major-league caliber player without steroids ... [they] can make an average athlete into a super athlete and a super athlete incredible, legendary."
Yes, Canseco went from a 160-pound minor-leaguer to a 6-foot-4, 250-pound robo-slugger who hit 42 homers and stole 40 bases because he could run a 4.3 40.