Time to Celebrate the Birth of the Bash

John Hickey

It was on this day in 1988, that baseball was introduced to the Bash.

Jose Canseco, the American League Rookie of the Year in 1986 and Mark McGwire, the winner of the rookie award in 1897 were big guys back in the day, and they hit lots of home runs.

In the spring of 1988, the two decided to forego the traditional high-five and celebrate each other’s homers with a crossing of forearms in the form of an “X.” On April 4, 1988, Canseco homered on opening day and was greeted by the upraised forearm of McGwire.

It would come to be called The Bash, although at the time it was actually called the “Monster Bash” after the A’s marketing team wove some clips of it around a rewriting of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” a video that debuted on April 15 of that year.

The A’s would go on to win 104 games that season, and the Bash was at the front of that wave. A sports poster company named Costacos Brothers had done posters on pro sports stars like Ronnie Lott, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson and Joe Montana, and in 1988 they set their eyes on Canseco and McGwire. Their original concept was for something along the line of “the Blast Brothers,” but with the advent of the Bash, the “Bash Brothers” concept was born.

The poster itself was and is a classic. Canseco and McGwire making like the Blues Brothers of movie fame and Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Posed in front of a City of Oakland police car, the two were in black suits, black fedora hats, black shoes, yellow socks and shirts and black sunglasses. Thus were the Bash Brothers able to walk into sporting history with the poster selling 50,000 copies in the first three weeks of release.

At the time, the Bash was a major sensation. All of the A’s began to do it, as did their minor league franchises. And then some members of U.S. Olympic team used the bash to celebrate during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

As fads do, the Bash faded over time, helped in no small part by the revelations that Canseco and McGwire had been part of the steroid doping generation that almost brought baseball to its knees.

Canseco’s 2005 tell-all book about his steroid use implicated McGwire, and the two men haven’t spoken in more than a decade. McGwire and Canseco both were called to testify in front of Congress, and while Canseco’s career falloff made sure that he wouldn’t make the Hall of Fame, McGwire has been kept out of Cooperstown by his steroid use.

For all of that, the Bash never quite went away. Khris Davis and Mark Canha of the A’s use it now.

And Canseco has used social media to suggest the use of the Bash as a replacement for a handshake in this time or COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.