Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Le Grande Orange

Le grande orange

     While watching a Red Sox/Nationals pre-season game today, I noticed how vastly improved the Nationals were...They had nice mix of veterans and young players,power and pitching,etc., maybe not enough to overtake the Phillies(actually, not at all),but a very promising team, and I caught myself  saying out loud, "Wow, pretty good for a recent expansion team"...oh, wait...I keep forgetting, they used to be the Montreal Expos...
For 36 seasons(1969-2004),Montreal had it's own baseball team, and while they never won a pennant, they had their moments...unfortunately, their 2 best years were strike years...

               1981, that was the year they were gonna do it, at least initially...they had 2 Hall of famers(but more on those 2 later),Steve Rogers(not to be confused with Captain America...figures the one player who had his name played for a Canadian team)Charlie Lea,Bill Lee and such as starters,they had speed,power, and also, maybe the ugliest stadium ever,Olympic Stadium(when I saw an Expos game in 2000, their fortunes had turned for the worse,and there were hardly anybody in the stands, so people would bang the ugly yellow empty seats together to make noise.)
But speed teams always did well with turf, and that year they came within an inning of winning the pennant, losing to the Dodgers(Known as "Black Monday", because of a big clutch hit by the Dodger's Rick Monday)

             Fast forward to 1994;They have the best record in baseball in August at 70-40,They have Pedro Martinez,Larry Walker,Moises Alou(son of the manager,Felipe),Delino Deshields,etc., but they were stopped again by a strike, but this time, the season never finished... they never recovered, and, just by coincidence,maybe, The other Canadian team ,2-time defending champion Blue Jays had major setbacks as well, but at least they got to keep their team...the Expos were not so lucky. They spent the next 10 years in a kind of limbo, and while they had some great players like Vladimir Guererro ,Orlando Cabrera and such, they never had the funds to sustain a good team.In fact, on top of losing their T.V. license , they also started playing a portion of their games in Puerto Rico, which must have made their opponents groan a bit with all that extra travel(except maybe the people who were from there).

               There is exactly one player in the Baseball Hall of fame who went in as an Expo, and that was the recently departed Gary Carter, who actually is more famous for playing for the Mets, who I believe only have one player as well(Tom Seaver) to go in there.Andre Dawson went in as a Cub, which is a little wrong, considering his best years were with Montreal(I know he won an MVP in 87 with Chicago, but still).And I'm sure Pedro will go in with a Red Sox cap on, but maybe if Tim Raines gets in he'll don the Expos cap.
I hope so, because their memory is fading fast.Then there's Bill Lee...

       One of my favorite players of all time,the man who called Don Zimmer the "Designated Gerbil"...the man who said he smoked pot to clear the bus fumes out of his lungs on a jog to the park...the man who told Dapper O'Neil that someone stole his stationary in a letter that O'Neil had filled with misspellings , Bill Lee was classic(and still playing at age 62...somewhere).....I grew up watching him play for the Red Sox where he won 17 games 3 times, then was shipped off to Montreal for Stan Papi(I know, "Who"?)Bill played his last 4 years with the Expos, and while he had only one really good year with them, he did stand up for his team mate Rodney Scott when the team tried to get rid of him, and then ended up getting rid of Lee as well...Baseball needs more integrity like this nowadays...

        Then there was the team's first superstar,Rusty Staub, nicknamed "Le Grande Orange" for his flaming red hair.Rusty would become more famous for playing for the Mets(sound familiar)and he was responsible for getting Keith Hernandez used to New York when he was basically nothing but a pinch hitter at that point.He played for Montreal back when they played at Parc Jarry, a much smaller venue than Olympic stadium(they could have used a smaller venue in the closing days...too soon?)I mostly remember him as an aging pinch hitter, but you can't argue with a great nickname like that...speaking of integrity  ,he also played in the 1973 World series for the Mets with a bum arm in the outfield, but still manged to play...echoes of Willis Reed...

                And look, I have nothing against The Nationals...well, except that their logo looks like the Walgreens logo, and the fact that Bud Selig had a lot to do with their move to Washington...oh, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the Orioles, whose turf is being invaded...O.K., there' are a few things, but I really miss Montreal...the weird logo, which I was convinced said "EB" for "Exhibition" for the longest time, only to find out it was a really fancy "M"(I only recently found this out, and I own a shirt of theirs,but a friend of mine insists it stands for both...he may be right),the powder blue "Away" uniforms(During throwback day, do the Nationals wear the Expos uniforms?I'm just asking, because I really don't know).French speaking people embracing baseball was a cool thing I thought...will they ever trust us again?Well, there's always the Alouettes(Which is their CFL team, not a tribute to the father/son duo from 1994,although,that would be awesome). 


1 comment:

  1. I miss the Expos too. As a kid I wrote them and asked for a list of baseball terms in French and also what the heck was up with the "elb" logo. They wrote back. The logo was indeed an "e" and a "b", and the whole thing was an "M" -- Montreal Expos Baseball. I still have the letter; I should scan it & email it to you.