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Remembering the Expos – Part One

In 1982,at the age of seventeen – I moved into a townhouse in Dollard, Qc. A new home for me, my dog Barney and my Mom. Who knew it would end up being one of the best things to happen to me; baseball – wise.

On the 13th of July,two weeks less a day from the family move ,Major League baseball was holding it’s annual All – Star game. This was no ordinary match. It was a monumental game for baseball.A historic day for the Expos, Montreal and Canada. The world’s best were coming to our city and it would mark the first time a game such as this was to be played outside the United States. It was an exciting time to be a fan!

Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson would be prowling the outfield with their cat – like reflexes at OUR Olympic Stadium.They were the elected starters for the American League and in a time when inter- league play did not exist – a National League fan’s only chance to see them n person without trvelling.The incredible trio would be complimented by Robin Yount at shortstop,Rod Carew at first, Bobby
Grich at second and George Brett at third base.Carleton Fisk of the Boston Red Sox would be catching Rich(Goose)Gossage,Ron Guidry,Dan Quisenberry and Rollie Fingers.Are you kidding me?

Most of these players have since been elected into the Hall of Fame and Lynn and Fisk were two of my favorite players growing up. Before
the Expos’ games were televised – the ABC network in the states would broadcast the Sox games to Montreal. It was hard not to be a fan of
our neighbors to the South.Babe Ruth’s curse and all …

The Montreal Expos were reaching the pinnacle of popularity that year. Although they lost to the Dodgers the year before on a season-
ending home run by Rick Monday in the Eastern final – the team was filled with stars.Old and new …

Gary Carter was selected as a starter behind the plate. Andre
Dawson and Tim Raines were voted to start in the outfield along with Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves.The Expos Steve Rogers was the starting pitcher for the National League and Al ‘ Scoop’ Oliver was in
the game as a reserve first baseman.(Oliver would have started yet
Pete Rose was the nostalgic choice).

Tickets to the game were not going to be easy to obtain and if a fan was lucky enough- behind the scoreboard,just below the pigeons was the seat of choice.

On the day of the move – I encountered a very big man in the
hallway of my building. He weighed 250lbs or more and was over six- foot tall.What I remember most of the man was a) he always wore a
fedora b)he had a huge moustache and c)he was forever sweating. He frightened me every time I saw him.I was always polite as to not upset my Mom yet I just wanted to turn and run the other way every time I lay witness to his presence. In hindsight – my Mom’s advice to play nice was a blessing in a baseball disguise …

The giant lived across the hall from me.Very bad for my dreams.The giant, it turned out – was a sportswriter.Very good for my dreams.
A brief battle occurred in my brain over these matters and the sports fan inside managed to KO the scared kid who shook on the outside.

The next time I saw the man – instead of turning my head in fear, I smiled fertilely and held my hand out for him to crush. His gigantic paws were as gentle as a strong wind as he introduced himself as the
one, the only – Al Wolfe. My Mom ( it turned out )was a braver soul than I and had spoken to ‘ Al the Giant’ on a few occasions.For this
reason – the behemoth knew of my love for baseball and hockey.His
questions now became a pacifier to my nervous soul as I evolved into ‘Rusty the Rooster’ before the friendly giant’s massive eyes.

In the next week,incredulous to anyone who knew of my fear, Al,
Barney and I became an unlikely threesome. A trio glued by the absence
of a father figure and our matching love for baseball( Barney was hot and cold – depending on who was playing).

Al had a job in the Olympic stadium.I had a job flipping burgers at
the Wendys restaurant across the street.I wanted his job – he wanted my burgers.I spent a lot of time picking the man’s brain. He was an American. What most adult Canadians know of hockey pales to an
American’s knowledge of their country’s pastime.

It would have been wrong of me to not milk this tree for all the baseball sap within.

All Stars

During the course of our discourse one evening, the subject of the All – Star game arose like a flower atop an unpainted table. A thing of beauty, a collection of talent which made the hungriest scout in the tiniest town drool with envy. Al told me eye- witness accounts of some of the players who would make their way to the artificial turf of the
Olympic stadium. He told me facts, details the average fan would never know.

Al told tales of Chicago native Fred Lynn driving in 10 RBIs in his
1974 rookie season and adding an astounding 105 his sophomore summer. The biggest jump in the history of the game. He would inform me that Rod Carew will be playing in his 15th straight All – Star game and that Bobby Grich set a major league record in 1973 with a then high .995 fielding percentage.( Grich broke his own record in 1985 with a .997 percentage).Al knew everything and I wanted to know more.

We spent nights and days together, watching and talking baseball. Al was a single guy and as far as I could tell – kind of lonely. My Mom started to invite him for dinner because she was kinda lonely as well. I tried to ‘ set up’ the two , figuring a step-Dad of this calibre may be a good thing.Unfortunately for me,Al was nor her type.She being more
suited to a man smaller than the country of Peru.

I knew I would not see much of Al as the big game approached. Writing on this event would be crucial to his career. In the meantime, I spent my time trying to find tickets to the game. I knew they would be hard to come by yet the game was nearing at alarming speed and all signs veered toward an evening with television announcer Vin Scully or on radio with Dave Van Horne and Duke Snyder.

To be continued …

Need a dynamic entertainer and Magician ? Kid Mercury is your man !

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