Remembering the Montreal Expos
by Danny Gallagher and Bill Young
Published by Scoop Press
288 pages, 2006
Nos Amors No More
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
Memory plays tricks on us. You and I could see the same thing, but years later recall it differently. Can we both be right? Yes, as Danny Gallagher and Bill Young prove in their nostalgic recollection Remembering the Montreal Expos.
The team may have morphed into the Washington Nationals ("Hallelujah," cry the fans in that town, deprived of baseball since the Senators moved to Texas in 1972), but the spirit didn't go with them; the "official" record books declare that statistical records for the new incarnation began in 2005.
Authors Danny Gallagher, a Toronto-based journalist, and Bill Young, a founding member of the Quebec-based chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research, have collaborated on this engaging, if uneven, ode to the colorful Canadian club.
Rather than following a timeline -- the usual approach to such volumes -- the authors offer vignettes of players, managers and other personnel associated with the Expos. Their format seems to employ a stream-of-consciousness approach, with no discernible connection between chapters.
While the author's musings are sure to bring back (mostly) pleasant memories, they are not apportioned well. Indeed, the most ink goes to someone who's considered a villain by some in the Montreal baseball community: Claude Brochu, the team's general partner when all their troubles began, who rates two chapters.
There are some heartwarming literary snapshots on some of the team's biggest stars such as Rusty Staub, affectionately known as "Le Grand Orange," Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Jeff Reardon.
Not all of the players in the book were marquee idols, however, and one questions the authors' judgment. Rex Hudler and Otis Nixon? Matt Stairs? Jeff Huson? Team trainer Ron McLain?
Others were downright flawed, failing to live up to expectations, such as such as pitcher Floyd Youmans and Ellis Valentine, an outfielder who was considered a "five-tool" player, a high accolade given only to the best all-around athletes in the game. Willie Mays was such a player; so is Alex Rodriguez. Valentine could have been one as well, but, like too many of his peers in the 1980s, he succumbed to the temptations available to young men with too much time and money on their hands.
The uneven narrative, though, is part of the charm of such memoirs. These are the memories of Gallagher and Young; this is what is important to them. What is less forgivable are the factual errors that a seasoned journalist like Gallagher just should not make, as when he reports that Bob Bailey, a popular third baseman in the Expos' early years, was traded for Clay Kirby of the New York Mets, when in fact Kirby was with the Cincinnati Reds. In another miscue, they report that one player was cut in order to make room for Staub when he rejoined the team in 1979. In fact, that player was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Such mistakes can cut into a project's credibility.
Despite the flaws &endash; even the best players make errors, after all -- Remembering the Montreal Expos is the only book of its kind, the "only game in town," so to speak, for those hungry fans of a team that was sometimes thrilling, sometimes disappointing, by always Nos Amors.
Ron Kaplan's maternal side hailed from Montreal, where he spent many summers evenings staring into the sun from the first-base side of Jarry Park. | November 2006
Ron Kaplan, a contributing editor to January Magazine, lives in Montclair, New Jersey, where he is the sports editor for a weekly newspaper. His maternal side hails from Montreal, where he speant many plesant summer evening staring into the sun while watching the Expos play in Jarry Park. Ron writes about baseball literature in his blog.