February 20, 2019

Talking Expos: Talking Books – in Two Languages

May 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baseball is a pastoral game. You don’t play a pastoral game in a concrete stadium under a dome.

– Charles Bronfman, Expos first owner, September 24, 2004.

*     *     *

Gone? Indeed. But forgotten – not by a long shot. Not if the spate of recent books about the Montreal Expos means anything.

By that standard, the Expos, Nos Amours, are still very much alive and well, at least in the mind’s eye.

Many of us still remember how the Expos were frog-marched out of Montreal following the 2004 season by their unfeeling owners – the consortium that is Major League Baseball. Re-jigged as the Washington Nationals, the club promptly took its lead from earlier major league iterations in that city and made a bee-line for the cellar.

As any Expos fan worth his or her salt can tell you, the flight from Montreal was unnecessary. Had the self-serving lords of the game exercised even a smidgen of patience and good will, the franchise, the first ever beyond the borders of the United States, could have remained at home.

But the Grand Poobahs had a different agenda. And they had the money – so that was that.

Within Quebec, the first reaction was one of loss – and sorrow. The 32,000 who attended the final game at Olympic Stadium – the Big ‘O’ we called it – are proof of that. By the time the doors were closed for the last time and the lights turned off, the place was awash in tears.

Bitterness followed, of course, and much as did the faithful in Brooklyn when their beloved Bums were summarily dispatched to Los Angles, Expos fans turn their backs on baseball as well. The team that once held Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson close to the heart, and Gary Carter and Steve Rogers, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero, was no longer. And we could care less, or so we liked to pretend.

Thus the news last fall that two books about the Expos, along with a third centered largely on the team, were coming onto the market generated a flood of joy within the neighbourhood. Perhaps these would provide the core of happy reminiscences needed to exorcise those dark memories which have been our heavy burden for far too long.

We were not disappointed.

What follows is a brief introduction to these books, and some others which have been around for a bit. There is no particular order. All are great reads; but more than that, all are essential tools for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of the melodrama that became the Expos.

Bring a handkerchief.

L’époque Glorieuse des Expos
(The Expos Glorious Era)

Alain Usureau (Fall 2009)
ISBN 978-2-89585-073-1
323 pages; 15 pages of photographs
Available (in French only) from LES ÉITEURS RÉUNIS

To Alain Usureau, who in his other life is a radio and television sports journalist, the launch of L’époque Glorieuse des Expos must have felt like giving birth, except that his labour lasted 10 years.

A SABR-member since 1991 and a perennial force in the society’s annual trivia contests, Alain grew up with the Expos, and like many of his generation, the measure of their success pretty well defined his summers. When L’époque Glorieuse des Expos, (which he has established as covering the years from 1977 to 1984), finally appeared, it marked the end of the author’s own epoch voyage.

During that period he spoke with legions of players and others connected to the club and read countless books, articles and newspapers, all in an effort to reflect on their glory even as he sought to discern why a team so promising – and successful – never made it to the top.

There is no obvious conclusion: heightened expectations, dashed hopes, bad timing and bad luck all played a part, but at its core, the story of the Expos is the story of a love affair, one which reached its pinnacle of ecstasy between 1979 and 1981 and which, like all passionate love affairs, eventually became just too difficult to sustain.

Alain tells his story in 10 chapters, covering 10 years, and concludes with an epilogue. Each year is discussed thoroughly, offering an almost day-by-day look into the team’s fortunes. But what gives the book its special character is the recent collection of tidbits and reflections that he secured from so many of the participants, so much so that this work seems to march down two paths simultaneously, the quotidian and the retrospective.

At present, L’époque Glorieuse des Expos is only available in French, although I understand an English version is being considered. Nevertheless, the book adds an important element to the Expos story. For that reason alone you might want to add it to your library.

For more information contact Les Éditeurs Réunis, 91, rue Principale, Sainte-Angèle-de-Monnoir, Quebec J0L 1P0 tel : 450 460 4438/ www.lesediteursreunis.com

Il était une fois les EXPOS: Tome 1; Les années 1969-1984
(Once Upon a Time There Were EXPOS ; Volume 1: The years 1969-1984)

Jacques Doucet and Marc Robitaille (Fall -2009)
ISBN 978-2-89647-092-1
633 pages; 16 pages of colour photographs; black and white throughout; 33 pages of statistics; index
CDN: $34.95
Available (in French only) from LES ÉDITIONS HURTUBISE, Inc.

The co-authors of Il était une fois les EXPOS: Tome 1; Les années 1969-1984 know baseball. Both are highly respected in Quebec sports media circles. Jacques Doucet covered the Montreal Expos for all 36 years of their existence, three as a beat writer with Montreal’s La Presse newspaper and the last 33 as the Expos play-by-play announcer on French radio. He was awarded the Jack Graney Award by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for broadcasting and has been several times nominated for Cooperstown’s Ford Frick Award.

Marc Robitaille is both an author of several books, all well-received, and a film-maker. His novel, Un été sans point ni coup sûr (A No-hit, No-run Summer), was made into a successful feature film, with Marc as the scriptwriter. It is now available on DVD, with English subtitles.

Their book is a massive tome, over 600 pages in length. Beautifully written, it covers the first 15 years of the Expos story in exquisite detail. The fact that Jacques Doucet was present throughout, and close to the action, gives it a particular level of intimacy.

When Jacques and Marc set out on this project their idea was to link the story of the Expos to Jacques’ experience and present both as a single narrative. However, they accumulated such a collection of priceless material that they decided to go in the opposite direction. They broke their chronicle into two volumes with the first covering the Expos’ initial years. Volume Two is now in the works. There is also the possibility of a third, this one focusing on Jacques and his career.

Stephanie Myles of Montreal’s The Gazette was the last of the Expos beat writers. In her review of this book she declared, “If you can handle the language, you’ll be treated to an absolute treasure trove of stories…” She calls it “the definitive, historical record…definitive because it is all there – every high, every low, every player, every dramatic moment.”

For more information contact: Distribution HMH in Montreal (514-523-1523) or Chapters-Indigo book stores: www.chapters.indigo.ca/ The book is available only in French.

Over the Fence is Out: The Larry Walker Story and More of Canada’s Baseball Legends

Jim Shearon (Fall 2009)
ISBN 978-0-969803-93-5
258 pages; photos throughout; 48 pages of statistics, records; index
CDN $18.95
Available from Malin Head Press, Canada

Baseball Legends: True Stories, Records and Photos of Canadian-born Players in Baseball’s Major Leagues

Jim Shearon ((1994)
ISBN 0-9698039-0-7
248 pages; photos throughout; 11 pages of statistics, records; index
CDN $14.95
Available from Malin Head Press, Canada

Jim Shearon, originally from Montreal, was for many years a sports announcer on radio with both CBO and CFRA in Ottawa. His duties included play-by-play broadcasts of football and hockey, and baseball. For a period he got to call Detroit Tigers games for a Canadian audience.

The recently-released book, Over the Fence is Out: The Larry Walker Story and more of Canada’s Baseball Legends, is actually a sequel to an earlier work entitled Canada’s Baseball Legends: True Stories, Records and Photos of Canadian-born Players in Baseball’s Major Leagues.

Both books share a similar theme, to introduce the reader to Canadian baseball history and Canadian ball players, with the new one devoting 50-some pages to Larry Walker. Most of the players Jim Shearon writes about spent time in the major leagues, although he also discusses others who never made it to the Show, but whose experiences warrant a retelling nonetheless.

In addition to this broad collection of interesting tales about Canadian baseball, and as an added bonus, Jim has included in both books useful lists of Canadian players and statistical information.

For more information contact Malin Head Press, 79 Tiffany Place, Kanata, Ontario, K2K 1W5: or by e-mail; jimshearon@sympatico.ca

Blue Jays 1; Expos 0: The Urban Rivalry That Killed Major League Baseball in Montreal

David Luchuk (2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-2812-0
194 pages; photos throughout; Bibliography; Index
McFarland & Company

In Blue Jays 1; Expos 0: The Urban Rivalry That Killed Major League Baseball in Montreal author David Luchuk examines the 2002 season of the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays against the background of MLB’s determination to contract two of its existing teams.

He reflects on how the long-nurtured urban rivalry between the two cities ultimately set the stage for the demise of the Expos two years later, and comes up with conclusions that are thought provoking and controversial.

For more information contact McFarland and Company, or Chapters-Indigo book stores: www.chapters.indigo.ca/

Remembering the Montreal Expos

Danny Gallagher and Bill Young (Fall 2005)
ISBH 0-9681859-4-0
288 pages; photos throughout; list of all Expos players and coaches
Scoop Press, Toronto
CDN $27.95

Remembering the Montreal Expos was the first of the post-2004 books to be written about the club. Former beat-writer Danny Gallagher and I tackled the subject hoping that we might help fill the void left in the hearts of baseball fans in Montreal, and throughout Canada, when the club moved on.

Through a series of anecdotes and vignettes, the book sketches out the total Expos experience, beginning with the club’s inception (and conception) to beyond the final games, first in Montreal and then New York.

It was well received and is now out of print. For more information contact Bill Young – williamyoung@videotron.ca/

Bill, a native of Quebec City, has been a SABR member since 20001 and was a founder of the SABR-Quebec Chapter in 2005.  He collaborated with Danny Gallagher on the best-selling Remembering the Montreal Expos, and has published a number of articles about minor league ball in Quebec, particularly with respect to the Provincial League.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!