Tag Archives: Montreal Expos

Maggie’s birthday, and the Montreal Expos

This morning I checked the date and thought, “It’s Maggie’s birthday!”

I laughed at myself then, because Maggie isn’t real. Well, that’s not true. She’s real to me.

She’s a character in a novel I’m writing. She was born in Shea Stadium on the day the Montreal Expos played their first game—fifty years ago today, April 8, 1969. The place and time of her birth determine her destiny: She is the female entrepreneur who brings back the Montreal Expos.

Some people say baseball is life, and I would agree. That’s why so many of our day-to-day expressions (clichés) come from the game: step up to the plate, go down swinging, cover all the bases, throw a curve ball, swing for the fences, or better yet, knock it out of the park. I’m just spitballing here, and maybe you think it’s a screwball idea coming out of left field and that I’m way off base—you can touch base with me about that later—but if you’re a heavy hitter who plays hardball, even if you occasionally strike out, soon it’s a whole new ball game.

I could go on.

Life Lessons from Dead Women (working title) is about baseball and life. Some of Maggie’s life lessons include:

Hot dog buns make excellent pillows.

Damage helps us get a grip.

Wrong is right and right is wrong, but it’s all right.

Curious . . .? I hope so.

Expos baseball cap and jersey with number 8
My Gary Carter jersey. Gary Carter’s birthday was also April 8.

I was alive at the time the Expos played that first game against the New York Mets, but I don’t remember it. I know that my father would have had his nose up to the TV. He was a baseball fan in general and an Expos fan in particular. He taught all of us the game, and led us on trips to Jarry Park to watch them play. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the bleachers and watching the great Rusty Staub warm up.

I don’t remember the game, but I’ll have a chance to listen to it. TSN 690 Radio in Montreal is replaying the original broadcast at 7:00 p.m. EDT, April 8.

https://www.tsn.ca/radio/montreal-690/schedule

Boy at bat
My favourite Expos player: My son, Ben, age 8, during his first trip to the plate.
Steve Rogers signed baseball
Steve Rogers was pretty good too.

Happy 50th birthday, Montreal Expos. And Maggie.

Do you love it, or do you love it?

On my morning walk I passed the site of one of our city day camps just as two camp counselors arrived for work. I assume it was Silly Hat Day at camp, because both girls climbed out of their cars wearing large, colourful hats. One girl called to the other: “What do you think of my hat? Do you love it, or do you love it?”

I didn’t get a picture of her hat, but it was a large-brimmed, splotchy, hat-of-many-colours that would challenge anyone to love it. But the camp counselor did not allow non-love of the hat as an option.

Do you love it, or do you love it? 

With her big smile, she made it clear that everyone was going to have a lot more fun if they loved the hat in all its splotchy glory.

I walked on and pondered some hats I have been challenged to love. My husband has an impressive collection of hats, and some endear themselves to me more than others.

His pith helmet, for instance. 

pith-helmetHe hasn’t worn this in a while (and in no way should he take this as encouragement to pick it up again), but on really hot days in the past, he pulled this off the shelf and wore it happily. On the surface I would say I don’t love a pith helmet, but when I dig deeper, I do love that it means my husband is not a slave to fashion. I love the independence it represents. It’s practical. On the hot, humid July days we get here in Ottawa, it is the coolest head protection he could choose. In a backhanded way, I love that hat.

Then there’s this red and white polka-dot beauty.

?Late last spring we had a sunny day with warm temperatures and ski hills full of snow: Spring skiing Nirvana. My husband scrounged around at the back of his closet and produced this hat. “This was the height of fashion for spring skiing in 1978,” he told me. I reminded him that this was not 1978, but, unfazed, he wore it anyway.

If you asked me if I love this hat, I’d  say “No” at first, but I do love how it instantly teleports my husband back to 1978 and happy youthful memories. In a roundabout way, I love the hat.

This one is a Canada Day staple.

canada-day-ehYes, it is an inverted beer mug, and yes, it features the stereotypical “Eh?” expression that makes me cringe. I sigh when this one comes off the shelf, but I have to admit that everyone who sees it smiles and laughs. I love that it tells the world that Canadians can laugh at themselves, that we have the best beer anywhere, and that we live in a country fun enough and free enough that people to wear inverted beer mugs on their heads. In a surprising way, I love the hat.

This one I love without reservation. 

expos-batting-helmetEasy to flat out love a Montreal Expos batting helmet.

My walk was a long one this morning, so I moved on in my thoughts from hats to other situations when it is most helpful to ask: “Do you love it, or do you love it?” Some situations seem inconvenient or unpleasant at first, but love and laughter or some other positive experience lie within.

  • Sleep interrupted at 5:30 a.m., by a child who crawls in to snuggle.
  • Repainting a room, to welcome friends into a new guest room.
  • Getting fired from a job, right before your perfect job comes along.
  • Missing your exit on the freeway, and then hearing on the radio about a traffic jam on your planned route.
  • Following a misguided GPS that takes you on a long, convoluted route to your destination, along a beautiful country road with gorgeous scenery.

It’s best to not allow non-love as an option.

If we dig deeply enough or wait long enough, love surprises us where we least expect it.

 

The spirit of the Expos: Why baseball and the Expos matter to me

My Gary Carter jersey

My Gary Carter jersey

Bear with me all you non-sports fans—there will be good stuff for you here. I know several of you don’t “get” my interest in sports, but to me, the world of sport teaches participants and spectators life lessons hard to find anywhere else. 

This weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays will play two games against the New York Mets at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The event has been dubbed “Expos Weekend” even though the Montreal Expos no longer exist—except in people’s hearts, souls and dreams.

These days I’ve been writing a story about the comeback of the Montreal Expos. Some might call it a fantasy piece; I prefer to call it “planning ahead.” There are enough people out there saying “It can never be.” If I have a role to play, it is to balance that out and say, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if . . .”

My father is at the root of my connection with the Expos. He was the original Expos fan. He watched every televised game and listened to the others on the radio. If a game lasted late into the night, and he didn’t want to disturb the family, he went to the car to listen to the game there. Many a night my father sat outside in the car by himself in the dark listening to Dave Van Horne. 

We made family trips to Jarry Park to watch the team. We always got lost driving in Montreal (who doesn’t?), so the trips were an adventure. My parents left plenty of time though, so we arrived early enough to be rewarded with encounters with heroes like Rusty Staub.

In 1981, on what would become known as Blue Monday, I sat in the TV lounge of my university residence watching Rick Monday hit the home run that ended the play-off dreams of the Expos. I cried. The other girls in my residence couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but I was thinking of my father, and how crushed he would be at the moment. Far away from home, I shared that heartbreak with my father. (Truth told—I’m crying now, remembering.)

In 1994, the Expos had the season of their lives. They were on a roll. They were exciting to watch. They were the best team in baseball. Then, a baseball strike shattered the dream.

My father died in 1999, so he never lived to see the Expos franchise end. In 2005, the team became the Washington Nationals. 

We played baseball as kids. I lived on a farm, so our field was the cow pasture and our bases were pieces of board or dried-up cow patties. We had a huge Louisville Slugger bat that was way too heavy for me to swing. My father taught me to choke up high on the handle to make it work for me.

My son plays baseball now. He’s pretty good. Here’s a picture of his first at-bat. See the name on the T-shirt? Expos. I have to confess to having some tears in my eyes at that moment, too.

first-at-bat

When I watch him play now, when I see him run down a fly ball in left field or strike out a batter, I think: “If only Dad could be here to see this.”

ben-learning

I’m a sports fan, generally. I love the Ottawa Senators, Roger Federer and any Canadian curling team. But baseball is the sport of my soul. It resonates with me. Here’s what I have learned from the game and the Expos:

  • Do whatever you have to do to enjoy the things you’re passionate about.
  • If you get lost, keep going. You’ll get there eventually, and the rewards will be worth it.
  • Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success and still not make it.
  • Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success, and some outside force crushes your dream.
  • If you don’t have everything you need, improvise. You’ll probably end up having more fun that way anyway.
  • If something feels to heavy for you to handle, look for help and learn to adjust. When you make the changes, swing away. You might just make contact.
  • An end is never an end; it’s a transition to another form.
  • Even if a person isn’t physically with you in the room or in the bleachers, a person can be with you anyway.

When the Toronto Blue Jays came along, my father cheered for them, too. They were in a different league, so that was okay. This weekend it will be the Blue Jays, not the Expos, playing at Olympic Stadium.

I don’t know what you think, but I think my father will be along the third base line enjoying the view.