OBSERVATIONS: Bring Montreal back to Major League Baseball

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a full weekend of watching college football, mostly a bevy of lopsided games and wondering how close next Saturday’s Ohio State-Indiana game will be. . .or if it even will be played. The Buckeyes have won 15 straight over the Hoosiers since losing, 41-7, in 1988 — 32 years ago. Can you say, “Motivation?”

—There is talk about putting another MLB team in Montreal, a city that loves baseball and supported the Expos de Montreal.

The city lost its team because it couldn’t come up with a new stadium, one to replace the monstrosity that was the Stade de Olympique, man’s monument to concrete.

Before the team relocated in Washington, hunks of concrete were falling from the roof, some the size of box cars.

Montreal, though, deserves a team. It is a great city, full of fantastic restaurants with a bakery on every corner of St. Catherine’s Street, the main downtown drag.

The city has an excellent subway system. When the Reds were in Montreal, the team stayed at a Sheraton. It was two blocks from a subway entrance that ran directly under Olympic Stadium, the Pie IX stop. It was pronounced ‘pee-noof’ (French), but of course the players and traveling party called it pie nine.

There was one game during which Reds relief pitcher Bob Sebra gave up a mammoth game-losing home run that nearly turned a concrete pillar behind the center field wall into rubble.

Fellow baseball writer Jerry Crasnick asked me, “Are you going to interview Sebra.” I facetiously said, “Nah, he’ll be gone in a week.”

And in a week he was gone.

On one extremely hot night, the team bus back to the hotel was like a steam bath. The driver spoke French and professed not to speak English.

The players kept yelling for him to turn on the air conditioning. But he didn’t. Finally, utility infielder Rick Auerbach yelled, “Hey, bussey, the pizzas are done.”

There was a writer from a French newspaper who loved the fruit of the hops. . .to the point of obliteration After a night game, a group of us walked down St. Catherine’s Street. We encountered said writer not only draped over a parking meter, he was talking to it.

The Expos had this goofy-looking mascot called Youpee and the crowd constantly sang The Happy Wanderer over and over and over. Some of the lyrics: Valderee, valderah,
Valderee, valderah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,
Valderee, valderah ,my knapsack on my back.”

But there was one major plus for the players. The hotel was one block from an establishment called The Chez Paree, a place where they could parrtake of lunch while some young ladies danced in front of them au naturel.

“Valderre, valerah, valderee. . .”
—Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux appears in this space often, like Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. That’s because some of the things Maddux did on the mound are astrounding.

Another example: Maddux faced 20,421 batters during his career. He went to 3-and-0 counts on only 133 of them.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, who won four Cy Young awards but only one World Series ring: “You play the game to win the World Series. Cy Youngs are nice and I’m proud of them. But easily the biggest thing I’ve accomplished is getting that World Series ring.” (Maddux was 1-and-1 in that 1995 World Series and I hated it because the Atlanta Braves beat my Cleveland Indians in six games.)

—When the arresting officer placed new Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa into a police car prior to charging him with a DUI (LaRussa’s second), he played the ‘Do you know who I am’ card.

He said, “Do you see my ring? I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person. I’m legit. I’m a Hall of Famer, brother. You’re trying to embarrass me.”

Uh, no, Tony. You embarrassed yourself, your family and the Chicago White Sox.

Never much cared for Mr. La Russa, who always seemed to try to re-invent baseball. But I loved his book, 3 Nights in August, and my assessment changed when he signed it for me this way: “Hal: With much respect and admiration, I’m honored that you’re reading ‘3 Nights’ and want my signing. Hopefully the book achieves our goal to pay tribute to the greatest game. Tony LaRussa.”

Unfortunately, playing the name card with a police officer does nothing to pay tribute to the greatest game. It demeans it.

—Remember before the season, back in early August, and Ohio State coach Ryan Day was angry with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh when Harbaugh accused OSU of cheating? Ryan reportedly told his team, “They better hope for a mercy rule because we are going to hang 100 (points) on them.”

Well, now. . .

—One of the fun college football stories this season is Liberty University. Well, one of many. How about Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Northwestern and Indiana?

Liberty is 8-and-0. But. . .
On Saturday, Liberty played Western Carolina, a team playing its first game of the season. Liberty led, 55-14, with 6:08 left. And what did the Flames do? They kicked a 55-yard field goal. C’mon, man. Some humanity, please.

The other fun story is 7-and-0 Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers had their game Saturday against Troy postponed. Liberty and Coastal Carolina are scheduled to clash December 7 at Coastal Carolina.

—QUOTE: From University of Kansas football coach Les Miles, BEFORE the Jayhawks lost to Coastal Carolina, 38-23: “There’s potential for this football team to be a very talented team. If they come out and play like they are supposed to.” (The Jayhawks haven’t yet played one game the way Miles said they are supposed to play. They are 0—and-7 and have been outscored 330 to 106.

—In fact, the 2020 football season is full of feel-good stories during a year there is not much to feel good about.

How about Marshall? On the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that wiped out the 1970 Marshall team, the Thundering Herd wore all black uniforms Saturday with ’75’ on white helmets to remember the 75 who died. And the ‘Herd beat Middle Tennessee State, 42-14, to go 7-and-0.

And how about Northwestern University, the Big Ten rugs for every other team to walk on most of the time. Well, with a 27-20 win over Purdue, Northwestern is 4-and-0 in the Big Ten. Same thing for Indiana, also usually a Big Ten punching bag. The Hooisers shut out Michigan State, 24-0, and are 4-and-0 in league play.

And then there is Penn State, Michigan and Michigan, taking more lumps than a box full of sugar cubes.

—Did you know that Michigan is the only team over the last five seasons that has not won a game when it was the underdog? Who knew?

—QUOTE: From former Cincinnati Reds manager Trader Jack McKeon, when asked by a TV personality before a big game if he had any special plans: “Hey, this ain’t football. I can’t draw up any new plays.”

—QUOTE: From Pete Rose’s first wife, Karolyn, who once asked me: “What does Pete do with the bases he steals. Does he put them in his trunk?”

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