Montreal Gazette - April 18, 1980

Home is where the Expos are – play ball!


By Michael Farber of The Gazette


The Expos play their home opener today, 24 hours after their apartment openers.


Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski and Pete Rose and the rest of the Phillies could wait until today (1:35 p.m at the Olympic Stadium), but the groceries and electricity and other exigencies of settling in for the summer had to be disposed of immediately.


So while Philadelphia went through a light workout yesterday afternoon, the Expos, many of whom passed on the optional workout, slugged it out with the bank tellers and telephone installers of this world, getting their houses in order for another season – just like real people.


"Literally, it is a home opener," said Scott Sanderson, who starts against Dick Ruthven in the fourth annual inaugural at the Big Owe. "My wife and I have so many things to get settled. All the furniture is in, but we have to get a bank account and a telephone installed and see if we can get tickets for the Canadiens game. Stuff like that."


Valises, golf clubs, fishing rods – stuff like that, shipped from Florida – were strewn about the Expo clubhouse as the players returned after a 200-day absence from their adopted city. The Phillies were here that final day, too, defeating the Expos while Pittsburgh was beating Chicago. The Expo clubhouse was quieter then, as each player lived the one freeze-frame he had to relive this winter: Milo Hamilton, the Pittsburgh broadcaster, said via transistor radio: "The Pirates win the... "


Click. Somebody switched off the radio.


But that moment has been tucked away in the scrap-book of the mind, and the only things the Expo clubhouse contained yesterday were suitcases and the promise of better things to come.


And why not? After winning two of their first five games and playing shabby baseball – making physical and mental errors and stranding enough runners to people the Albanian army – things can only get better.


"There's the anticipation and excitement which comes before every start," said Sanderson, pitching in his first major league opener. "But not much more than that. We want to do well in front of the fans who supported us so well last season, but we've already had a few games and the nervousness should be gone.


"I don't feel any pressure pitching the opening game. Pressure doesn't come from the outside. It's all self-induced or self-inflicted." He paused. "What's the difference between self-induced and self-inflicted?"


Self-inflicted implies some psychic damage while self-induced is more neutral, he was told.


"Then make it 'self-induced,'" Sanderson said. "No damage to me."


The cavernous Olympic Stadium – an airport with seats, which, at least among major league stadiums, proves there is no place like home – has been anything but damaging to the Expos. They had a 56-25 record at the Big Owe last year (starting with a 2-0 victory over the Cubs), the best home record in the majors. Included were three consecutive shutout victories over Philadelphia in late May, which helped ruin the Phillies chances for a fourth straight National League East title.


But the Phillies had the last laugh by beating the Expos on closing day and then again on opening day eight days ago, en route to winning two of three last weekend against the Expos.


Steve Carlton, who beat the Expos on opening day, will miss this series, however, as manager Dallas Green will start right-handers Ruthven, Larry Christenson and Randy Lerch against the right-handed hitting Expos, saving the left-hander for the left-handed hitting St Louis Cardinals.


Williams will counter with Sanderson, Rogers (who threw yesterday and said the pulled muscle near his left ankle was improved) and Bill Lee. Ross Grimsley, who used to pitch for the Expos, comes out of hiding to open the Pirate series Monday.


"I wanted to get Ross some innings in relief before his start, but things didn't work out that way," Williams said. "David Palmer is ready to go out there, and we want to get him at least one relief appearance before he starts. He threw batting practice and he's been throwing on the side, and we wouldn't hesitate to use him in relief."


A crowd anticipated at more than 45,000 will get its first live look at left-fielder Ron LeFlore, who has been exciting on offence and defence (.471, two stolen bases, three errors), and the new Warren Cromartie, who has played well (.400, two home runs) since being shifted to first to make room for LeFlore.


Among the old looks is the Olympic Stadium, which still has no roof, and a photo near the Metro entrance of some Swedish Olympic rowers, who are still incorrecetly identified as the Hansen brothers of Norway. 

Phillies prove tough come opening day


For openers, how's this:


•  The Expos have won six of their 11 home openers, one of three in the Olympic Stadium.


•  The Expos have opened their local season against Philadelphia three previous times, losing 6-3 in 1975, 8-2 in 1976 and 7-2 in 1977. The defeat in 1977 was the baseball inaugural at the Olympic Stadium for baseball.


•  The Expos defeated the Chicago Cubs, 2-0, last season to snap a four-game losing streak in home openers. Ross Grimsley and Elias Sosa combined on the shutout and Andre Dawson hit a home run.


•  Duke Snider, the Expo broadcaster, will be honored in pre-game ceremonies. Snider, who was the Expo hitting instructor in 1974 and 1975, was elected to the Hall of Fame this year.


EXPOSES – More than 42,000 advanced tickets have been sold, and as many as 50,000 might attend if the weather is a fine as predicted...


Andre Dawson says the cold temperatures the Expos encountered in Philadelphia and New York might have hurt the team. "It affects throwing the most," Dawson said. "Everytime I threw the ball, it felt like the first time I was throwing it. I had to keep salivating on my hands to keep them warm. The wind caused a lot of erratic throws, but I think things will get better at home."...


Manager Dick Williams has been pleased with his bullpen in the first five games of the season, especially the work of Fred Norman and Dale Murray. Each has allowed just one earned run, Murray in five innings, Norman in six. Elias Sosa, the stopper, also has not been charged with a run...


The Expos have stolen five bases in seven attempts, although Ron LeFlore is just two-for-four…


Scott Sanderson, opening day pitcher, was talking about how warm Expo fans were. "And," he added, "they'd better dress up to stay that way."


Williams plans to bring Sanderson back next Tuesday against Pittsburgh after Ross Grimsley makes his first start of the season, and then continue with a three-man rotation because of the number of off days...


Rodney Scott, who had trouble hitting left-handed during spring training, is batting just .154 from the left side (.250 from the right) in the first five games...


The Expos were 4-1 heading into the home opener last season. They then won four of five on the opening homestand against New York and Chicago to move into first place.


Youppi will lead a marching band prior amid the pomp prior to the 1:35 p.m. scheduled start The furry wonder – second only to Bill Lee – has changed uniforms, too, adding stripes to his pant legs...