Montreal Gazette - October 6, 1980
Thanks, Expos – you were terrific right to the end
By Michael Farber of The Gazette
On the day the Expos died, the Philadelphia Phillies had the dinner of champions – the Colonel's fried chicken and Mumms Cordon Rouge, 1977.
For the Phillies, champions of the National League East, it was a very good year.
On the day the Expos died, Warren Cromartie and Gary Carter and Scott Sanderson and the others sat silently, looking into their lockers – and maybe into themselves. The resident bubbly was beer.
For the Expos, second place finishers in the National League East, it was tough to swallow.
"Gee, there really are no losers," said one man, throwing a bouquet onto the tomb of the Expo clubhouse moments after their 6-4, 11-inning defeat Saturday had decided the wild, wild East.
He was wrong, of course.
There is only one winner, the rest – the Expos – losers. That is why we have professional sports, why the teams bothered keeping score on the day when someone else said there is no tomorrow for the Expos.
Wrong again. The sun rose at 6.58 a.m. yesterday, and the Expos finally beat the Phillies, 8-7, in 10 innings, even if they were the Denver Expos and the Oklahoma City Phillies.
And there will be a winter of tomorrows for the Expos, who must answer one question: Why?
"Everything boiled down to the weekend," Carter said. "This club is as good as the Phillies, but when it came down to a best two-of-three with them, we lost."
True... but wrong again. A game in April means as much as one in October, and although the two losses to the Phillies may be a little more equal than the others, they cannot obscure the greatness of the Expos just as two victories would not have masked their deficiencies.
The reasons for winning and almost winning, during the course of a 162 -game season, are almost the same; we only look at the flip side. In defeat, a team effort becomes the lack of a leader; the fine rotation of Steve Rogers, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson and David Palmer becomes lack of a left-handed starter, the ability to scratch for runs with speed becomes lack of timely hitting.
"If I had to point to one reason we didn't win," said third baseman Larry Parrish, "I'd point the finger right at me. I know if I could have gotten the bat going, we wouldn't have had to worry, about beating the Phillies two of three on the weekend. We would have been six in front. I'm sure everybody is looking at himself. I just see a little more."
What Parrish sees is a season disrupted by a damaged wrist, one of the injuries added to the insult of finishing second. Certainly the Expos showed heart in winning 90 games. Considering their starting eight were together for just 23 games, color that heart purple.
"We just never were that explosive," said Carter.' "Somehow we were in almost all the games, we just never could blow them open. Although we got a lot of big hits, there were a lot of times we didn't get the one we needed."
The big-hit theory is an off-shoot of the big-hitter theory, whose validity was proven Saturday when Schmidt, Reggie Jackson of the New York Yankees and Steve Garvey of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit home runs in division-winning or losing situations.
"One of our weak points," said relief pitcher Woodie Fryman, "is we never had a leader on this club who we could lay the pressure off on during the big games. Somebody like Schmidt, who can control the whole thing all himself.
"Last year we had Tony Perez (lost to Boston in the re-entry draft), and he'd done it for years. We couldn't count on one guy to lift us."
Indeed, especially in the losses Friday and Saturday to the Phillies. The Expos held Philadelphia to just two runs in the first game, and blew several chances Saturday in what Bill Lee described as the worst game he'd seen since Double A baseball in Elmira, N.Y.
Phillie second baseman Manny Trillo dropped a pop fly which he could have lost only in the full moon which hovered over the game to give the Expos two cheap runs. But, one out away from victory in the ninth inning, they could not hold a one-run lead.
Through those 20 innings, the Expos managed only 13 hits.
But the deck had been stacked against the Expo hitters long before the weekend, long before the 1980 season began.
With the exception of Warren Cromartie, everyone in the starting eight bats right-handed. Opposing teams threw a steady stream of right-handed pitchers at them... with no-left-handed complement... which explains why the Expos won just one of 12 games against the right-handed pitching staff of Los Angeles.
The same imbalance was true of the Expo pitching staff, which didn't have a left-handed starting pitcher after Ross Grimsley was banished to Cleveland, Fred Norman to the bullpen and Lee to the disabled list.
When they won 95 games in 1979, manager Dick Williams prided himself in his five/five lefty-righty ratio. When the Expos won 90 games, the 40-year old Fryman – which is about as ageless as you get in professional sports – was the only left-hander who had an outstanding season.
"Woodie did real great," said Sanderson of Fryman's seven wins and 17 saves.
But Elias Sosa, his right-handed bullpen partner, had a bad year, and Williams yesterday put a steady right-handed relief pitcher among his highest priorities.
"Woodie certainly was overworked in the bullpen," Williams said. "And we could use one guy from the right side to help him because how many times could you go to the well?"
No, the Expos kept going to their minor leagues. They found a Bill Gullickson, who won 10 games; a Brad Mills, who with Ken Macha played brilliantly when Parrish was hurt as the Expos won 10 consecutive games in June without four regulars; they found a Bob Pate and Charlie Lea, who fulfilled spot roles well.
Somehow the pieces just didn't fit.
"We battled back, we battled like hell," said Rogers. "Something happened on this team around the first of September, something clicked. We suddenly knew we really could win this thing, and we became more personally involved with the race. We didn't quit."
Both Parrish and Sanderson say the LeFlore interview in Inside Sports was the watershed, when the Expos – always quick to compliment but slow to criticize – became comfortable critics of each other.
Without it, Parrish said, the Expos might have finished further out.
Isn't one game enough?
Schmidt’s homer in 11th ends Expos’ hopes
By Wayne Parrish of The Gazette
It is the end that will be remembered, but the ending, too, should have its niche in Expos' lore.
It was a game that had everything but ultimately nothing for 50,794 Olympic Stadium fans, most of whom endured a 190-minute rain delay and 219 minutes of baseball Saturday to ascertain the Expos' fate.
At 9.04 EDT, Mike Schmidt put his shoulder into an 2-0 fastball from Stan Bahnsen and the Expos were shouldered out of a pennant for the second straight year. The final score was 6-4 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 11 innings, but with that you haven't even scuffed the surface.
This was Theatre of the Absurd at its finest, a piece of baseball history that should have its own corner at Cooperstown.
It began in the first inning when Philadelphia starter Larry Christenson gave up one hit, the Phillies made two errors – and Christenson escaped the inning having faced the minimum three batters.
From there, things just got wilder. There was a seven-way double play, an out at home plate on a ball knocked off the wall in right-centre and a half-inning that ended with the last four batters hitting singles. From The Anatomy Of An Eliminalion, Part Two, here are some excerpts:
• Expo first inning. With one out, Rodney Scott reaches on an infield hit, takes second when Manny Trillo's throw eludes first baseman Pete Rose and goes to third when Christenson, on a pickoff attempt, heaves the ball into centrefield. Rowland Office grounds out to second, Scott barrels home – and is tagged out when he slides by home plate.
• Phillie third. With two out. Warren Cromartie fields Bake McBride's ground-ball and instead of tossing to Steve Rogers, who will easily beat McBride to the bag to cover, waves him off and hoofs it out himself. He loses the foot-race and McBride is safe. The next batter, Schmidt, lines the ball off the wall in right-centre field. McBride makes the turn at third almost as shortstop Chris Speier is taking Andre Dawson's throw and, unbelievably, comes storming home. He is thrown out easily, Carter straddling the plate.
• Phillie fifth. With men at first and second, none out and one run already in, McBride chops a dribbler up the third base line. Third baseman Larry Parrish waits to see if it will roll foul... and waits… and waits. It doesn't and by the time he picks up the ball, his lunge to tag Christenson is late. Bases loaded, nobody out. But Schmidt goes down looking, then Luzinski lines the ball at Cromartie, who doubles Pete Rose off second.
• Phillie sixth. Two errors on the same play – the ball goes through Parrish's legs and drops out of White's hand when he picks it up in left field put Keith Moreland at second. Trillo singles him to third. Then Larry Bowa hits to Speier, who tags Trillo and fires to first for the double play.
• Phillie seventh. Rose and McBride hit back-to-back singles and Schmidt follows suit, only to have White's throw to the cutoff man, Parrish, trap McBride midway between second and third base. Instead of tossing to Scott covering second, Parrish tries to tag McBride, misses, and the bases are loaded. Luzinski then singles sharply up the middle to score two runs. But Dawson fields the ball, and in an ensuing Laurel and Hardy routine, the Expos nail both Schmidt and Luzinski, off their bases to end the inning. Score it 8-6-5-4-5-3-2 on the double play and please pass the Excedrin. Rogers has given up singles to the last four men he's faced, yet stands as the winning pitcher at inning's end.
• Expo seventh. Trillo camps easily under a Speier popup – and has it tip off the edge of his glove, the worst error of the Phillies' five. It ultimately results in two unearned runs, and the Expos lead 4-3.
• Phillie ninth. The Expos narrowly miss a double play, manager Dick Williams arguing vociferously that they did indeed nail McBride at first base. Umpire Dick Stello insists no. On the next play, Schmidt is safe by a mile – TV replays verified it – and is called out. With two out, pinch-hitter Bob Boone – two hits in his previous 23 at-bats – lines the ball to centre and it's 4-4.
The rest, alas, was routine. Tug McGraw manhandled the Expo bats, and Schmidt manhandled the Expo pitching. McGraw, who had retired 12 straight Expos coming into the game, sent them down in order in the ninth. He surrendered a leadoff single to White in the 10th but struck out Dawson to end the inning. In the 11th, Carter popped up, Cromartie flied to left on the first pitch and Parrish struck out for the fourth straight time. The Expos' dream ended with Parrish looking, which is what the heart of the order had been doing for two days.
The middle four – Dawson, Carter, Cromartie and Parrish – were two for 33 over Friday and Saturday.
"It's hard to believe... sitting here, realizing that 1980 is over," said Carter, who had been so superb down the stretch but was zero for seven against the Phillies. "There's no question that we battled them. It's just unbelievable that we're out of it. We came so far….
"They didn't beat us, it was Schmidt who beat us," said White, who had his finest game as an Expo, homering over their right-field wall for the first two runs in the third inning and sacrificing in another in the seventh.
"It wasn't a good pitch," said Bahnsen of the fatal fastball, "but I figured he'd be sitting on my slider. Our guys had been sitting on McGraw's screwball and he was getting fastballs by them."
But Schmidt, who will probably be the National League's Most Valuable Player, is not an easy man to fool. The two-run shot was his 48th home run of the season, his ninth in 15 games.
"I don't think anybody thought we were going to come in here and win two out of three," he said later. "They thought Montreal was too hungry, and we had our internal strife and all. I think everybody thought we would find some way to blow it."
The Phillies tried. But to go with their five errors, they also had 17 hits, 11 off Rogers. "It was a strange game," finished Carter.
And, in the end, a strange season, too.
Quiet dignity, calm prevail through Expos’ clubhouse
By Ian MacDonald of The Gazette
The shock of Saturday's elimination from the National League East race had become realistic disappointment for the Expos by yesterday.
Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie and Jerry White were the only regulars who started in the meaningless season finale. White stayed in for the entire game and that was fortunate because the popular outfielder ended the season dramatically with a 10th inning three-run homer which gave the Expos an 8-7 win over the Phillies.
This, in fact, was a game of substitutes with the Phillies starting only Pete Rose among the regulars. Rose takes pride in playing every game but after he had singled in his first two trips to the plate he too went back to the bench.
"It's hard to take, very disappointing," sighed Gary Carter, who walked proudly to the plate and doffed his helmet to the standing ovation given him by 30,104 when he entered yesterday's game as a pinch-hitter.
"We have a lot of good things to reflect back on. We have a lot to be optimistic about."
The fans greeted the Expos with a standing ovation when they took the field and they had other moments to cheer as well.
Entering the game as a pinch-runner, Ron LeFlore stole second and third and scored the run which tied the scores at five when Larry Parrish flied to right.
To the announcement that LeFlore had edged Omar Moreno for the major league stealing title 97-96, the fans stood and continued roaring until he came out and waved his cap.
On LeFlore's first steal, the throw bounced into centrefield but he did not advance.
"I knew that Moreno didn't steal," LeFlore said, "so I needed to steal two bases. That's why I didn't go to third on the throw."
The stadium became deathly silent late in the eighth when Youppi slipped from the roof of the Expos' dugout and appeared to be hurt. However, when the mascot was back on his feet and waving, there was another outburst of applause.
"I am proud of every one of them," manager Dick Williams said after his charges had been knocked out of contention by the champions on the second to last day of the season.
"It was a season somewhat like last year in that we came up a little short. They played their tails off and had another great season but we're second again."
There was total silence in the clubhouse. The odd stocking or undershirt was fired to the laundry basket but ther was no cursing or moaning, no kicking of stools or slamming walls.
"Why should there be?" asked veteran Woodie Fryman, who's heroic yeoman performances from the bullpen earned him MVP recognition.
"That might be my last chance," concluded the 40-year-old lefthander. Carter and Dawson, who are the most valuable players on the team, and Cromartie, who played every game, had swollen and red eyes.
"We were sky high," Carter said. "We knew what we had riding on it. This is hard to take but they are well-deserved champions."
Phillies' manager Dallas Green went to Williams' office and offered congratulations both to him and the team.
Tug McGraw, the wily lefthanded reliever who had tied the Expos in knots in three important Phillies' wins down the stretch, was in the clubhouse and walked over to every Expo player to give them a well-done slap on the back.
President John McHale offered congratulations and thanks individually. Yesterday, as the players packed personal belongings, including unanswered mail, Board chairman Charles Bronfman spoke quietly to those players on hand.
"I hope you will be back next year," Bronfman said to veteran reliever Stan Bahnsen, who served up the fastball which Mike Schmidt hit out in the 11th inning to end the Expos' season.
Chances to win
"I got the loss," sighed Bahnsen, "but we had chances to win. Everybody is disappointed. Heck, I sure am.
"I've been on six second place teams but never a winner. Maybe next year."
Williams, who leaves for his recently purchased home in Tampa today and will not attend either the Championship or World Series, looked ahead.
"We need help in the bullpen," Williams said. "We didn't get the consistency we need from the right side and we could use a lefthander to help Woodie."