Just when you thought you have heard of or read every story about the Montreal Expos throughout their 36 years of existence as an MLB franchise, veteran sportswriter and author Danny Gallagher seems to come up with more stories up his sleeve.
And he has used his treasure trove of stories about “Nos Amours” for a series of best-selling books he has penned that has increased the mystique of the Expos, and why they have remained forever in the hearts of their growing legion of loyal fans. His new book Never Forgotten is no exception.
This is a collection of 47 stories that focus on the players who made going to Expos games at both Jarry Park and the Olympic Stadium such a unique, community-like experience. Besides such legends as Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, Dennis Martinez, and Tim Raines, Gallagher’s focus on Never Forgotten is emphasized on those unsung heroes who left their mark with the team and its fans, but got little or no media attention while wearing the Expos uniform.
If the sole purpose of the stories that are featured in this book is to evoke fond memories of spending 36 summers watching the on-diamond exploits of the Expos, then it has fulfilled that purpose tremendously. In fact, Gallagher manages to put a human side to those unsung players, their unique contributions to the fortunes of the Expos, and the joys and pitfalls of playing in the majors with the Expos, whether it was long or short-term.
Some of the stories that really stood out for me include Ron Hunt, who was acquired from the Giants and quickly became a fan favorite in 1971, when he set the Major League record for being hit by a pitch (HBP) in a single season (50 times), got named Expos Player of the Year, but contracted Parkinson’s Disease from repeatedly using himself as a shield from fast pitches; pitcher Floyd Youmans, who had a stellar season in 1986, but as a result of injuries, alcoholism and cocaine use, had his career cut short at the age of 25; Ron LeFlore, the ex-convict who was traded to the Expos from the Detroit Tigers in 1980 and had set a franchise record of 97 stolen bases that season before a broken wrist brought things to a screeching halt for him that September; how Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame career got its start with Montreal, but had its roots during a world juniors baseball tournament in Kindersley, Saskatchewan in 1984; why pitchers Ray Burris and Woody Fryman – who were also good friends off the diamond – were dubbed “Wood Peach No. 1” and “Wood Peach No. 2”; and how a story that involves former Expos board member Jim McCoubrey and much despised former team owner Jeffrey Loria is another bold example of the old joke that involved former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley (who moved the team from Brooklyn to L.A. in 1958) that said “Who are the three worst people in history? Hitler, Stalin and Walter O’Malley” (just substitute O’Malley with Loria).
Thanks to Gallagher, many of the Expos’ unsung heroes get their overdue recognition in Never Forgotten. And it’s quite an honour roll as you read their stories in the pages of this book: Balor Moore, Don DeMola, Rudy May, Carl Morton, John Bocabella, Dan Schatzeder, Chris Speier, Hubie Brooks, Orlando Carbrera and Darrin Fletcher, to name a few.
If you are a diehard Expos fan, you will never forget Never Forgotten. Danny Gallagher’s crisp writing and penchant for information and detail further enhances the legend of the Expos, and the legacy of how they tried their damnedest to succeed in the world of Major League Baseball, when they were seen by the rest of MLB as perennial underdogs and a stepping stone for future Hall of Famers. Basically, thanks to the pen of Danny Gallagher, the Montreal Expos have gained the kind of status equal to the little engine that could … and almost did!