Montreal roots everywhere
Heading south on I-75 to visit Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, this morning, I relaized I needed gas and a coffee. Given the choice of gas stations, seeing that I was going to see the Bosox, I searched out the Citgo station in honour of that humongous sign that can be seen in every TV shot of the Green Monster.
Hey, I figured that for all the years I've been looking at that flashing landmark, I should finally give them $34.33 worth of my business. By the way, when refueling I always try and stop on 33 cents, because that was Larry Walker's uniform number and has become my lucky number as well. Of course, the way my luck's been going, maybe I'll change that.
Anyway, the Expos connection with Walker reminded me that now, on consecutive days, yesterday and today, I was in the process of renewing old Expos connections.
Yesterday I was in Lakeland at Tigers camp and stood on the field interviewing Tigers GM David Dombrowski and today I sat on a bench while the Red Sox pitchers and catchers went through their paces and spoke and laughed with former Expos outfielder Terry Francona, now managing the Bosox. The coincidence runs deeper than that. In 1987, as PR man for the Expos I introduced Dombrowski to the Montreal media his first day on the job. In 1980 in the Expos spring clubhouse, I was the first to shake the hand of a hotshot college rookie named Francona in his first day in the majors as he sauntered through the door.
Yesterday, standing with former Expos travelling secretary Dan Lunetta, now with the Tigers in player development, I spoke with Dombrowski mainly about basketball. Why? As a single GM in Montreal those first two winters, Dombrowski decided that he needed some exercise and a social life. He knew I played basketball every Thursday night with the St. Gabriel's Basketball Association, so he decided to tag along. Basically it was a bunch of aging formerly active friends - teachers, lawyers, journalists, PR guys, mechanics - (SI's Michael Farber was also in the group) who got together for two hours of hoops and three hours of drinking at Brasserie Magnan in Pointe-St. Charles.
Dombrowski was like Jason Kapono from the corner, with an awkward, ankles together release that was pretty effective. He was too young and too good, but he hung in. The great thing was that as a major-league GM, he would go with us for post-game libations and nobody would bother him, even those fans that recognized who he was. You don't see that much today.
As for Francona, the day he showed up for his first day at Expos camp, he had just spent the winter attending banquet after banquet honouring him as college player of the year. He claims that when he signed, as a No. 1 pick, the Expos told him to just relax and enjoy himself. He looked like Buddha when he walked in. "I took them at their word," he said yesterday. "I gained 32 lbs. I heard about it from everybody. It never happened again."
Expos, Expos everywhere and not a team to cheer. Quel Dommage.