If you’re old enough to have seen the Expos play in either the Olympic Stadium or Jarry Park, you may have been lucky enough to experience some unexpected Expos encounters.
It could be something as innocuous as bumping into a player on the street and asking for an autograph. Or, it could be that unbelievable run-in that you share at parties to get a laugh out of everyone. In any case, many Expos fans have had the good fortune to experience one of those types of moments.
MTL Baseball hopes to share many of those stories that Montreal baseball fans have been through over the years.
To get the ball rolling, I’ll share a couple of unexpected Expos encounters I had as a youngster while attending games at the Olympic Stadium.
The Mysterious Autograph
I’m not sure exactly which year this happened in, but I’m guessing it was 1994 or 1995.
I had just started high school so I was still a kid at the time. My mom had taken me to see an Expos game at the “Big O”. I don’t remember anything about the game. When the game ended, we headed over to Pie-IX station to ride the subway back home.
Once we were in the subway car, I looked over at a man seated a couple of doors down from where we were. I nudged my mother with my elbow and she bent down to hear what I had to say. I whispered to her that it was Wil Cordero, the Expos shortstop at that time.
She tried to convince me to ask him for his autograph, but I was too shy to do such a thing. I had my baseball glove with me. I brought that glove with me to every game I attended on the off chance that I would catch a fly ball, even if we were sitting way up in the nosebleed section. My mom took the glove from me and walked over to Cordero.
I watched as the Expos’ All-Star shortstop signed my glove. My mom then asked the man sitting next to Cordero for his autograph as well. I could see that he was a little reluctant to sign my glove, but he did it anyway.
My mom brought the glove back to me, obviously happy to have acquired a couple of Expos autographs for her shy little boy. I was excited to have Cordero’s autograph, but I couldn’t make out the other name on the glove.
Luckily, I had bought a souvenir baseball with all of the Expos’ signatures on it at the Olympic Stadium. I quickly checked the ball to compare the signatures. Sure enough, there was Cordero’s. A perfect match. I looked for the other man’s signature on the ball, but nothing came close to it.
Now, it’s possible the man was a call-up who wasn’t with the Expos when my souvenir ball was produced. I prefer to think that he was just a random friend of Cordero’s travelling with him after the game.
It’s funnier to think that my mom just didn’t know any better and got this man to sheepishly sign my glove right next to Wil Cordero’s autograph.
For years, I would proudly show my friends my baseball glove signed by Wil Cordero and his anonymous friend who my mother thought was an Expos player.
The Fading Legend
A couple of years after my Wil Cordero experience, I went to a game with a couple of high school friends.
This game is easily traced. It was in the middle of Felipe Alou’s tenure as manager.
I remember that Lee Smith got into the game with a lead in the late innings but gave up a couple of runs to blow the save.
When the game was over, my friends and I got on the Metro at Pie-IX station.
To my surprise, Lee Smith, the all-time saves leader at that point, was sitting right near my friends and I. I shared this information with my friend, who hadn’t recognized the hulking closer.
My buddy thought I should ask Smith for his autograph. I glanced over at the living legend who was sitting next to a lady, possibly his girlfriend. He looked like he had just blown a save and wasn’t too happy about it.
I told my friend I didn’t think it was a good idea.
Next thing I know, my buddy’s asking Lee Smith to sign the team picture we received at the gates before the game.
To his credit, Smith agreed and signed our pictures. He didn’t look too happy about it, but he did it anyway.
At the time, I thought it was nice of him to sign autographs for a couple of teenagers after a rough game.
Little did I know it would be the last blown save of his career. Smith got into only eight more games with the Expos before leaving the team in the middle of the season.
He tried to make a comeback later in the season. Smith wanted to play anywhere but “way the hell out in Canada”. Unfortunately, nobody would give the living legend another chance and his big-league career was over.
Both Hoffman and Rivera should make it into the Hall of Fame, but Smith missed out this year in his final turn on the ballot.
I’m glad I got to see him while he was still the Saves King. It’s also kind of strange that I got to see the last blown save of his career and still got his autograph.
I Want to Hear Your Stories
Those are two unexpected Expos encounters that stand out in my memory.
I’m sure that you all have more interesting stories to tell about brushes with members of Nos Amours.
I’d love to hear all about them and share the best ones on this site for everyone in the MTL Baseball community to enjoy.
Keep in mind, I’ll only share stories that are clean and suitable for our younger readers.
I’d like to make this a regular type of post on the site, so if you’ve got a fun story to share with everyone, let’s get it out there!
(Photo by Jan Sauvé-Frankel)
(Photo by Jan Sauvé-Frankel)