The 1994 Expos: Remember when ...

* Plenty of memories have been shared this weekend by members of the 1994 Expos, including Larry Walker and Darren Fletcher, who have been reunited for baseball's return (albeit temporarily) to Montreal. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors  2015 Canadian draft list

By Bob Elliott

MONTREAL -- There will be cheers Saturday afternoon when some members of the 1994 Montreal Expos are honoured at Olympic Stadium.

You remember them.

They’re the team that baseball forgot.

The Expos sat in first place when the season was cancelled 20 years ago.

It is and was a weekend of remembering ... remembering what might have been ... remembering the glory days when this joint was jumping ... remembering the night Larry Walker decoyed Eddie Murray, preventing him from scoring from second base on a line drive off the wall. Or Pedro Martinez buzzing another hitter, clearing the benches, Marquis Grissom and Delino DeShields stealing bases ...

And most of all, remembering when we were young, when they were young.

“I was 26 in 1994, I thought I was invincible,” said Darrin Fletcher at a downtown hotel Friday afternoon. This was before the New York Mets played his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays, in the first of a pair of exhibition games at Olympic Stadium, where he used to play.

The lyrics of Alan Jackson’s classic “Remember When” came to mind ...

“Remember when I was young and so were you

And time stood still and love was all we knew

You were the first, so was I

Remember when”

Cliff Floyd was 21 in 1994 and says “that season is still unfinished business.”

You get the impression he wants to round up his teammates, phone the Braves and then the New York Yankees, the best team in the American League that year, and see if they can find a diamond ... they will settle this 1994 business once and for all.

“When you play, you play to go to the World Series, to win the Series, you don’t play to worry about a labour negotiation,” said Floyd, who was luckier than most of his teammates.

As a member of the Florida Marlins, he won the 1997 Series, which he said “took some of the sting off, but no one plays to win one Series ring, you play to get as many as you can win.

“You learn from your mistakes in anything you do. Major league baseball can survive in this city.”

“Remember when we vowed the vows

and walked the walk

Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard

We lived and learned, life threw curves

There was joy, there was hurt

Remember when”

Centre fielder Marquis Grissom is asked if this was a bittersweet weekend: the Expos were the best in the division back then and didn’t play a post-season game.

“Time heals,” Grissom said. “I look back on it as a sweet moment. Deep down, we knew how special we were. The fans deserve to see us, we deserve the chance to see them.”

Grissom maintains people have not forgotten the 1994 Expos as he signed for an autograph seeker who drove through the snow from Boston to get here. And he tells of being asked to speak at the annual New York Baseball Writers Dinner this winter, accepting the Casey Stengel 'You Can Look it Up' award on behalf of the 1994 Expos, for players and teams, who deserve to be recognized, but were  overlooked.

“That’s a much broader perspective than only Montreal or Canada,” said Grissom.

“Remember when old ones died and new were born

And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged

We came together, fell apart

And broke each other’s hearts

Remember when”

Gary Carter’s final year with the Expos, his second tour in 1992, was Fletcher’s first season in Montreal. Nicknamed Hollywood since he was from Culver City, Calif., Carter went out in style, doubling home Walker as the Expos edged the Chicago Cubs and Mike Morgan, 1-0, on Sept. 27, 1992. Tim Laker pinch ran and Carter left to another standing ovation, his 19-year Hall of Fame career complete.

A brain tumor took Carter’s life Feb. 16, 2012, and Friday former teammates Tim Raines, Warren Cromartie and Steve Rogers took part in the pre-game tribute to Carter with his wife, Sandy, and daughter, Kimmy, who was born in Montreal, on the field.

Annakin Slayd’s wonderful tribute to Carter was shown on the board. If you want to look good when you’re gone, I’d book him now.

“Gary Carter always had a smile,” said Rondell White. “He’d say ‘Hello Rookie,’ flash that big Colgate tooth paste smile and always tell me to work hard.”

“Remember when the sound of little feet

was the music

We danced to week to week

Brought back the love, we found trust

Vowed we’d never give up

Remember when”

Watching players see each other for the first time in years -- Grissom hugged Tim Spehr for the first time since 1996 -- had a bit of a high school reunion feel to it.

“I went to my high school’s 10-year reunion in Oakwood, Ill., in September of 1994 -- the only reason I was home for it was because of the strike,” Fletcher said. “This is different than a school reunion. We were closer.

“This team had great chemistry.”

We’ve always been suspicious of that word and asked Fletcher for an example. Fletcher, like most, didn’t have one, so he tossed the query to Wil Cordero.

“Well, we did get into a lot of fights. Pedro Martinez was really dealing that year,” said Cordero. “Everyone had everyone’s back.”

Reggie Sanders charged the mound after being hit by Martinez five outs from a perfect game. So did Andres Galarraga.

Fletcher’s most memorable was an at-bat against Derek Bell.

“Pedro buzzed him inside, threw two breaking balls which ‘jelly-legged’ him and blew a fastball by him. Bell was so angry, he was screaming and yelling. He went back to the dugout, then, their dugout yelled at him,” Fletcher remembered. “We’re throwing the ball around after the out and he’s charging Pedro.”

If there wasn’t a post-season to celebrate, Fletcher said the “pinnacle” of the season for the Expos was the all-star game in Pittsburgh.

Right-hander Ken Hill, Moises Alou, Cordero, Grissom and Fletcher were all there.

“Moises hit a game-winning double, I caught two innings but my contribution was telling Tony Gwynn to slide at home plate on the winning run,” said Fletcher.

The Blue Jays had won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

Would the Expos have made it a Canadian trifecta?

“Remember when thirty something seemed old

Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone

To where we are,

where we’ve been

Said we’d do it all again

Remember when”

Rondell White was 22 and a back up behind outfielders Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Walker in 1994. Now, 20 years later, he said it was emotional when the plane landed at Dorval and he made the drive through the Ville Marie tunnel.

“I made the post-season twice (with the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins), but the 1994 team was the best I ever played on,” said White. “It’s a shame we didn’t have the chance to give the city a ring. Things would have been different.”

The Expos beat the Braves in five of their seven meetings that year to expand their lead.

“I’m from Georgia and they’d won three years in a row, but we weren’t intimidated by their pitching,” White said. “It started in West Palm Beach. Maybe they were intimidated by us.

“Marquis taught me the most, we’re both Georgia boys. I hope baseball comes back and I hope Rondell, Jr. (age four) gets to play here some day.”

“Remember when we said when we turned gray

When the children grow up and move away

We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad

For all the life we’ve had

And we’ll remember when.”

Getting off the Metro at Pie IX and walking to the Stadium entrance Friday afternoon we thought of a lot of people we used to come here nightly to see.

Those who are gone like Dick Williams, Gary Carter and Larry Bearnarth.

Those who we miss and don’t see often enough like Jerry White, Wallace Johnson, Andre Dawson, Jeff Reardon, Tim Wallach, Tito Francona, Larry Parrish, Russ Nixon, Galen Cisco and especially Dave Van Horne.

There used to be a ball team here.

Now there are memories.

Good memories

And now new ones are being made.