* Baseball returned to Montreal on Friday night, and the late Gary Carter was honoured pregame with a touching video tribute before the Toronto Blue Jays took on the New York Mets. Watching (from left) wife Sandy Carter, daughter Kimmy and former teammates Steve Rogers, Warren Cromartie and Tim Raines. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
MONTREAL -- They played a ball game in Montreal Friday night.
It was as if the previous one was last September ... not Sept. 27, 2004.
It was as if baseball had never left.
No matter that it was the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays on the field.
Before one of the largest exhibition game crowds in Canada, 46,121 chanting “Let’s Go Expos,” in between cheering for the Blue Jays, baseball was back. A crowd of 50,000 is expected Saturday afternoon.
The highest combined attendance in consecutive games the Tampa Bay Rays drew to Tropicana Field last season: 66,940.
Jose Bautista received the first in-game standing ovation when he homered deep to left off Jenny Mejia in the fourth inning.
The crowd was as noisy as an old Expo crowd -- without the banging of the yellow seats, since most were filled -- as the late Gary Carter was honoured before the first pitch. Annakin Slayd’s video “The Kid” was played.
“It was so special to see all of the Blue Jays and Mets standing on the top step of the dugout applauding,” Sandy Carter, Gary's wife, told reporters later in the press box.
“I’ve seen that video a number of times and it is wonderful. This city has always embraced Gary, has always embraced us. Why? We bought a house here, Kimmy was born here. We were here 11 years.”
Carter has an Expos cap on his crest in Cooperstown (although his first choice was a Mets logo), and he began his induction speech in 2003 at Cooperstown en Francais.
“I feel so honoured to be Gary Carter’s daughter,” said Kimmy, whose father died at age 57 due to a brain tumor. “He was here for a short time, but he had an impact. How can you not like baseball when you watched the way he played the game?
“He instilled the same desire in me, I’ve instilled it in children. I know he’s looking down smiling.”
Carter, for those who did not see him in his prime, played the game with a wild enthusiasm -- as if it was the first game after school let out for summer. Like Brett Lawrie, except more under control.
He may have tossed around cliches, but one question was all that was needed to get him rolling. And he seldom if ever turned down a uniform. He’d get a game-winning hit and go on the post-game show with broadcaster Duke Snider and it would go like this:
Carter, after Snider’s first question: “All’s I got to say Duker ...” and three or four minutes later Snider would say, “thanks kid.”
The joke used to be he was never on time for the team bus. He was always early. The first to gain a national endorsement contract (7-Up), players teased that they saw him drinking ... Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
Whether these two games have any long-lasting affect on the future of Montreal getting another team won’t be known for years. But it was a start. Washington had a team and lost it. Same with Milwaukee and Seattle.
“These two games have created an incredible buzz around the city,” said Maxime Lamarche of Baseball Quebec.
Mark Buehrle worked four innings, 67 pitches, in his final tune up, allowing four hits and two runs on a Chris Young double in the fourth. Casey Janssen made his first back-to-back appearance, allowing a run when Ruben Tejada doubled.
Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made a return to his hometown, was impressed with the crowd and the way Olympic Stadium was spruced up.
“I hope I can go nine,” said Alex Agostino, before he stepped into the radio to work the game on French-language radio. Agostino scouts for the Philadelphia Phillies and drove home from scouting on Long Island for the game.
“When they play that video of Carter, it’s tough,” said the former Expos scout of Slayd’s video tribute to Carter.
“My son turns on Slayd’s video of what could have been and the 1994 season, I can’t watch. My son does it to make me leave the room.”
Few people left Olympic Stadium before the final out.
R.I.P. Blue Jays scout Jorge Rivera, 64, buried Friday in Puerto Rico, was an impact amateur scout.
Epy Guerrero and Rivera signed Carlos Delgado before the draft reached their island. He also drafted former No. 1 picks Alex Rios, Felipe Lopez and Miguel Negron, although Negron was a “cost-effective” selection under the Interbrew ownership days.
The other Rivera signs included Felipe Crespo, Diegomar Markwell and Dickie Thon Jr.