Expos flavour in St. Marys for '14
* Former Montreal Expos third baseman Tim Wallach (1980-92) will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this summer along with Murray Cook, Dave Van Horne, and the late Jim Ridley. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
They’re all working elsewhere.
Yet, the St. Marys Expos will have a nice ring to it on June 21.
Former Montreal Expos employees Tim Wallach, Murray Cook and Dave Van Horne were elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday, along with the late Jim Ridley, who scouted for the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins as well as coaching Team Canada. They’ll be inducted on June 21 in St. Marys.
Former Montreal third baseman Wallach, 56, of Huntington Beach, Calif., now a bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is on the short list of candidates for any managerial openings. He was interviewed by the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox until they worked out a trade with the Jays for John Farrell two years ago.
Ex-Expos broadcaster Van Horne, instrumental in hiring Tom Cheek with the Expos before Cheek came to Toronto, and a Ford C. Frick winner, paints vivid descriptions for Miami Marlins fans from his radio booth.
Former Expos general manager Cook, 73, born in Sackville, N.B., also was GM of the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, is a now cross checker with the Detroit Tigers.
Cook thinks a team in Montreal would survive again.
“From what I understand, tickets for the Blue Jays-New York Mets games next month have sold well,” said Cook, as a total of 60,000 are expected. “A lot of franchises in the U.S. are not doing great.
“I could envision baseball going back. I don’t see another expansion coming, but a team moving there? Yes.”
Wallach said there was a reason for the closeness of those Expos teams he played from 1980-92.
“We weren’t in the States, we were away from home,” Wallach told reporters on a conference call. “There were 10 couples that lived in the same apartment building. Usually in the States some guys are from the same city.
“We were foreigners, I guess, in a different country. We spent a lot of time together.”
Wallach took over as the everyday third baseman in 1981 when “we were one pitch away from the World Series.”
“I thought we would be in the playoffs every year,” said Wallach. “I didn’t get back until 1995 (as a Dodger). I didn’t know it would take that long. When the chance comes, you have to make the best of it.”
Wallach was selected 10th over-all in North America in 1979 after playing first base at Cal-State Fullerton.
He split time between first, third and the outfield in the minors and in his rookie year. In the spring of 1982, he was battling Terry Francona for the right field job.
Eight days before opening day, John McHale dealt Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler to the Texas Rangers for Al Oliver.
“Tim became the best third baseman I ever saw at going back on pop ups over his head,” said Cook.
It wasn’t always that way.
“As a first baseman, the ball usually comes back to you, and it took me a while to figure out it went the other way at third,” Wallach recalled. “We were playing in the playoffs in 1979, I completely whiffed two and caught a third one bare-handed on the back of my glove. It wasn’t very pretty at third when I started.”
New manager Bill Virdon brought Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski to spring training in 1983, who helped Wallach immensely.
“People said I’d be lucky to be average. It wasn’t in my nature to be average,” Wallach said.
Van Horne called Wallach, a three-time gold glove winner and a five-time all-star, one of the most courageous players he had ever watched on a daily basis.
Wallach was asked what advice he would give Jays and Mets infielders playing on the Olympic Stadium turf.
“It’s not as fast as it used to be -- they’ll enjoy the city, it’s clean ... but don’t dive too much on the turf,” said Wallach, who said he still has back problems.
Cook, who often scouts the Canadian Junior National Team on trips to Florida, had praise for his counterpart Ridley.
“I got to know Jim, he was The Guy in Canada. Bobby Prentice was the original guy,” said the Tigers scout.
Ridley had three children: daughter Shannon and twin sons Jeremy and Shayne. Jeremy told of making a drive from their Burlington home to a game in Kitchener with his father and suggesting that they had missed the exit.
His father looked at him and said “this car could drive itself.”
Signed by Jim Fanning, Ridley spent two seasons as an outfielder in the Milwaukee Braves system (1964-65). He starred in the Intercounty League with the Stratford Hillers and scouted with the Detroit Tigers in 1973. He ran the Blue Jays' first tryout camp in Utica, N.Y.
After the Jays fired scouts in 2002, he was quickly hired by Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
Ridley also coached the Canadian junior national team from 1983-1988, winning two bronze medals (Canada’s entries into the Olympics and the Pan Am Games).
No time for retirement
Both Marlins broadcaster Van Horne and scout Cook have zero plans of retiring.
“The game keeps me young,” said the former Expos broadcaster.
Cook said it’s difficult to call going to the ball park work, adding “as long as I can throw the bags into the over head rack on an air plane, I’ll still keep working.”
The three Ridley children were asked what story their father told most often.
“Travelling to Cuba with Team Canada, there were some funny stories, coaching with John Upham and Bernie Beckman,” said Jeremy. “They had that brawl against Mexico.
“He enjoyed coaching some talented players like Larry Walker, Rob Ducey, Rob and Rich Butler, Matt Stairs and a lot of others.”
Where did their father’s success as a coach come from?
“He was a teacher and knew the mental side, plus he loved all sports, so his background as an athlete and as teacher helped him motivate.”
Van Horne’s most famous call was the final out of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“El Presidente ... El Perfecto,” said Van Horne.
Did the call come off the top of his head as the final out nestled into the glove?
“Well, the easy answer would be to say yes,” Van Horne told reporters. “Ken Singleton and I spoke about what we were watching during the commercial break with three outs to go.
“I thought of El Producto cigars - they advertised on both the Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia A’s games when I was young -- and Dennis’ nickname about 10 seconds into the bottom of the ninth ... I decided I’d say El Presidente ... El Perfecto.
“After the final out, Kenny and I pushed our chairs back and let the crowd tell the story. We might have went a minute before we said anything.”
Van Horne was asked if the 1981 (when the Expos were eliminated in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series on Rick Monday’s homer off Steve Rogers) and 1994 (when the season ended Aug. 12 without resumption of play or a World Series) seasons, both marred by work stoppages, were what led to the Expos demise.
“The strike of 1981 set up a dramatic second half finish with the Expos winning,” said Van Horne. “The games against the Phillies and the Dodgers were exciting. It shows how difficult it is to win. I recall seeing John McHale a week later after Monday’s home run and he still had a look of devastation on his face.
McHale explained “these chances don’t come easy and they don’t come often.”
“I didn’t believe the 1994 World Series would be cancelled,” said Van Horne, “I still believed that the powers that be would solve baseball in 1994. That year there was a movement to build a downtown stadium.”
Welcome to work Mr. Cook
The first day Murray Cook arrived at Olympic Stadium as the new general manager of the Montreal Expos in 1984, owner Charles Bronfman told him he had to trade Gary Carter.
“That was a bombshell,” said Cook. “Mr. Bronfman thought the contract was rather onerous. We agreed on the deal at the winter meetings.”
Cook said he met with Mets general manager Frank Cashen and Joe McIlvaine in a stairwell of the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
The Expos received Hubie Brooks, right-hander Floyd Youmans, catcher Mike Fitzgerald and outfielder Herman Winningham in exchange for Carter.
“Agents were coming to the forefront then,” said Cook. “ Charles didn’t like the way the game was going. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it.”