The Greatest Wallach, Van Horne, Cook, Rids
* The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame 2014 class, from left, family of the late Jim (Rids) Ridley, sons Jeremy, Shayne and daughter Shannon, former Montreal Expos GM Murray Cook, Expos third baseman Tim Wallach and the voice of the Expos, Dave Van Horne. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott St. MARYS -- TSN’s Rod Black always does a good job when he hosts the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
And Black had help on stage as he went to the bullpen to bring in Bruce Good of the Good Brothers, members of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
And on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in beautiful baseball weather, Good beautifully sung a baseball song -- Kenny Rogers' lyrics “The Greatest” - for those in and outside the crowded tent:
“Little boy in a baseball hat stands in the field with his ball and bat Says, “I am the greatest player of them all” Puts his bat in his shoulder and he tosses up his ball. And the ball goes up and the ball comes down, Swings his bat all the way around The world so still you can hear the sound, the baseball falls to the ground.”
“Now the little boy doesn’t say a word, picks up his ball he is undeterred. Says, “I am the greatest that there has ever been” And he grits his teeth and he tries again. And the ball goes up and the ball comes down, Swings his bat all the way around The world so still you can hear the sound, the baseball falls to the ground.”
“He makes no excuses he shows no fear He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers. Little boy he adjusts his hat, picks up his ball, stares at his bat Says “I am the greatest when the game is on the line And he gives his all one last time. And the ball goes up and the moon so bright Swings his bat with all his might
The world’s as still as still can be, the baseball falls And that’s strike three.”
“Now it’s suppertime and his momma calls, Little boy starts home with his bat and ball. Says, “I am the greatest, that is a fact, But even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!” Says, “I am the greatest, that is understood, But even I didn’t know I could pitch that good!”
_ Tim Wallach, the greatest hitter in Montreal Expos history, well ... he had more hits than anyone else to wear the uniform.
_ Dave Van Horne, the greatest broadcaster in Expos history, and one of the best men and best voices to ever walk into a booth.
_ Murray Cook (Sackville, N.B.), the greatest Canadian adept enough to be hired as a GM: three times with three different teams. Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) have been the GM of both the Texas Rangers and the Milwaukee Brewers.
_ Jim Ridley (Toronto, Ont.) the greatest combination of grass roots scout, Team Canada coach, Blue Jays minor league coach and proudest Canadians the country has ever seen.
Ridley was the first scout ever inducted, while Van Horne was the second broadcaster a year after Tom Cheek was inducted. Both Van Horne and Cheek won the Ford C. Frick award in Cooperstown.
There are exactly zero broadcasters and zero scouts in Cooperstown.
Up up and away: Van Horne said one of the most rewarding experiences during his Expos days (1969-2000) was watching the Expos produce player after player: eight home grown pitchers, eight position players in one stretch run: Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Larry Parrish, Terry Francona, Steve Rogers, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson, Charlie Lea, Brad Mills, Jerry White, Bobby Ramos, Tim Raines, then later the likes of Andres Galarraga, Delino DeShields, Vladimir Guerrero, Marquis Grissom, Wallach and others.
Van Horne, an idol of MC Rod Black who did an excellent job again, has been with the Marlins since 2001. The broadcaster said it was a shock when Scott Crawford of the Canadian Hall called. He spoke about “the lean years” as a basketball and football announcer in Virginia (about 11 years) and his late wife Nancy.
He mentioned his second wife Jose and daughter Madison and Canadian relatives who made the long drive because "as we all know Canadians won't miss a party" and explained how it was a stroke of luck that he was hired for the job. He applied to expansion franchises in Kansas City and Montreal, but it was a long time before he got the job. At the time the ownership group in Montreal was led by Mayor Jean Drapeau and as Van Horne said “I didn’t feel right applying to a Mayor.”
He did read in The Sporting News that Jerry Snyder was involved in the group and found out that Russ Taylor, a Montreal broadcaster had been hired, but a second man had not as yet. Ray Bloomquist finally told Van Horne to fly to West Palm Beach for an interview with Expos president John McHale.
“Fly to Florida? I had to borrow money to get enough cash for the evening train,” Van Horne said. He had a brief meeting with McHale, watched a little of the Expos working out and then headed home.A week before opening day Van Horne called Montreal and asked Bloomquist if he would be working the Southern Conference hoops tournament -- his bosses wanted to know.
“I was on hold for a while and he came back and said ‘tell your bosses to find someone else -- you’ll be at Shea Stadium on April 8,’” recalled Van Horne. "To this day I don't remember my reply."
All of Canada is happy he said yes.
In the late 1970s I'd been to Montreal a few times for feature stories ...like Ross Grimsley's run at 20 wins in 1978 (and Bill Gullickson asked me if I was Mr. Grimsley's agent) and then in 1979 my late, great boss Eddie MacCabe told me I had better start meeting people rather than just making a hit and run attempt. So, I started off at the top. Not with the best player, but Van Horne. I took a big gulp, walked over near the Expos dugout and stuck out my hand and said "Mmmmmmmister Van Horne, mmmmmmy name is Bbbbbbob."
Eventually we became dear friends and at the 1986 winter meetings in Hollywood, Fla. I had the bright idea of taking my family on the trip ... returning to the hotel each night at 9 or 10 PM to find everyone asleep. One day I took my son Bob over to the Diplomat Hotel from our hotel. We were going to have lunch with old Kingston pal/Toronto sun scribe Ken Fidlin.
In the lobby we ran into Van Horne and I introduced my son. He heard The Voice he'd heard on the radio and hit behind my leg. I said "Gee David I'm sorry, he's never, ever done that before." Van Horne replied "That's OK, you were the same wya at your first winter meetings."
Three-time GM: Cook was known for giving players a second chance “although I wasn’t with the Yankees long enough to do so,” but with the Expos he acquired Dennis Martinez from Baltimore when Orioles GM Hank Peters said that the Orioles could not bring Martinez back to Baltimore.
Martinez won 100 games in eight seasons with the Expos, including one game at Dodgers Stadium which caused Van Horne to utter the famous phrase "El Presidente, El Perfecto!"
Cook took a chance with Pascual Perez. He also took outfielder Mitch Webster from the Jays as Pat Gillick said “take him, he deserves to play in the big leagues, we don’t have room, he basically gave him to us.”
The Jays stuck with Ron Shepherd, who started 21 games and played in 53 games for the Blue Jays from 1984-86.
And Webster? He started 765 games and played in 1,004 with the Blue Jays, the Expos, the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cook said he did the same when infielder Jeff Treadway couldn’t get along with Reds manager Pete Rose. Cook placed Treadway with the Atlanta Braves and he played nine seasons. “You would not see that happen today,” said Cook, who still scouts for the Tigers.
Cancel those tickets: Bridgette Ridley of Cincinnati was set to take her children to the Blue Jays games this weekend at Great American Ballpark. The parent of two of her former students -- Jays broadcaster Pat Tabler -- had promised tickets.
Then, came news: father-in-law Jim Ridley would be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. To heck with the Reds-Jays games.
"You’ve heard that story about angels in outfield?” asked Shayne Ridley, who spoke on behalf of his sister Shannon and twin brother Jeremy Ridley. “Well, there are angels in the stands. They carry clip boards and radar guns.”
Fanning told about being sent into Toronto to scout Ridley and heading to Maple Leaf Stadium where Ridley peppered the tin on the right field fence. “It was real quiet and then all of a sudden Jim created a lot of noise.”
Ridley attended Buena Vista College in Iowa and stayed with the dean and then Fanning signed him to a Braves contract and Ridley played in the minors with Cito Gaston.
Shayne gave one example of how time consuming his father's job was. bragging all week at summer camp about how "my father works for the Blue Jays," and the other kids were looking forward to meeting someone who worked for the Blue Jays ... on the final day "uncle Mike showed up to pick us up because dad was 'entertaining Paul Spoljaric."
Tim O’Neill, a Twins scout drove from Kentucky to visit Ridley at the Brant Hospital in Burlington in 2008, after the Pittsburgh Pirates had signed two pitchers from India. The adventure into international scouting was made into the movie Million Dollar Arm. O’Neill told Ridley in his hospital bed:
“I spoke to (GM) Terry Ryan and he said we’re reshuffling areas to combat the Pirates. When you get out of here you have Canada and Afghanistan.”
Ridley replied: “well ... we won’t be signing any infielders -- I’ve seen pictures of their diamonds. Too many rocks.”
New York Mets scout Claude Pelletier flew from Montreal to see his pal honoured as the first scout inducted. Albert Nicholls, a dear friend of Ridley's as the two worked on the Hamilton Cardinals winter baseball school and the Ridley family, represented the Twins.
How did you like it?: A product of southern California, Wallach had played summer ball in Edmonton and Vancouver, but he’d never been to Montreal when Jim Fanning selected him 10th over-all in 1979.“People ask what’s Montreal like? I’d say ‘like playing in the majors, we travel to other cities that have major-league ball. I loved it, it was a safe city for my family.”
The third baseman thanked the voters and said he felt humbled by the honour and thanked his ex-teammates.
“My mother Mary -- she doesn’t like to fly -- but if I could get a copy of that tape I’m sure she’d want it,” said Wallach. “My late father, Richard would be so proud. If he was here right now ... well let me just say you’d all know him by now.”
The Dodgers bench coach said he would not have enjoyed any success without the love and support of his wife and family.
He called Jim Fanning a “gem of a fan, who made everyone better.”
And he recalled the day at Dodger Stadium then manager Fanning called in Wallach and told him that he was the every day third baseman -- “you know Brad Mills was pretty good third baseman” -- and Wallach hit three homers in the series.
He recalled his first big-league camp at West Palm, walking in and being made to feel at home.
“Gary Carter asked what size my shoes were ... I said 13 and he was back in a few minutes with a new set of shoes,” said Wallach. “In the minors you get bats and gloves, but shoes were hard to come by.”
Wallach said he was lucky to play for such wise managers: Hall of Famer Dick Williams (“best in-game manager”), Fanning (“did every job with the Expos because he could do them all”), Bill Virdon (“brought Bill Mazeroski into camp and taught me how to play third”) Buck Rodgers (“he let us play”), Felipe Alou (“might be the smartest man I know) and Tommy Lasorda (“the all-time best communicator”).
“I look forward to the day that the Los Angeles Dodgers can play in Montreal again.”
And the crowd applauded for Wallach, given the weekend off by his genial GM Ned Colletti.
Name game: Given the choice T.J. Burton would have loved to have been at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Saturday afternoon.
“I grew up in Ottawa and was raised on the Montreal Expos, my father (Gray Burton) was a big fan,” said Burton, who also was conducting a Tournament 12 tryout camp.
Yet, it was Wallach’s No. 29 jersey, purchased at T.J.’s first ever trip to Olympic Stadium, which hung on his bed room wall and a Wallach autograph which sat alongside the jersey.
“I always followed Tim Wallach’s career,” said Burton, now co-ordinator of amateur ball for the Jays after nine seasons pitching in the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros systems.
Burton was with triple-A Round Rock Express when they played the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2010.
“When you’re in the bullpen you don’t really pay attention all that much,” Burton said, “but I saw ‘Wallach’ on the back of a jersey on the scoreboard and asked ‘hey is that Tim Wallach?’”
Sure enough Wallach was managing Albuquerque so the next day Burton introduced himself and told Wallach the story of how he was from Ottawa. grew up an Expos fan and the rationale behind his first name.
“Well,” said Wallach, “your father is a very smart man.”
That was Wallach, self-deprecating, humble and polite.
That was Wallach as a triple-A manager in 2010, as the all-time Expos hit leader, who led the Montreal franchise with 1,694 hits from 1980-1992.
And that was Wallach, now the bench coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday as he was inducted under a packed tent.
“With all of the great players that we had in Montreal, it’s pretty amazing that I am the all-time leader in all of the categories,” Wallach told the crowd. “It helped that I didn’t like to miss games.
“Hopefully, someone gets the opportunity to break those records one day.”
Double duty Hammond: Charlie Hammond of St Marys was presented with the Randy Echlin Lifetime Volunteer award by Scott Crawford. Echlin was a tireless worker for the Canadian Hall of Fame and headed the selection committe until the day he passed.
They said it: Van Horne spoke about the 1968 expansion draft held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal and San Diego Padres GM Buzzie Bavasi emerging to say “this is the Canadian Thanksgiving and we just selected out 33 turkeys.” ... Cook, who hired current Tigers president Dave Dombrowski as a farm director in Montreal, predicted Dombrowski would be the next commissioner “unless Pat Gillick wanted the job.” ... Wallach to Van Horne “I have to be one of the luckiest players on earth, I was with the Expos when you were there and now I get to listen with Vin Scully ... and I do put you in that category.” ... Wallach was joined by his wife Lori, his son Matt Wallach. His son Chad Wallach is a catcher with class-A Greensboro in the Marlins system and son Brett Wallach is pitching independent ball for Grand Prairie ... “he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, so if there are any scouts out there.” ... Shayne Ridley told of telling his father to get over into the right lane on a trip to Jack Couch Park in Kitchener. His father responsed “you’re telling me how to find a ball park? This car knows the way on its own.” No one visited more ball parks in Canada than Ridley during his years scouting for the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins.