By Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network
He is an immortal in Cooperstown now, but Tim Raines hasn’t forgotten St. Marys.
That much was evident to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford when he had a few moments with the Montreal Expos legend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s private reception on Saturday night.
Four years prior to being honoured in Cooperstown, Raines was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
“When I talked to him at the reception, he gave me a big hug and I met his wife and his kids, who are Canadian, for the first time. He definitely remembered us [the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame] and he called me by my first name before I had time to remind him who I was,” said Crawford. “It was nice to know that he remembered.”
Crawford was in Cooperstown from Friday until Monday to support Raines and promote the Canuck ball shrine. Board member David Morneau joined Crawford in Cooperstown and also served as an ambassador for the Canadian hall during the weekend.
“I’ve wanted to go to induction weekend in Cooperstown for years,” said Crawford, “and this was the perfect opportunity with Tim Raines being one of our inductees and I knew a large contingent of Expos fans was going to be there and that it would be a great way to connect with them.”
Crawford wore Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame shirts to all of the non-formal events he attended and he was stopped by a lot of people after they saw his shirts.
“A lot of people took second looks at my shirts and asked me about the [Canadian] Hall of Fame and what we’re about and where we are and who some of our inductees are,” said Crawford. “It was a great way to spread the word about the Hall.”
Crawford also spent part of Saturday at the ExposFest tent downtown handing out Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame brochures and chatting with 2014 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dave Van Horne.
For the past two years, Perry Giannias, a generous supporter of the Canadian hall, has organized ExposFest, an event that brings former Expos back to Montreal to raise money for the Kat D DIPG Foundation at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. DIPG is an aggressive form of brain tumour that took the life of Giannias’ five-year-old niece Catherine. With Raines being inducted, Giannias decided to take his fundraising efforts on the road and enlisted Van Horne, former Expos Wallace Johnson, Henry Rodriguez, Oil Can Boyd, Bill Lee and ex-Blue Jay Paul Spoljaric to sign autographs to raise more money for the foundation.
One of the weekend’s highlights for Crawford was the party that Giannias and Morneau hosted at the house they had rented on Friday night which more than 30 Expos fans, as well as Van Horne and Lee, attended.
Crawford had another memorable experience the next night when writer and hardcore Expos fan Jonah Keri invited him to the private party he was throwing for Raines at Templeton Hall. At this event, the Canadian ball executive had the opportunity to mingle with a couple hundred of the Expos great’s family members, friends and baseball acquaintances.
“Rickey Henderson came by the party,” said Crawford. “Then Dave Winfield and Frank Thomas stopped in and they both got up and spoke, and Frank Thomas said that Raines was his favourite teammate of all-time.”
At that party, Crawford also got to see the premiere of Montreal hip hop artist Annakin Slayd’s tribute song and video to Tim Raines called “Tip the Cap.”
Thanks to their colleagues at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Crawford and Morneau also enjoyed reserved seats near the museum entrance for the inductee parade early Saturday evening. Their seats enabled them to watch each of the 50 Hall of Famers in attendance get off their trucks at the end of the parade and walk into the museum.
“There were a bunch of fans that were behind barriers near the museum cheering on the inductees and the first inductee to get off their truck and go over to sign autographs for the fans was [Canadian] Fergie Jenkins,” said Crawford. “That made me feel proud.”
Crawford and Morneau also received tickets to the Hall’s Awards Presentation on Saturday afternoon and were treated to a behind-the-scenes museum tour from senior curator Tom Shieber on Sunday morning. They were also seated in the VIP section for the induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
“The National Baseball Hall of Fame was fantastic to us all weekend,” said Crawford. “They provided everything for us that we could’ve asked for. I can’t thank Jeff Idelson and his staff enough.”
Crawford said one of his goals on the trip was to meet as many National Baseball Hall of Fame staff members as possible and reconnect with some of them that he had already met.
“I think it was important for me to say hello to them and to tell them what we’re up to at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Crawford. “I greatly value the bond we have formed with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the town of Cooperstown.”
Crawford was also set up with a place to stay by the mayor of Cooperstown, Jeff Katz, whom he had befriended in an earlier visit and has maintained steady contact with. Crawford stayed in a room in at Katz’s friend Rich McCaffery’s house, which was a convenient 10-minute walk from downtown.
“I can’t thank Jeff enough for everything that he did for me this weekend,” said Crawford.
But with so many Canadians and Expos fans in town, you couldn’t have blamed Crawford if at times he forgot he was south of the border. On top of bumping into and socializing with legions of Expos fans, he also connected with several Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, including Raines, Van Horne, Jenkins, Roberto Alomar, Pat Gillick, Rusty Staub, Bob Elliott and the family of late inductee Gary Carter (wife Sandy and daughter, Christy).
“I also met Paul Beeston and his wife, Kaye, on the street,” said Crawford. “And I ran into Claude Raymond right at the end.”
Crawford also spoke with Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Jack Graney Award winners Richard Griffin and Rodger Brulotte in Cooperstown.
After the induction ceremony, Crawford talked to the local SABR chapter about the Canadian hall.
“There were about 50 people in the room,” said Crawford. “It was good to get in front of them to tell them all about the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and our past, present and future and then about Canadian baseball in general. It was 50 more people that know that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is in St. Marys and that we’re doing well.”
By the time Crawford returned home at about 3 p.m. on Monday, he was exhausted, but grateful for a weekend he’ll never forget.
“It was tiring, but it was well worth it,” said Crawford. “It was a great weekend to be a Montreal Expos fan and a great promotional weekend for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.”