By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Bob Bailey played the equivalent of close to 15 full big-league seasons but will be best remembered by Canadians as an original Expo.
Bailey blossomed on some horrible Expos' teams in their early years out of the chute. He collected over 80 RBI three times with the Expos, playing an integral role in the franchise's first game, a 11-10 win over the Mets on April 8, 1969.
"I think about baseball every day but most of it is about the time I spent in Montreal,'' Bailey said in an interview in early 2017 in advance of his visit to the popular Exposfest event. "We opened up 1969 in New York with Tom Seaver pitching for the Mets. I got the first hit for the Expos, a double into right-centre with a couple of men on in the first inning.''
Bailey died on Tuesday at the age of 75. The cause of his death is unknown. He had been suffering from diabetes for close to 20 years.
Nicknamed Beetle, Bailey spent six-and-a-half seasons with the Expos. He was made available to the Expos by the Dodgers after both the Expos and Padres passed on him in the 1968 expansion draft. On Sept. 21, 1968, the Dodgers agreed to send Bailey's rights to Montreal.
Bailey had been a Pirates' bonus baby signed out of Woodrow Wilson high school in Long Beach, Calif. for what was believed to be the highest signing bonus for any player at that time.
"If you put down $150,000, it wouldn't be far off,'' Bailey told this writer, clearing the air about that signing bonus. "I had four pretty good years with the Pirates and then I stunk up Los Angeles for two years so I had a chance to go a place where I could put the ball out in left field. Everybody in the expansion draft wanted to go to San Diego because it's a nice city, but attendance in San Diego was horrible.
"It was a great time in Montreal, the excitement, the Jarry Park atmosphere. You just never forget it. Every time at Jarry Park, it was a circus, not the way we played, but the atmosphere in the ballpark we had to deal with.''
Bailey's loss resonates with a lot of his former teammates in Montreal but also fans, including Exposfest founder Perry Giannias, who arranged for him to attend his event nine months ago.
"He was so happy to come back to Montreal,'' Giannias said. "I spoke to him to wish him a Merry Christmas. It's a real kick in the head day.''