By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
There’s nothing quite like going back “home.’’
For David Palmer, ‘’home’’ is Montreal, or least one of his homes.
Palmer will be one of a star-studded cast appearing at the Exposfest fundraiser in Montreal at Place Centre Ville on April 2. He’ll be there along with six other former Expos: Dennis Martinez, Al Oliver, Andre Dawson, Cliff Floyd, Rondell White and Bob Bailey. Also scheduled to appear is former major-league closer Eric Gagné, who is making a comeback with Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic.
“I love Montreal. It’s a great place. It’s just great to go back to see Expos’ fans who are still crazy for the Expos,’’ Palmer was saying in an interview. “It’s good to catch up with old friends and old teammates.’’
Palmer was born 2 1/2 hours away from Montreal in the upstate New York community of Glens Falls and he has been living there the last few years after a number of years residing in the Atlanta area. That’s why Montreal is home of sorts for him because he doesn’t live that far away.
Palmer attended an Expos’ tryout camp in Vermont in 1976 and the organization decided to select him late in the June draft that year at the suggestion of scout Bill McKenzie.
“My dad Dave brought me and a couple of other guys to that open tryout camp,’’ Palmer recalled.
One year after Dawson starred with the Expos’ rookie-league team in Lethbridge, Alta., Palmer showed up there and played on a team managed by Walt Hriniak, who had been reassigned by the Expos after he had been first-base coach with the major-league team under Gene Mauch in 1973-74.
Palmer admits he had a bad year in Lethbridge and that he was “on the verge of being released’’ by the Expos’ organization. He was 0-5 in Lethbridge with a 7.20 ERA but the Expos stuck with him and he would eventually reach the Expos as a September callup in 1978.
His career in the majors would last about an even 10 seasons. And no, the highlight of his career was not pitching that five-inning perfect game April 22, 1984, although it was a milestone. The previous five-inning perfect game took place in 1967 when Minnesota’s Dean Chance beat the Red Sox.
“I would have to say putting on the Expos’ uniform every day was a highlight for me,’’ Palmer said. “One of my favourite moments was hitting a home run in Philadelphia for the Phillies against Montreal and my dad and one of my brothers were there. I don’t remember which brother. That was cool.’’
Palmer missed both the 1981 and 1983 seasons with the Expos because of elbow/arm woes but he has encountered no problems since.
“The elbow is great,’’ Palmer said. “There are no restrictions. I still coach, I throw batting practice, I shoot basketballs, lift weights, play golf.’’
After helping out with a high school baseball team in the Atlanta area for a number of years, Palmer has been extending the same courtesy in recent years at Glens Falls high school, his alma mater.
Among the vendors on hand to sell wares on April 2 will be Floyd’s company Cap Liners, which produces protective liners for youth, adult and major-league teams.
Gagné is CEO of the B45 baseball company and he will have a booth at Exposfest. B45’s specialty is bats but it sells other goodies such as T-shirts, hoodies and batting gloves. About 100 major-leaguers including Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin use B45 bats, which are manufactured at a facility in the Quebec City area.
General admission to Exposfest is $7, a ticket for $10 gets you autograph time with Bailey and White, while a $150 purchase will allow you to get autographs from all parties between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.