Vast Expos' memorabilia collection put together by fan and fundraiser

Montreal Expos super collector Perry Giannias has loaned the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown one of 2017 inductee Tim Raines's early game-worn jerseys (pictured here) to display.

Montreal Expos super collector Perry Giannias has loaned the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown one of 2017 inductee Tim Raines's early game-worn jerseys (pictured here) to display.

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

When Perry Giannias isn't tending to the two, certified day-care centres he operates with his wife Voula, he's on the hunt for Montreal Expos' memorabilia.

Both Giannias and late 1970s/early 1980s Expos' batboy Daniel Plamandon claim they sport the largest stash of Expos' collectibles. It's hard to say which man has the most. We'll call it a deadlock.

Both Giannias and Plamandon live in the Montreal suburb of Laval and both idolized Expos' catching great Gary Carter. 

Giannias collects bats, balls, bases, jerseys and helmets and would love to acquire the second base where Carter ended his big-league career in September 1992. He doubled over the head of Cubs outfielder and former teammate Andre Dawson and he never played again. Who possesses that bag? Who else? Plamandon.

"Daniel was close to Gary,'' Giannias said. "He has that base and I have Gary's jersey from his last at-bat and his helmet from his last at-bat. I'd love to have that base but Daniel is like me, he doesn't want to sell anything. I'm a hoarder. I have one-of-a-kind stuff and I focus on game-used stuff.

"I have Gary's first catcher's mitt he ever wore with the Expos and I have the last catcher's mitt he used. I got his jersey and I was asking myself, 'Is this the one?' I was hoping nobody would catch on. I matched that one up and was hoping it would be the real jersey from his last at-bat and it was. It's the biggest thrill for a collector. I paid $2,000 for it.''

When Montreal lost the Expos to Washington following the 2004 season, Giannias was like most Expos' fans -- "pissed.''

"When Gary Carter passed away in 2012, the anger went away. It was time to try and get baseball back in Montreal,'' Giannias said.

Around that time, Giannias had already begun "stockpiling memorabilia'', especially Carter items, some of which he grabbed from Carter's days in the minors with the Quebec Carnavals. A year ago, Carter's family consigned his massive collection of baseball goods to auction and that's when Giannias loaded up.

What Giannias didn't bid on was the ball from the last out of the 1986 World Series won by Carter and the Mets. Carter caught the ball when Marty Barrett of the Red Sox struck out. Carter kept the ball and when it went up for auction, it sold for an amazing $70,000, the most expensive item in the catcher's collection. Giannias didn't dare get involved in the bidding because "my wife would have divorced me'' if he had done so. 

"Carter is my main man when I'm collecting Expos' stuff and Vlad Guerrero would be second. So are Dawson and Tim Raines. Those four are my big boys,'' Giannias said.

Giannias was also thrilled to purchase the negatives and photo collection of the late Expos official photographer Denis Brodeur, who died in 2013. That package includes hundreds of never-before-seen photos. Because the negatives were old and needed touching up, he went to a laboratory and got them cleaned. Giannias shares many of the photos he produces from the negs on Twitter and Facebook.

Before he died, Brodeur had sold his vast stash of NHL-related photos to the NHL for $350,000 U.S. Brodeur began taking photos for the Expos in 1969 and snapped away for the franchise until he was replaced in 1996. 

"I paid about $2,000 for his Expos' collection,'' Giannias said. "His whole collection went up on Classic Auctions but I just wanted his Expos' stuff. Most of it is from the 1970s and 1980s. The negatives were worn down and it was quite the process to get them cleaned up. He was a photographer for football, the Olympics and other stuff, too. He was a great photographer and I'm thinking he's the best sports photographer in Canadian history.''

Giannias donates some of his more-than-1,000 collectibles to be sold during the annual Exposfest event he has been staging since 2016. The proceeds go to the Kat D DIPG Foundation at the Montreal Children's Hospital in honour of his niece Catherine Demes, who died too young of a rare brain disorder.

Last month, Giannias got former Expos Rodney Scott, Otis Nixon, Ross Grimsley and Claude Raymond to appear at a similar function for signing autographs at the Collectors International auction event in Montreal. Over two days, $4,200 was raised.