By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
The thought of wily legends Bill Lee and Oil Can Boyd pitching for the Ottawa Champions independent team on Montreal Expos Day Sept. 3 has fans and media in the nation's capital in a bit of a tizzy.
First of all, though, it's not as simple as A, B and C. It's not as simple as Lee and Boyd showing up on game day, suiting up in a uniform, sitting on the dugout bench and going in to pitch.
Lee, 71, and Boyd, 58, need to be signed to contracts by Champions manager Hal Lanier, who knows a thing or two about these kinds of situations.
Lanier said he has yet to talk with Lee or Boyd, both former Expos, but will do so soon because there is a deadline looming for teams in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball to solidify rosters for the season.
"I have until Aug. 26th at midnight to get them under contract, sign them and put them on the disabled list,'' Lanier explained.
Disabled list? That's right. Spaceman and Oil Can need to be on the roster in some form in order for them to pitch Labour Day against New York's Rockland Boulders at RCGT Park.
"It will be interesting,'' Lanier of his roster juggling. "We have a long ways to go before the end of the season. There is still enough time for us to get into the playoffs. The top four teams get in the playoffs.
"Right now, we're the last-place team but there are only a few games separating the fourth and sixth teams. Hopefully on Sept. 3, the game will mean something. We'll know by then if we are getting in the playoffs or not in the playoffs.''
Teams are permitted to carry 22 players for most of the season but can add a 23rd player by the Aug. 26 deadline. By adding two players in Lee and Boyd, it will mean that Lanier will have to place a player on the DL for the final game Labour Day. One player who may have been on the roster the entire season will have to sit out, a move that might rankle a few feathers.
"Adding both players means I have to put one of my players on the disabled list for the final game,'' Lanier re-iterated. "I will have to make a decision on who I put on the disabled list or the retired list.''
With Lee and Boyd on the DL from Aug. 26-Sept. 3, the salaries for both will count against the Champions' salary cap of $102,000 for the season but in 20 years of managing in the Independent ranks, Lanier said his teams have never been over the salary cap. Players in the Can-Am loop receive a minimum $1,500 per month and it's likely Lee and Boyd will be paid on a pro-rated basis, meaning $1,500 divided by eight days but the financial arrangements have yet to be clarified, Lanier said. It could work out that Lee and Boyd will be paid for one day only. Again, nothing is cast in stone as far as what they will be paid for actually pitching in the game. On the side, they will be paid an appearance fee to show up at Expos Day.
"If you go over the salary cap and you make the playoffs, you are eliminated from the playoffs,'' Lanier said. "You have to keep on top of the salary cap daily but I've never been over the salary cap.''
If the Champions are still in the hunt for a playoff spot on the final day, Lanier figures Lee and Boyd will probably only pitch to one batter and maybe two or three batters, depending on how they fare.
"If we are not in the playoff race, they can pitch as long as they want,'' Lanier said. "It will be nice to have them here for the fans, especially Bill. He's still going strong. I don't know how hard he throws but for him to get on the mound, you have to give him a lot of credit. I know a great deal about Bill and Oil Can.''
It's believed that Lee will cement his reputation as the oldest player to have appeared in a professional game. He has pitched competitively for many years across Canada and in the U.S. since his major-league career ended in May of 1982 with the Expos. In September of 2010, Lee pitched or the Can-Am league's Brockton Red Sox of Massachusetts and got the win. The gig apparently made him the oldest pitcher to appear in or to win a professional game.
Lee, Boyd, Cliff Floyd, Rondell White and Dave Cash will participate in a luncheon date with a select group of fans in a gig organized by ExposFest founder Perry Giannias in conjunction with PastPros. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., fans can sit down to lunch in a suite with the former Expos. VIP packages range from $75-$125.
Floyd and White played for the Expos farm team, the Ottawa Lynx, in the 1990s. They are this-close as friends and have lived on the same street in Davie, Fla. for a number of years.
As an extra bonus, fans will be treated to an autograph session with the former Expos on the field following the game. Sounds like a great day in store. So get your Expos gear together and flood the 10,332-seat park.
"So far our biggest crowd of the year is 3,285. That was on opening night against Trois-Rivieres,'' Champions publicist Michael Nellis said "We definitely hope Expos Day will be our biggest crowd. Labour Day weekend has always been a huge stretch for baseball here. We drew 7,886 to watch Eric Gagné pitch for us in 2016, and we had 6,129 for a Saturday night game in 2015. So I think this will be our largest crowd.''
Autograph sessions, silent auctions and partial proceeds from every ticket will be donated to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Ticket prices are $14 for adults, $11 for seniors and students and $5 for youth. Children under five are admitted free. Spaceman throws the first pitch at 1:35. Play ball!
Danny Gallagher will be in Ottawa for Expos Day to promote his upcoming book called Blue Monday: The Expos, the Dodgers and the Home Run That Changed Everything