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  Sun, October 3, 2004


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Expos will outlive disappointment
By CHRIS STEVENSON, Ottawa Sun

It's looking like the Expos are gone (who knows with Major League Baseball?), but they won't be forgotten. Their history will live on in the hearts of the many thousands of fans who supported the club during its 36-year run in Montreal.

It was a bittersweet love affair between a city and its baseball team with the Expos teasing, but never fully delivering, the sweet satisfaction of realized potential.

If the Expos brand is headed for the graveyard of transferred franchises, what will live on as the defining, on-field moment of the club?

It just might be Blue Monday when Rick Monday of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit that home run that ended up winning Game 5 of the NLCS in 1981.

It summed up the Expos' existence: Oh, so close.

Steve Rogers, the Expos' ace, was the guy who served up that home run in a relief role.

Looking back on it the other day, he said he has since figured out what makes a closer successful and what happened that fateful day.

"You have a lot of energy (in that situation). A stopper knows how to harness it. Not get rid of it, just harness it," he said. "The mental preparation would be not to overthrow the sinker."

That was Rogers' "out-pitch." But that day, spurred by the adrenaline of the situation, he was throwing it too hard.

"I was overthrowing it and when you do that with the sinker, it flattens out," he said. "It was flat and choked off.

"The first hitter in the top of the ninth was (Dodgers first baseman) Ron Cey and I threw him the sinker on a 2-2 count, down and in. He hit it to the base of the left-field wall. If he had hit it a micron different on his bat, he would have been the hero."

HURLING MARLINS: Some people have got a lot of chutzpah. Some others might call it nerve, cajones, whatever. David Samson would qualify. The stepson of former Expos owner/schemer Jeffrey Loria, Samson, along with a few others, is viewed by many Expos fans as one of the key guys who killed the Expos' chances of ever surviving in Montreal. Instead of being the club's saviours when Loria bought it, the duo reduced the local limited partners' equity in the club and then sold it to Major League Baseball. You know what happened after that. So, you'd think the last guy you'd see come walking into Hurley's -- the popular bar on Crescent St. -- would be Samson, but there he was last Monday night as the Expos played out their final homestand against the World Series-champion Florida Marlins, the team Loria now owns. "You've got a lot of nerve showing your face in here," said one Expos fan when Samson came into the bar. Samson shrugged the fans off and proceeded to show off to some friends his gaudy World Series ring.

Talk about rubbing Expos fans' faces in it. It was enough to make you want to hurl.

HEAR AND THERE: It looks like the Villa Deli, which was to be closed up Nov. 1, will now be open through the Grey Cup. That will be a fitting sendoff for the Ottawa landmark, a popular spot for sports folks, and CFL people, specifically. It'll be a chance for them to say good-bye ... Good to see the CFL officiating is uniform and consistent. It is simply horrible for both sides.

THE BUZZ: Some kids found a bunch of New York Yankees playoff tickets, some of them worth up to $2,600 each, on a street in New Jersey. They turned them in. Turns out they belonged to a bank. The kids' reward? They get to go to a New Jersey Nets game. I don't know what the most significant part of that story is: That a ticket to a playoff game could be worth $2,600 or that the bank would give the kids such a chintzy reward? ... You can't make this stuff up: The winner of the Ontario Amateur golf championship is Andrew Parr.

REVELATIONS: Eagles Nest Golf Club, designed by Doug Carrick, has been named the best new course in Ontario by Ontario Golf magazine. It's located near Vaughan (north of Toronto) and is getting rave reviews. Whether they are just hype, only time will tell, but apparently the links-style layout, sculpted out of sand and gravel pits, is giving a big boost to Carrick's stature.

SPECULATIONS: Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos is bargaining hard to get what he can out of Major League Baseball as compensation for the Expos moving into the Orioles' backyard. Guarantees for a minimum amount of revenue of each year and a minimum franchise value are in the works. Baseball wants the minimums to apply only while Angelos owns the team, but he wants them assigned to the team not him, to guarantee the Orioles' future in Baltimore. Call me a cynic, but if Angelos sold the team, wouldn't it be worth a heck of a lot more with those guarantees in place? Of course it would.

LEMME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT: Renegades rookie kicker Sandro Sciortino, out for the season when it was revealed the other day he is being treated for testicular cancer, kicked a last-minute, game-winning field goal from 53 yards against Calgary. It's all the more remarkable that he did it with what was on his mind ... You've got to like Tom Watson. While just about everybody is running the other way when it comes to captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Watson says he wants the job.

JUST WONDERING: MLB has announced it is moving the Expos to Washington, D.C., but remember MLB also announced it was going to contract the Minnesota Twins, remember? Those wouldn't be the same Twins who just won the AL Central Division, would they?

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com