LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Unlike most who fell in love with the Montreal Expos as a youngster and cried when the team moved to Washington, D.C., I still have an outlet.
When I check my phone messages at home I can hear the silky smooth voice of former Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne.
After hearing his voice on another answering machine I asked one night in the Olympic Stadium press box after I’d moved to Toronto, if he’d do me this little favor.
He dialed the number.
The kids are long gone.
The message will stay ... forever.
Or ’til it’s time to move to another league.
Tom Cheek was a good friend.
If it wasn’t the Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek winning the Ford Frick award Tuesday, we’re very happy it was Van Horne.
He was one of the first Expo employees we met in 1979. He had a major-league sense of humor, an appreciation and understanding for the game and patience to pass on wisdom to the inexperienced like me. We went to watch his son play a game one spring in Wellington, Fla.
He’s most famous for his “El Presidente, El Perfecto” line at the end of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game at Dodgers Stadium and his ‘up, up and away” home-run calls.
His best on-air story involves Rusty Staub. Staub threw out the lead run at the plate in the top of the ninth and, as so often happens, led off the bottom of the inning.
Instead of heading for the dugout, Staub ran to the left-field corner at Jarry Park where the clubhouse was located.
Finally, he strode to the plate and hit a walk-off homer. Staub was Van Horne’s natural post-game guest and the first question was about the delay.
“Well, Dave, they taught us in the minors to get everything into a throw and then let it go,” Staub said. “I haven’t been feeling that well lately and when I let it go, I s--- my pants.”
Since there wasn’t any seven-second delay, they went to the out-of-town scoreboard.
Van Horne made one stop Wednesday after receiving the call from Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson (“I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding?’ I wish I had a better response”) on the drive from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. to the Orlando area.
“I stopped at Timber Terrace school to take my 10-year-old Madison out of class and give her the news,” Van Horne said, his voice quivering.
Only a little.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos grew up listening to Ken Singleton and Van Horne.
“When his name comes up the name of the Expos will live on,” Anthopoulos said.
Except ... when asked if he was going into the HOF as either an Expo or a Marlin, Van Horne quickly answered “a Marlin.”
The Marlins HOF front office of Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, along with owner Jeffrey Loria sat in as Van Horne spoke with reporters.
Van Horne spent 32 years broadcasting Expos games with Russ Taylor, Duke Snider and Singleton, as well as Jon Sciambi and Glenn Geffnner in Miami.
His up, up and away home run call?
One night he was driving from Jarry to the West Island and heard the Expos highlights. There was little difference between Taylor and his home run calls.
Soon a song by the 5th Dimension came on the radio. Van Horne decided to try it.
“I did it for a week, there was zero reaction, so I stopped,” he recalled. “Everyone asked what happened to up, up and away?”
So, it returned.
I told Van Horne a sign-off was needed for his message:
“Thanks for calling Elliott Ballpark, Bob’s not here, Alicia’s not here, Bob Jr. isn’t here, they’re all ... up, up and away.”
A sign-off was needed since people mistake his voice for Jerry Howarth or Cheek:
“Thanks for calling ... Dave Van Horne, Hall of Fame class of 2011.”