Alou relives Expos days

Former Montreal Expos player and manager Felipe Alou. (Reuters file photo)

Former Montreal Expos player and manager Felipe Alou. (Reuters file photo)

ETIENNE BOUCHARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:08 PM ET

MONTREAL - It was two decades ago that the Montreal Expos were set to bring in a new manager, a move that would become a major event in the franchise's history. On May 22, 1992, Felipe Alou replaced Tom Runnells.

Following a poor start to the season, and amid growing dissent from the fans and from inside the locker room, the organization called on someone with 15 years experience coaching with the Expos and their affiliates. The decision paid off big time, as Alou, a former major league outfielder, went on to manage the team for nine years, winning 670 games.

The first Dominican to become a manager in the history of the major leagues, Alou still vividly recalls the circumstances surrounding his hiring.

"I was fishing with a few friends, including Jacques Doucet (the Expos radio play-by-play announcer)," Alou said in a phone interview with QMI Agency.

Alou, the Expos bench coach, already had been summoned to a meeting later in the day with general manager Dan Duquette.

"At the time, I still thought it was premature to fire (Runnells), but Duquette said: 'If you don't accept the offer, we're going to pick someone else.' So I took the job before he could change his mind.

"That night, we beat Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves 7-1 at Olympic Stadium," Alou said. "Dennis Martinez pitched a complete game and gave me the game ball after the last out."

Alou got fans excited about the game again after a few disappointing seasons. In 1992, he led the Expos into a pennant race, losing the National League East title to the Pittsburgh Pirates with a week left in the season.

The following year, Montreal recorded 94 wins to finish three games back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. In 1994, the Expos were leading the majors with a record of 74-40 and a six-game lead in the division when the season was suspended because of labour strife.

"The 1994 season is among my best memories of Montreal, because in two years we managed to build an elite team," said Alou, 77, who now lives in Florida and still works as a scout for the San Francisco Giants.

"We had a great team that could beat anyone. But then there was the strike and you know the rest."

Alou's team included his son, Moises, Larry Walker, Ken Hill, John Wetteland, nephew Mel Rojas and Marquis Grissom.

Certain qualities are crucial to be able to manage a pro team, in any sport, Alou said. Those who can adapt easily and listen to their players are the ones who stick around longest. That is what kept Alou in Montreal for nearly a decade before taking over the same job with the Giants from 2003 to 2006.

"You have to have respect for your sport," Alou said. "Your players feel that, because they notice if you have or don't have the ability to lead in different situations. They have to feel like you are in control."

This recognition is also important coming from the fans and also from the heart of the community.

"You represent the city and you have to have a personality of major-league calibre, no matter the sport," he said. "Because of that, Montrealers always respected me and that is still the case today."


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