The enduring reign of Tim Raines
Expos outfielder was a star who connected the dots
Fin Montreal ire-wagon baseball.
That’s how Michael Farber the Expos of the 1980s — and it all started with Tim Raines.
Back in those days you wanted to make sure to be in your seats at Olympic Stadium before the bottom of the first inning when Raines was batting leadoff for the Expos. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement, waiting and hoping Raines would get on base. When he did, you knew exactly what was coming next.
The pitcher would throw over to first base at least once, trying to keep Raines close to the bag while childlike drawings of a chicken would pop up each time on the black-and-white scoreboard. Then Raines would take off for second to steal one of the 808 bases in his Hall of Fame career.
Montrealers fell in love with Raines and that love affair continues to this day — even though the Expos no longer exist.
On Sunday, four busloads of ExposNation fans will hit the road at 6:30 a.m. in Montreal en route to Cooperstown, N.Y., to witness Raines’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“He played with such flair,” said Farber, who covered the Expos as a sports columnist for the Montreal Gazette during the 1980s before joining Sports Illustrated. “If you look at the way the Canadiens played hockey in the ’70s, that’s how the Expos played baseball in the early ’80s.
“This was a team that had great speed and played with great daring, and they were an exciting baseball team in the way that the Canadiens had been an exciting hockey team,” Farber added.
“I always thought of it as firewagon baseball and Raines was part of it. People here loved the stolen base, they loved Raines going first to third, they loved Raines stealing third base. This was the greatest sports show in town.”
During a Hall of Fame conference call last week, Raines was asked about the four busloads of Montreal fans headed to Cooperstown.
“It means a lot ... because Montreal was the biggest part of my career,” Raines said. “I mean, it’s where I started. It’s where I grew up as a major-league player. It’s where I lived for 12 years and I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to seeing the fans. I wasn’t aware of how many buses. I heard that there was going to be some buses.”
Raines will become only the third player — and possibly the last — to be inducted into Hall of Fame wearing an Expos cap, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.
Former Expo Vladimir Guerrero will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but he could go in wearing a Los Angeles Angels cap. There is only one former Expo still playing in the majors and 44-yearold pitcher Bartolo Colon’s career is coming to an end with the Minnesota Twins. With all that in mind, Farber believes Raines has become the most important player in Expos history.
“He played with the first Expos star, Rusty Staub,” Farber said. “And then when Raines came back (to Montreal in 2001 after playing elsewhere for 10 years) he played with the last Expos star, Guerrero.
“So if you look at a timeline of the Expos, Tim Raines is the connective tissue in the history of the franchise. I think that makes him so terribly important, even more important than Carter and more important than Dawson.
“Because for me, Tim Raines is the Expo that connects all the dots.”
In his new book, Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane, Raines described what it meant to him to be an Expo.
“I never could have imagined the satisfaction and joy I derived from my 12 seasons in Montreal, a time during which the Expos proved they could compete with the best teams in baseball,” Raines wrote. “When the time came to decide which logo would appear on my Hall of Fame plaque, the choice was easy. “I will always be an Expo.” There will be a lot of fans wearing Expos caps Sunday in Cooperstown. Maybe they’ll even sing the Happy Wanderer like they used to at the Big O. Val-deri, Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha A lasting memory of when firewagon baseball was played in Montreal. Tim Raines, rear, will be inducted into the Baseball of Hall of Fame on Sunday. Four busloads of Expos fans will be on hand.