Blue Mon­day by Danny Gal­lagher

Montreal Times - - News -

Next year (2019) will mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the Mon­treal Ex­pos’ in­au­gu­ral sea­son, which made them the very first Ma­jor League Baseball fran­chise to orig­i­nate from out­side the U.S.

Dur­ing its 36 sea­sons, the Ex­pos nur­tured a num­ber of ex­cel­lent play­ers that have ever donned its red, white and blue uni­form (be­fore they went to greener pas­tures – and salaries – with other MLB teams), had ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of mem­o­rable mo­ments and sea­sons; and in turn, had un­der­gone its share of days of in­famy.

There’s the Ex­pos los­ing the chance to win the Na­tional League East Di­vi­sion ti­tles in 1979 and 1980 to the Pirates and the Phillies (in which both teams went on to be­come World Series cham­pi­ons); how about the 1994 sea­son, when the Ex­pos has the best record in baseball and had a strong chance of getting to the World Series …only to have it dashed when the sea­son was cut short by a play­ers’ strike?; then there’s owner Claude Brochu’s “fire sales”, when many of the Ex­pos’ top play­ers were traded off en masse be­cause the team couldn’t af­ford the ris­ing salaries of their ris­ing stars; and of course, that day in Oc­to­ber 2004, when after it was dec­i­mated by thenowner Jef­frey Lo­ria, the Ex­pos pulled up stakes and moved to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where they be­came the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als.

But the one day of in­famy that still res­onates deeply with Ex­pos play­ers and fans alike was Oc­to­ber 19, 1981. That was when, dur­ing Game 5 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Series (NLVCS) at the cav­ernous Olympic Sta­dium, that Rick Mon­day of the op­pos­ing L.A. Dodgers hit a home run off of pitcher Steve Rogers (who was on the mound as a re­lief pitcher for starter Ray Bur­ris), thereby win­ning the game for the Dodgers, and painfully rob­bing the Ex­pos of their one and only chance of com­pet­ing in that year’s World Series against the Amer­i­can League pen­nant win­ners the New York Yan­kees.

That Ex­pos day of in­famy has been for­ever known as “Blue Mon­day”, and is still re­garded as prob­a­bly the best re­mem­bered “might-have-been”s in the team’s 36-year his­tory. Jour­nal­ist and au­thor Danny Gal­lagher, who has penned four books on the Ex­pos’ baseball legacy, adds to his Ex­pos canon with a thor­ough look at that fate­ful day of in­famy in Oc­to­ber of 1981 with Blue Mon­day.

This thor­oughly re­searched book (which also in­cludes 73 in­ter­views with many of the play­ers and coaches from both teams who were a part of this dra­matic NLCS) tells the com­plete story about “Blue Mon­day” the events that led up to it, that fate­ful pitch, and its wide-rang­ing af­ter­math.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lagher, the roots of “Blue Mon­day” can be traced back to 1977.That’s when vet­eran man­ager Dick Wil­liams (who led the “Im­pos­si­ble Dream” Boston Red Sox to the 1967 World Series and the Oakland A’s to two con­sec­u­tive world cham­pi­onships in 1972 and 1973) be­came the Ex­pos’ man­ager after a dis­as­trous los­ing sea­son in 1976. Although his meth­ods as man­ager were at times crude and con­tro­ver­sial, Wil­liams some­how nur­tured the tal­ents of play­ers like Gary Carter and Steve Rogers, and thanks to the ef­forts of Jim Fan­ning and his team of scouts, in­tro­duce up and com­ers into the Ex­pos fold like An­dre Daw­son, Tim Raines,War­ren Cro­mar­tie and Jeff Rear­don. The end re­sult was win­ning sea­sons in 1979 and 1980, and that split sea­son pen­nant run in 1981.

Be­sides of­fer­ing de­tailed, blow-by-blow de­scrip­tions of some of the cru­cial games and series dur­ing the Ex­pos’ drive to the World Series in 1981, Gal­lagher gives a bal­anced look at what hap­pened dur­ing that NLCS from both benches, with an em­pha­sis on some of the un­known sto­ries (like Tim Raines’ fa­ther, who was promised by his em­ploy­ers an all ex­penses paid trip to the World Series if the Ex­pos beat the Dodgers) and some of the un­sung he­roes (such as Jerry White, whose home run off Jerry Reuss won Game 3 for the Ex­pos).

Gal­lagher also gives his due to the two play­ers who faced off against each other that cul­mi­nated in that fate­ful game 5 home run: Steve Rogers and Rick Mon­day.“The book is in­tended to give scope, depth, ex­po­sure, and added recog­ni­tion to Rick Mon­day, not only for what he did that day, but out­side that day,” he writes. “Equally, the book pays trib­ute to Steve Rogers, who coughed up the home run to Mon­day. He has gra­ciously faced the mu­sic ever since.”

And Gal­lagher cer­tainly suc­ceeds in that re­spect. Thanks to his quest for scope and a sense of bal­ance, we learn that Rick Mon­day was a player who was at the twi­light of a 19year ca­reer in the Ma­jors, was the very first pick of the very first MLB draft of am­a­teur free agents in 1965, served in the U.S. Marine Corps Re­serves, and prefers to re­mem­bered for his feat dur­ing a game at Dodger Sta­dium in 1976, when he res­cued an Amer­i­can flag from be­ing burned by two spec­ta­tors.

As for Steve Rogers, we find out about a pitcher who was drafted in 60th place, was never a fa­vorite of Dick Wil­liams (he was called a “fraud” by the man­ager), and was build­ing up an im­pres­sive ca­reer as one of the best pitch­ers in the ma­jors dur­ing his ca­reer with the Ex­pos.And for­tu­nately, he has found a sense of peace with him­self fol­low­ing that Game 5 (he will­ingly wanted to pitch in re­lief dur­ing that game, not only be­cause Jeff Rear­don was side­lined with back prob­lems, but as a sense of duty and loy­alty to the team). How­ever, he is no longer seen as a goat for de­liv­er­ing that home run pitch to Mon­day; many of Rogers’ team­mates and fans see it as an ex­am­ple of bad judge­ment on Fan­ning’s part.

Blue Mon­day fur­ther ce­ments Danny Gal­lagher’s rep­u­ta­tion as an au­thor­ity on the his­tory of the Ex­pos, and has ef­fec­tively kept the team’s legacy alive through his books. Although Gal­lagher is one of the many who firmly be­lieves that Ma­jor League Baseball will re­turn to Mon­treal one day, we can thank him and his books for keep­ing alive those fond mem­o­ries of the Mon­treal Ex­pos, and how “Nos Amours” gave us so any good rea­sons to catch them in ac­tion at Jarry Park and the Olympic Sta­dium, no mat­ter how many might-have­beens and days of in­famy we were un­sus­pect­ingly served up.

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