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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Olympic Stadium 2014: Rally - Expos Speak

The ExposNation rally at the downtown Montreal Marriott. Nine former Expos are on the stage. (G21D Photo)
Olympic Stadium
Part 1: Expos Found | Part 2: Honoring 1994 
Part 3: Expos Speak | 2012: Expos Search

When Tim Spehr got the call, he didn't know what to expect, he told a crowd of Montreal Expos fans in late March 2014.

The call was to join his fellow 1994 Expos in Montreal, owners of the best record in baseball that year, to be honored before the second of two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium.

It was a call he was happy to get, Spehr told those gathered at the downtown Montreal Marriott.

"Standing on the field, looking up and seeing the full house and just remember how loud that stadium is when it was full," Spehr added, "I hadn't had that feeling in a very long time. It was a pretty special feeling. I thank you guys for that."

Spehr was one of nine former Expos to take part in a question-and-answer session billed as a rally. The event was put on by the fan Web site My wife and I attended the rally after going to the second of the two exhibition games.
From left to right: Former Expos Rondell White, Heath Haynes, Tim Spehr,  Joey Eischen and Marquis Grissom. (G21D Photo)
The players answered questions from fans, as well as the host, former Expo and Quebec-native Derek Aucoin. The questions ranged from advice for young players to just their memories of playing for the Expos.

Taking questions on the Marriott stage were: Rondell White, Heath Haynes, Spehr, Joey Eischen, Marquis Grissom, Denis Boucher, Claude Raymond, Felipe Alou and Tim Scott.

Spehr and Scott have been featured here. Scott has even been interviewed here. Alou, Eischen and Boucher will be featured here at some point in the future.

Scott, whose nickname was "Big Country," answered a question about his memories of Montreal. Scott compared the big city to his small California hometown of Hanford.

It was in Montreal where Scott got his nickname, Scott said. And coining the name was Grissom.
Former Expo Tim Scott, right, speaks to a crowd of former Expos fans. Former Expos manager Felipe Alou is on the left. (G21D Photo)
"I used to take batting practice before games and I used to hit a lot home runs out of the ball park," Scott said. "He knew I was from a small town in the country and he just said 'you're Big Country, you've got a lot of power.'

"So that's where the name came from."

Alou managed the Expos for a decade, from 1992 to 2001. He spoke of what he sees as the future of baseball in Montreal.

Alou believed that Montreal's showing in the two exhibition games made a statement about baseball in the city.

"No way that all of baseball didn't see what happened here the last two nights," Alou said. "They saw it. They saw it in Australia, anywhere where they play baseball."

Former Expos manager Felipe Alou speaks at a ExposNation rally March 30, 2014 in Montreal. (G21D Photo)
Alou said he sees Expos hats all around, even in spring training. He said he knows the people of Montreal are waiting for a team again. When they wait, things happen, he said.

"When this city gets a team, the new team is going to be here forever," Alou told the receptive audience.

When that team arrives, one fan asked Alou later, would Alou return to manage? The 78-year-old Alou graciously declined.

The weekend included key players from that 1994 team, as well as role players and players who only spent a brief time with the team but made their contribution nonetheless.

Eischen was one of the players with just a brief time on the team. Eischen picked up just two outs in June and was charged with four runs. He went on to play in 10 major league season, returning to the Expos in 2001 after playing elsewhere for several seasons. He then played with the team for four seasons.

"I've been on a lot of different teams," Eischen said, "and it was a very unique special thing, between the coaches and players. They set the standard and kind of showed me how to be a big leaguer, how to play the game. Just a great group of guys."
The 1994 Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium March 29, 2014. Joey Eischen is third from the right. (G21D Photo)
Scott played for the Expos from 1993 into 1996. Scott recalled a game from 1993 when teammate Curtis Pride got his first major league hit. Pride hit a pinch-hit, two-run double. Pride was deaf.

Scott remembered teammates trying to get Pride to tip his cap to the roaring crowd. Finally Pride caught on and did.

"It was so loud that I could feel the vibrations in my chest," Scott said. "I remember Curtis saying the same thing when he finally came off the field.

"We talked to him for a second he goes 'I could feel it in my chest, I couldn't hear it, but I could feel it,'" Scott recalled. Scott then addressed the Expos fans in attendance. "That's a tribute to you guys."

Read more about Tim Spehr and Tim Scott:
 - Tim Spehr, Don't Break It, 7/2/10
 - Tim Scott (Interview), Started Throwing, 9/6/12

Olympic Stadium
Part 1: Expos Found | Part 2: Honoring 1994 
Part 3: Expos Speak | 2012: Expos Search

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