To continue with the Expos theme this week is having, I had the opportunity to have Jonah Keri, who wrote the book Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. I got the book last Wednesday at a Montreal Chapters store that had it on the shelf. I finished it by Sunday night.
Even though I consider myself knowledgeable in Expos history and have read many books on the subject, Keri’s book had me reading and soaking up the pages by adding colour and personal experiences. On top of that, the book still managed to teach me things. Full disclosure: I did some transcribing for Jonah for the book.
La Metropole Sports: Because you grew up with the team and followed it most of your life, was there anything that really surprised you about the team’s history while talking to people for the book?
Jonah Keri: Just some of the little things. Like how much time players like Bill Stoneman, Dan McGinn, and others had to devote to military service in the middle of the season. Or how few homers Expos primary second basemen hit over a six-year period in the late-70s to early-80s (zero). One of my favorite elements of the book are those heavily-detailed stories, often about lesser figures in the team’s history, so I guess that stuff ended up mattering a lot, in some ways.
LMS: What was the one thing you wish you could have elaborated on or added to the book?
JK: I wish John McHale were alive when I was doing my reporting. I got lots of good secondary sources on him, but would’ve liked to have heard a bunch of stuff right from the horse’s mouth. He was an integral figure in Expos history and very nearly became MLB Commissioner before taking over in Montreal. Would’ve had a lot to ask him.
LMS: With some of the history and stories obviously so close to you personally, was it hard to remain objective during the strike and demise of the franchise and the events surrounding that?
JK: No, because I focused on being a journalist throughout. For instance, it would’ve been easy to paint Jeffrey Loria and Bud Selig as the outsider Americans who screwed the Expos and their Montreal-based fans. But that’s an overly simplistic take on what happened, and the motivation to find the truth trumped any axes I might’ve wanted to grind.
LMS: What was your favourite moment during the whole process – an interview, a story, reliving a memory?
JK: Interviewing Felipe Alou. I was completely mesmerized by everything that he had to say about baseball, family, spirituality, you name it.
LMS: You mentioned in another interview I saw that you weren’t sure you wanted to take on another book. What was the whole process of interviewing and writing like? Was it different than The Extra 2%?
JK: Similar process to Extra 2%, except I was far more organized, thanks to an excellent software program called Scrivener, as well as some huge assists from my awesome wife.
LMS: Have you been surprised by the traction and support that book has gotten both in Montreal and outside of it?
JK: I still don’t have a perfect read on how the book’s being received outside Montreal, because I’m answering this question on pub date. But in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada, there seems to have been a lot of pent-up demand being met. People really did want to read about this defunct baseball team and all its glories and setbacks. Hopefully I’ve satisfied that demand with a book that meets their high expectations.
The book is available now both in print and digital editions.