Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
This week is quickly becoming known as BaseballFest in Montreal. Based around the Montreal Expos. Culminating in two games at Olympic Stadium and a downtown rally on Sunday, baseball events will be everywhere, and LMS will be no different.
We will also end the countdown this week with two different home openers. The first one is number two and one of the best memories as it pertains to a game that I had in Olympic Stadium.
2002, if you remember, was a crazy year. And by crazy I mean insane. The Expos didn’t have a general manager or manager a few days before Spring Training started. Seriously. Their entire staff (practically) went to Florida with Jeffrey Loria.
Frank Robinson was managing his first game for the Expos. Omar Minaya was the general manager. The game was going well – it was a 1-1 tie – until the sixth inning. The Marlins took the lead 2-1 and then in the seventh scored four more times to open up a 6-1 lead. The Expos didn’t score in the bottom of the seventh meaning they only had six outs left.
I went to the game with my dad, and he looked at me and asked if we could leave. I told him no. I didn’t want to miss the comeback. That wasn’t the real reason. I just wanted to watch baseball. Olympic Stadium had a bunch of people as it always did for a home opener.
However, things got interesting in the eighth inning. Michael Barrett led off against Ryan Dempster with a home run. Then, Peter Bergeron walked in between a strikeout and a fly out. Vladimir Guerrero doubled, scoring Bergeron and then Orlando Cabrera singled, scoring Guerrero. The 6-1 lead was cut to 6-4 and they still had the ninth inning.
Brad Wilkerson walked to lead off the inning and Barrett doubled on a check swing for his second big hit in two innings. The Expos had the tying run in scoring position and nobody out and Robinson called on Henry Rodriguez to pinch hit.
Rodriguez was a star for the Expos in their post-strike success of 1996. He came out of nowhere to lead the team in home runs and fans would throw Oh Henry! bars after he hit home runs. The crowd was expecting theatrics. Rodriguez would strike out. The next batter Bergeron would as well.
But there was more to come. That brought up the heart of the order – Jose Vidro, Guerrero and Cabrera. Vidro would single up the middle to tie the game and score both runners. Then, Guerrero would be intentionally walked. Cabrera came up and ended the game with a single.
Game over. Expos win. What I remember most wasn’t the hit, it was the celebration. Fans started throwing their Oh Henry! bars they had saved in case Rodriguez hit one out.
I remember Frank Robinson coming out of the dug out celebrating with the rest of the team. He – at almost 70 years old – ran to home plate and was one of the first ones to greet Vidro. Then, he picked up a chocolate bar, turned to the crowd, lifted it up and stuck it in his back pocket.
The chocolate bar thing doesn’t appear in the video below, but a crazy Rodger Brulotte does. And you still get to see Robinson running to home plate.
It was a game that most in attendance wouldn’t forget and would lead to a season that saw a huge “go-for-it” trade and hope of a playoff berth.
The game did something else as well. My dad never asked me to leave another game early.