Interview: Curtis Pride Talks About The Montreal Expos
When a Montreal baseball fan is feeling nostalgic, they think back to the some of the big moments and famous players whom pulled on the Expos’ uniform and helped shape the franchise’s 35 year history.
Many of the names and moments bring back fond memories – Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Rusty Staub, Dennis Martinez‘s perfect game and yes, even Youppi!
Many of the events, also bring back not-so-fond memories – the 1994 strike, the Big Owe and Blue Monday.
Another name that would bring back happy memories is that of Curtis Pride. A career .250 hitter, the Washington D.C. native spent the 1993, 1995 and 2001 seasons in Montreal.
So how is it that a player who only spent parts of three seasons with the Expos is in the same sentence as Hall of Famers and orange fuzz balls?
I will leave it to this 1996 video by George Michael Sports Machine to answer that question.
Pride would go on to spend one more season in Detroit, then going on to play with the Red Sox (on two occasions), the Braves, the Yankees before ending his career with the Angeles in 2006.
Since retiring, Pride has made a successful transition into coaching. He has been the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University – a school for the deaf or hard of hearing located in Washington D.C. – for seven years now.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Mr. Pride, to ask him what it’s like coaching deaf ball players and to have him share some of his favorite Expos’ memories.
La Metropole Sports: There’s been all of this talk that the Olympic Stadium turf destroyed outfielders’ knees and shortened careers. You played out there, was it really that bad?
Curtis Pride: “Yes, the turf was probably the worst I have ever played on. In fact, it may have started my turf toe injury which I eventually had surgery on in 2007. I played with a turf toe for seven years.”
LMS: Was your famous double in Montreal your favorite memory with the Expos?
Pride: “Yes, because it was not only my first major league hit, but it also led the Expos to come from behind to beat the Phillies during the Pennant race. A sold out crowd gave me an emotional five minute standing ovation. It was something that I will always treasure for the rest of my life.”
LMS: You started (and ultimately finished) the 1994 season in the minors. Do you think you would have been called up to the famous ’94 team had the full season been played out?
Pride: “It is hard to say, but I definitely could have helped the team with my speed and bat off the bench.”courtesy Curtis Pride
LMS: You were a member of the 1995 Expos. What was the sentiment in the locker room the season after the strike?
Pride: “It was tough because we lost a lot of good players after the ’94 season. It wasn’t the same as ’94.”
LMS: What is the Together with Pride Foundation?
Pride: “[My wife Lisa and I] started the foundation in 2001 to support deaf and hard of hearing children through educational means. We provide $1,000 scholarships to deserving hearing impaired kids for college as well as hearing kids who plan to major in a deaf-related field. We also provide refurbished hearing aids to needy kids. Unfortunately, we have not been as active with our foundation in the past six years due to my being in a transition period, focusing solely on raising our two hearing impaired children and my job away from home.”
LMS: Since you retired, you’ve become a coach. What is the difference between coaching deaf players and non-deaf players?
Pride: “The difference is communication. I have to make sure the deaf players are looking at me when talking to them using verbal or ASL [American Sign Language]. Otherwise, everything else is the same.”
LMS: How soon until we see another player with hearing difficulty play in the Major Leagues?
Pride: “Hopefully not long, but it is tough because there are some good deaf players not getting an opportunity to play pro ball. One of my former players, who graduated last year, definitely had Major League potential. He was a two-time All-American and a five tool prospect. I think his deafness is the only reason he was not signed by a professional organization.”
Author’s note: The player Pride is referring to is William Bissell of Bangor, Maine. An outfielder, Bissell batted .386 in the 2014 season with Gallaudet, hitting three home runs and knocking in 41 RBI in 40 games. Not a whole lot else could be found on Bissell, but you can find out more at his player page on the Bisons’ website.
LMS: This last question is simple, will baseball come back to Montreal?
Pride: “I hope so! I sincerely believe that Montreal can support baseball. If Major League Baseball is planning to expand in the near future, I certainly hope that Montreal will be the first choice. I think Montreal is a great city with a lot of passionate baseball fans.”
Pride’s response to our last question seems to reflect the opinion that is shared by many around the league. When looking at potential expansion or moving a team, Montreal is the only city that really comes to mind.
It’s not like hockey, where there are three or four solid candidates for teams.
But I simply can’t get over Pride’s reaction to the 1995 Expos. “It wasn’t the same,” he said.
Since ’94, nothing in Montreal baseball has been the same.
A big thank you goes out to Mr. Pride for taking the time to do this interview