Dick Williams, Montreal and Steve Rogers

As I continue to weave my way through Dick Williams’ 1990 biography, No More Mr. Nice Guy (one of the finer athlete biographies I’ve read), it’s clear that the feisty Hall of Fame skipper enjoyed his time in Canada. After being fired by the Red Sox in 1969, Williams spent 1970 as Gene Mauch’s third-base coach in Montreal. So when he was hired as the Expos manager in 1977, Williams already knew that he loved the city. He wouldn’t love all of his Expos players though. During Williams’ reign the Expos would taste success (they won 95 games in 1979 but finished second), but the fiery bench boss wasn’t able to lead them to a division title. In his book, he writes that the Expos biggest opponent wasn’t the Pirates or Phillies but drugs (weed, greenies). He also levies criticism at a number of Expos players, most notably:

 Ellis Valentine – The brash manager lauds Valentine’s talent, but is clearly disgusted with how the troubled outfielder, whose drug problems have been well-documented, wasted it. “Ellis Valentine was an extraordinary baseball player who became a thief,” writes Williams. “He stole from his own ability because of his lack of motivation and unreliability. And he stole from his heart. Stole from his teammates’ trust.”
 Steve Rogers – Williams labels his ace as “weak-kneed.” I remember watching Rogers and have interviewed Rogers on multiple occasions and can’t help but think he gets a bad rap. Everybody remembers Blue Monday, but they forget that Rogers outdueled Steve Carlton twice in the National League Division Series in 1981. And don’t forget that after that devastating Rick Monday homer in the 1981 National League Championship Series, Rogers rebounded to have his best season, winning 19 games and record a 2.40 ERA in 1982. This scribe will never question Rogers’ intestinal fortitude.

I will write more on Williams’ tenure with the Expos in the coming days.

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