It was Bill Mazeroski that helped teach Tim Wallach how to become a Gold Glove third baseman.
Wallach, who suited up for more games with the Montreal Expos than any other player, revealed this during a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame conference call on February 3. The long-time Expo will be inducted into the St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine along with former Montreal general manager Murray Cook, legendary Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne and late Toronto Blue Jays scout Jim Ridley in a ceremony on June 21.
Wallach credits Mazeroski, the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman whom manager Bill Virdon invited to Expos camp in 1982, with teaching him the fundamentals of manning the hot corner.
“He helped me so much over at third base that spring,” said Wallach. “I had my ups and downs that year, but as I continued to work on the things he showed me – along with the fact that a lot of people told me that I’d be lucky to be an average third baseman, and that just wasn’t in my nature or my personality to be average – I worked hard and became a good third baseman and I loved it over there.”
And Expos fans grew to love watching him at third base as well. After some early struggles, Wallach, who was drafted as a first baseman and had played mostly outfield in 1981, would eventually excel at third base and win three Gold Glove Awards (1985, 1988, 1990) as an Expo.
His success in Montreal was something he couldn’t have predicted growing up on the U.S. West Coast. Born in 1957 in Huntington Beach, Calif., Wallach knew little about the Expos or the city of Montreal when he was selected 10th overall by the club in the 1979 amateur draft.
“At the time, I certainly knew who they were, and as far as baseball, I knew they were an up and coming team,” recalled Wallach. “But the funny thing is before I got drafted by them, they were not a team that I had heard from. Usually you talk to a few scouts and you get a little bit of an idea if they’re interested in you – not as much back then as you do now – but there were a couple of teams that I knew were interested.
“But I was thrilled to go to Montreal. I got asked when I was playing and even after I was done playing, ‘How’d you like it in Montreal?’ From Day One, when I got to the big leagues there, I loved it. My family loved it. We met wonderful people there. We still have friends that are up there.”
In 13 seasons with the Expos from 1980 to 1992, Wallach was selected to five all-star games (1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990) and captured two Silver Slugger Awards (1985, 1987). He was also named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team in 1981, topped the National League in doubles in 1987 and 1989 and finished fourth in National League MVP voting in 1987.
His most lasting memory of his tenure with the Expos was the club’s 1981 playoff run. The Expos defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the division series, before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in National League Championship Series when Rick Monday homered off of Steve Rogers in the ninth inning of the series’ fifth-and-deciding game.
“My biggest memory of playing in Montreal turned out to be a disappointing time,” he said. “It was 1981, being basically one pitch away from going to the World Series. I still remember that game well. It was a great opportunity for all of us to be able to get that close. At the time, I thought we would be in the playoffs every year, and as I found out, you never know when you’re going to get that opportunity to get back. I didn’t get back [to the playoffs] until 1995. I didn’t know that it was going to take that long, but I certainly understand now when that opportunity comes along, what a great opportunity it is.”
But not returning to the postseason with the Expos didn’t stop Wallach from putting up some impressive numbers. He’s the Expos’ all-time leader in several statistical categories, including games played (1,767), hits (1,694), doubles (360), RBI (905) and total bases (2,728). He also ranks third all-time amongst Expos in runs (737) and fourth in home runs (204).
His workmanlike approach earned him respect from his teammates and from those who watched him play.
“It didn’t take long for those of us watching the game from upstairs to see that Tim Wallach had a great work ethic and not only became a good third baseman, but he became a Gold-Glove calibre third baseman,” recalled Van Horne, who will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame with Wallach in June. “He never wanted out of the lineup. He played every single day. He played with a broken ankle and wouldn’t come out of the lineup. He was one of the most courageous players I’ve ever been around in baseball, and certainly off the field as well, he was just a quality person.”
Wallach spent the final four seasons of his 17-year big league career in Los Angeles with the Dodgers and the Angels. Since retiring as a player, he has become a highly regarded coach at both the professional and collegiate levels. In 2014, he will serve as the Dodgers bench coach. In recent years, Wallach has been inducted into the Cal State Fullerton (his alma mater) Titan Athletics Hall of Fame (2005) and the College Baseball Hall of Fame (2011). He’s looking forwarding to his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in June.
“I’m both surprised and honoured to be selected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Wallach. “What a great thrill to be going in with such integral parts of the Montreal Expos for such a long time, and to join many of my old teammates and manager, along with so many people that meant so much to Canadian baseball. This is a great honour for my family and myself.”
*Opening photo courtesy of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame