By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
You could say that Danny Gallagher has hit a grand slam with his latest Montreal Expos book, “Bases Loaded.”
The veteran author, who has penned seven previous Expos books, has hit another one out of the park doing what he does best – tenaciously tracking down some less-talked-about or forgotten players and coaches and sharing their never-told-before stories.
But Gallagher’s latest book, which is subtitled “Inside stories about Eli, Cro, Cy, Terminator and the Expos,” also offers engrossing chapters about stars like Tim Wallach, Warren Cromartie, Steve Rogers and Jeff Reardon.
These chapters, combined with those that shine the spotlight on more obscure Expos like Bob Reynolds, Don Bosch, Terry Enyart, Mike Gates and Bert Roberge, make for a winning formula and for one of Gallagher’s most enjoyable books.
For his latest release, the hardworking author conducted more than 60 interviews, spent countless hours researching and shares many historic and little seen photos.
He leads off with a compelling chapter about Warren Cromartie, whom Gallagher considers an underrated leader in the revival of interest in bringing back a big league team to Montreal. Cromartie’s Montreal Baseball Project was the first to trumpet the idea shortly after Gary Carter’s death in 2012.
In this chapter, however, we learn that “Cro” is a somewhat polarizing figure in Expos circles.
“He likes to talk and he’s very opinionated,” Cromartie’s biographer Robert Whiting told Gallagher. “He will express his opinions on everything whether or not you want to hear them. Often those opinions are not based on the research necessary to render a valid opinion.”
Gallagher reports that Cromartie is no longer on speaking terms with Ellis Valentine, but former teammates Steve Rogers and Andre Dawson sing Cromartie’s praises in the book.
Unfortunately, much of Cromartie’s work to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal has been overshadowed by Stephen Bronfman’s Montreal Baseball Group in recent years. But Cromartie insists he is part of Bronfman’s group, though no one would officially confirm that is the case.
“Warren has been an unbelievable ambassador in the journey to get MLB back to Montreal,” said William Jegher, a financial executive who has served as an assistant to Bronfman. “Following the death of Gary Carter, he rallied many influential people in the city to take up the cause and was instrumental in getting the ball rolling on the efforts that are still underway today.”
The chapter also shares some of the adversity Cromartie has had to face in his life, and adversity is something that former Expos closer Jeff Reardon can relate to. He is the subject of another captivating chapter. Reardon ardently believes he should have a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“I had the numbers all the way,” Reardon tells Gallagher. “I was so pissed off (about falling off the ballot in his first year eligibility in 2000). Look at my stats.”
Reardon, who retired with 367 major league saves, maintains that his arrest for robbing a jewelry store in a mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Boxing Day in 2005 while in the midst of emotional breakdown is one of the things keeping him from being considered by the Hall’s Veterans Committee.
To this day, Reardon can’t recall the robbery that he committed when he was heavily medicated and severely depressed over his son Shane’s death from a drug overdose on February 21, 2004.
“I don’t really remember everything but I took a Sharpie, what you use to sign autographs and put it on a piece of paper and handed it to the lady (store clerk Barbara Myer),” Reardon told Gallagher of the jewelry store robbery. “I told her, ‘Anything you’ve got, in hundred dollar bills.’ I supposedly was going to commit suicide. I had a mixture of drugs.”
Reardon, who also told the clerk he had a gun, reportedly made away with $170 before he was arrested. Gallagher provides extensive details of the scene and even tracked down and interviewed a female police officer who was present. Reardon was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
He would like the Hall’s Veterans Committee to take another look at his career.
“It would be real nice if they looked at my career fairly,” said Reardon.
On top of the first-rate chapters about Reardon and Cromartie, there are also many absorbing chapters about lesser-known Expos. One of my favourites shines the spotlight on left-hander Ken MacKenzie, who was born in Gore Bay, Ont. I was aware that MacKenzie had pitched parts of six big league seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros from 1960 to 1965. But I learned from Gallagher’s book that the Canuck southpaw spent 27 days with the Expos in September 1969, and though he didn’t make an appearance in a game with the club, his time on the roster got him to the four years of service time necessary to qualify for the MLB pension plan. It was a scenario that played out after MacKenzie sent a letter to all of the major league teams asking for an opportunity and Expos GM John McHale was the only person to respond.
“He said, ‘Sure, come on up. I want you to come up and we’ll put you on the roster. We don’t have 40 players on the roster,'” recalled the now 87-year-old MacKenzie, who more than five decades later remains grateful to McHale for the gesture.
Another revelation in the book was the story of Terry Enyart, a left-handed reliever who pitched two games for the Expos in 1974. Gallagher devotes a chapter to the free-spirited southpaw who sometimes drank before games. Sadly, as Gallagher’s research uncovers, Enyart took his own life after a horrific domestic dispute involving his wife and son in 2007.
Gallagher also wrote a chapter about the very candid Mike Stenhouse, who was the Expos’ first-round pick of the 1980 MLB draft, who suited up for 105 games in parts of three seasons with the Expos from 1982 to 1984. It’s a testament to the author’s interviewing skills that he gets Stenhouse to open up about his “rocky” relationship with the Expos. Stenhouse cites a few incidents with the club that rankled him, but his most notable outburst came in Bill Virdon’s office after the manager told him he was being sent down one week into the 1984 season.
“I went berserk. I took off my jersey and threw it against the wall,” shared Stenhouse. “I knew I wasn’t going to start (much) but you’d think I deserved a spot on the team. I was a power-hitting lefty hitter. I went home. The travelling secretary, Peter Durso, had arranged for a ticket for me to triple-A but I went home to Rhode Island instead with my family who was at the game that day in nearby Shea Stadium. I was pissed.”
Stenhouse stayed home for 10 days. He eventually returned to the minors, but it was painfully clear to him that he was not going to get a legitimate big league shot with the Expos. Following the season, he requested a trade and was dealt to the Minnesota Twins.
Also, as has become one of the trademarks of Gallagher’s books, there are many great nuggets of Expos trivia. For example, did you know that in 1973 first baseman Mike Jorgensen became the first Expo to win a Gold Glove? Or that Rusty Staub and Larry Parrish are scared of flying? Or that Otis Nixon was friends with Whitney Houston? Or that Rheal Cormier wore No. 37 as a tribute to his friend and fellow left-hander Bill Lee?
It’s outstanding trivia like this, combined with Gallagher’s engrossing chapters on both former stars and lesser lights, that make this book a fascinating read. And it’s safe to say that any longtime Expos who purchases “Bases Loaded” will consider it a grand slam.
You can purchase “Bases Loaded” here.