Book Review: Around the Horn: Cash, Boots, Duq, Gully & The Expos, by Danny Gallagher

February 14, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Danny Gallagher is on an impressive streak.

The veteran baseball writer has published a Montreal Expos book in each of the past six years.

Even more impressive is that he continues to uncover fascinating and never-told-before stories about Expos players, coaches, executives and broadcasters.

His latest book, Around the Horn: Cash, Boots, Duq, Gully & The Expos, is no exception.

Once again, Gallagher has tenaciously researched and tracked down many ex-Expos and has produced a book chock full of interesting revelations about their careers.

Gallagher conducted 57 interviews for his latest offering, which is 224 pages and includes numerous rare photos.

As with his other books, the author pens noteworthy chapters about some better-known Expos figures, including Bill Gullickson, Tim Raines (with a focus on his May 2, 1987 performance), Javier Vazquez and Dave Van Horne.

His chapter on Van Horne is particularly compelling. Gallagher shares how the broadcasting legend was hired by the Expos and discusses Van Horne’s booth partners over the years (including a two-game stint with Jackie Robinson on CBC TV broadcasts in August 1972). He also sheds light on Van Horne’s final years with the Expos. In 2000, the Expos and Van Horne blazed a trail when they did their broadcasts on the internet.

“We were the first team in baseball history to do all the games on the internet,” Van Horne told Gallagher. “It was a great experience for the Expos and me.”

Following that season, Van Horne moved on to the Marlins to begin a tenure with the club that would last more than two decades. Living not far from Miami, Van Horne relished calling games for the Marlins until his final few seasons with the team. He called it quits after the 2021 campaign.

“They [Marlins] did everything but fire me,” a candid Van Horne told Gallagher. “They did everything to get me to leave or retire or go elsewhere. The last four years, they cut my schedule, they cut my salary back. Their offer for this year [2022] was an embarrassment. No way could I simply do 13 games with no benefits. It was a paid per game fee.”

The 83-year-old Van Horne is at peace with his decision to walk away from the Marlins and in 2022, he enjoyed his first summer off since 1965.

Another standout chapter is about Oil Can Boyd, one of the most flamboyant and memorable players in Expos history, even though he spent only parts of two seasons with the club (1990-91).

“It was recognized that I was a showman of some type. I would say colourful,” Boyd told Gallagher. “I had charisma. I brought character to what was on the field. My teammates rallied behind me, they became part of my show as well. I’d kind of cut them up, made them different. When I pitched, every ball park had fans [come out] when I pitched. Fans turned out at the ball park when I pitched. There’d be games in Chicago and California – kids were out of school when I was pitching. My animation made me very famous, an unforgettable personality.”

Boyd, who posted a solid 2.93 ERA in 31 starts for the Expos in 1990, admitted to Gallagher that he used cocaine and battled a tobacco addiction during his career.

“I would smoke cigarettes, not in the dugout, but in the tunnel near the dugout,” said Boyd. “Every inning was a cigarette, Sometimes, I’d only see the runner crossing the plate. I’d rarely see the game. Sometimes, I never realized I was having a great night.”

Another of Gallagher’s strengths is his tireless work ethic and his determination in tracking is down less talked about Expos and sharing previously untold stories about them. For example, Around the Horn includes an excellent chapter about early Expos catcher Ron Brand, whose outspokenness makes him a standout personality in the book. Brand is candid with Gallagher about what it was like sharing catching duties with John Bateman.

“It was a love-hate relationship with Bateman,” said Brand. “He was very funny. He had a great sense of humour but he wasn’t a decent guy. He was nasty to people. He resented me when I played, He was pissing and moaning about it a lot.”

Brand was also a vocal associate player representative on the early Expos squads and he’s convinced his advocacy for the players earned him a spot in Expos’ president John McHale’s doghouse. In the spring of 1972, Brand stood up at a players association meeting and encouraged the players to go on strike, which they ended up doing from April 1 to April 13, 1972.

“You don’t think John McHale got wind of that?” Brand told Gallagher. “When I made that statement at the meeting, he was so mad at me. John McHale loved me up until then.”

After the strike, McHale shipped Brand, who by then had played three big league seasons with the Expos, to triple-A, never to return to the majors.

But the chapter that has stayed with me the most since completing Gallagher’s book is about former Expos reliever Bob James. When he was 17, the 6-foot-4 right-hander was selected in the first-round pick by the Expos in 1976. He began his pitching career with the Expos but he enjoyed his greatest success as a closer with the Chicago White Sox. In 1985, he recorded 32 saves and posted a 2.13 ERA in 69 appearances for the Sox. But James could never duplicate that success and was out of pro baseball just two years later.

“What hurt me was from drinking. Every day, every morning, I’d throw up when I played. I was very immature from drinking. I was a wild 17-year-old guy, playing around with first-round draft money,” James confided to Gallagher. “I’d be drinking and throw up. It put a strain on the stomach. Constantly throwing up weakened my esophagus . . . I would drink anything, any drink you put in front of me. I would really get drunk with the Expos.”

James told Gallagher that he quit drinking by 2000, but his weight ballooned to 325 pounds and he now has serious heart problems. He has since reduced his weight to 245.

“I’ll be very, very candid,” he said. “I had a very deep depression.”

James has also had to cope with the death of his wife, Renae, from oral cancer, likely caused by alcohol consumption, at the age of 60 in February 2022.

“She passed away in my arms,” a heartbroken James told Gallagher. “I tried to do CPR until the paramedics arrived. She couldn’t be revived.”

Gallagher also shines the spotlight on key, little-talked-about Expos executives like former farm director Danny Menendez, team PR man Larry Chiasson (who sadly died of leukemia when he was just 40) and Bob Nicholson who was the team’s chief financial officer from 2002 to 2004.

The author also tracked down longtime Expos batboy Danny Plamondon and devotes a memorable chapter to him. Plamondon offers several behind-the-scenes clubhouse stories, including offering more details on the infamous Steve Rogers/Charlie Fox clubhouse fight in 1978.

“Charlie Fox was a real asshole, honestly,” Plamondon tells Gallagher. “I don’t think there was a player who liked him.”

Overall, this book is another outstanding effort from Gallagher, who deserves much credit for continuing to uncover riveting stories about former Expos.

This is the sixth consecutive year in which he has published an Expos book. And after reading, Around the Horn: Cash, Boots, Duq, Gully & The Expos, I can’t help but hope that he’ll keep that streak going next year.


You can purchase Around the Horn: Cash, Boots, Duq, Gully & The Expos here.

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