Thursday, October 17, 2013

August 2- Montreal Expos

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on the Montreal Expos. Unfortunately, there is a good reason for that. In the 35-year history of Expos baseball the team only wore four caps: two of them served as the team’s every day game caps, one was their batting practice cap and the other is one they wore for a short period of time when they played their home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico when they were looking to relocate in 2003. The latter cap is one that I have been trying to track down for quite some time.

The funny thing about this photo is that my friend John Beare (@Interstate19) is the only person I know of to own this cap. Not to mention this photo (his) is the only one I have been able to find on the internet.

The reason I bring all of this up is because there are too many great stories about the Expos organization that really need to be told, even ones that may seem insignificant to the most casual of baseball fans. So, I decided to stray wayward from one of my rules, I decided to buy an Expos Cooperstown Collection cap from Lids that truly defies the concept of being a Cooperstown Collection cap. Back on February 16th I wrote about the true Cooperstown Expos cap, the one they wore from 1969-1991 which looks almost identical to this with the exception that blue panels stretching around on either side of the front white panels are red.

With this cap I had debated on writing about Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez, most of which revolved around to 100 wins he had as an Expo which put him in the rare club of one of nine players in Major League Baseball history to win at least 100 games in both the American League and the National League. The other hot topic of course is the fact he is the only person in Expos history to throw a perfect game. Yah, you could debate that the Washington Nationals are still technically the Expos, at which I would retort with, “Go to Montreal and state your case with any still-heartbroken fan and see where that gets you.” On a personal note, the crazy thing about the perfect game, which I recently found out about, is that my childhood friend Bryan Gildner’s brother Joel was at that game with his father at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 1991. Since Joel now lives in Austin, Texas and because I had already marked up this cap, I decided to postpone that story for a while, at least until another awesome custom Expos cap comes into my possession. Hopefully soon.

6/5/86: I came across this date accidentally and am forever grateful that I did. Like with a lot of my other posts which rely heavily upon a specific date in a team’s history I found this on one of the random “This Date in Baseball” Web sites that I sift through regularly. The story really starts back in the 1940s at the time when The United States of America and Canada had entered into World War II. Major League Baseball players were lining up at the local enlistment offices in droves, ready to do what they could to help out with the war effort. With most of the notable names overseas the owners did their best to capitalize on making money by still promoting baseball by any means necessary. By any means necessary this of course also meant that they didn’t hesitate to organize an all-female baseball league. It was called the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and it lasted 12 years from 1943-1954. For five seasons one of the best players in the league’s history was a woman named Helen Callaghan Candaele St. Aubin from Vancouver, British Columbia who went by the shortened name Helen Callaghan.  

As a rookie with the Minneapolis Millerettes Callaghan hit .287 in 111 games, for second in the league. She also finished third in total bases, hits, runs and stolen bases (112), while tying for third in home runs. The Millerettes could not compete attendance-wise with the Minneapolis Millers, so the team moved in 1945, becoming the Fort Wayne Daisies. That year Callaghan had her best season, batting .299 to lead the AAGPBL. (The league average was .198 that year.) She tied for the league lead in homers (three), led in total bases (156), was second in steals (92), first in hits (122), second in runs (77) and first in doubles (17). Callaghan was often called the "Ted Williams of women's baseball". The league was not yet giving out Player of the Year or All-Star honors, but it is clear she was a candidate for both. Ft. Wayne finished second and advanced to the championship, but fell four games to one despite a .400 mark from the younger Callaghan. Callaghan slipped drastically in 1946, hitting just .213, even though league averages rose about 10 points. She still tied for third in steals with 114. After missing the 1947 season due to illness, she returned for part of 1948 after getting married and having her first child. However, that year she hit just .191 as a bench player. She finished her career with Kenosha in 1949 as Helen Candaele, bouncing back to a .251 mark, tied for seventh in the league. She was ninth in total bases (113), eighth in steals (65), sixth in doubles and tied for eighth in triples. In a five season career, Callaghan was a .257 hitter (355-for-1382) with seven home runs and 85 run batted in 388 games, including 354 stolen bases, 249 runs, 35 doubles, 15 triples and 221 walks while striking out 161 times. Her on-base percentage was approximately .359, while she slugged .319.

The now Candaele gave birth to five sons. Her son Kelly produced a short documentary back in 1987 for PBS entitled A League of Their Own, which covered the history of the AAGPBL. The documentary inspired director Penny Marshal to make a film with the same name in 1992. One of Candaele’s other sons, Casey, decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps and make it big in professional baseball. 

Casey was born on January 12, 1951 and was raised in Lompoc, California which is northeast of Santa Barbara. He attended the University of Arizona and was even a part of the 1980 College World Series team which also featured Craig Lefferts, Dwight Taylor and the tournaments Most Outstanding Player Terry Francona. Candaele went undrafted but the Expos offered to sign him as a free agent in August of 1982 which he happily signed. From 1983 through 1985 Candaele worked his way up the minor league chain starting with the Class-A West Palm Beach Expos to the AA Memphis Chicks in his first season, the AA Jacksonville Suns in 1984 until finally landing with the AAA Indianapolis in 1985. Candaele’s numbers were pretty decent during his ascent; however, due to the fact that he was a second baseman, shortstop and outfielder, the Expos didn’t have room for him on the roster as the likes of Vance Law, Hubie Brooks, Tim Raines and future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson stood in his path. The only way that Candaele was going to make it to the Majors was if someone got hurt or he had the best season of his career to motivate general management to call him up. Well…

When 1986 rolled around Candaele got off to a blazing start at the plate. He was hitting over .300 and showing strong discipline at the plate with very few strikeouts and a decent amount of walks. When June rolled around the front office couldn’t ignore his progress and made the call for him to pack up and head to the show. On June 5, 1986 Candaele was put in to pinch hit for Dan Schatzeder, thus making him the first and only mother/son combination to play at the top level professionally. Candaele promptly struck out to Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Charles Hudson, but it was still a pivotal moment in baseball history.

Candaele spent 30 games with the Expos that year before getting sent back down. He resurfaced the following season hitting .272 with 122 hits and 23 RBI while only striking out 28 times in 138 games. He finished in fourth place for the Rookie of the Year Award that season. Candaele played for seven more years at the Major League level; one more season with the Expos, five with Houston Astros and two with the Cleveland Indians despite his final season coming in 1997. He spent quite a bit of time in the minors. Nonetheless, Candaele will forever be etched into the baseball history books.

#44- Carl Morton was born in Kansas City, Missouri on January 18, 1944 and grew up in West Tulsa, where he played baseball on the same Webster High School team as future major-leaguer Rich Calmus. He went to college at the University of Tulsa before moving on to the University of Oklahoma where he continued his baseball dreams as an outfielder for the Sooners under head coach Jack Baer. In 1964 Morton was signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Braves who wanted to convert the outfielder into a pitcher. From 1965-1968 the Braves kept him in their minor league system where he showed signs of promise. His best season came in 1968 as a member of the AA Shreveport Braves where he went 13-5 with a 2.72 ERA and 130 strikeouts; however, the Braves didn’t have enough faith to hang onto him as the first leg of the 1968 Expansion Draft on October 14th. See, back in 1968 the Expansion Draft was broken up into two legs; the first was for the Expos and the San Diego Padres in which they could only pilfer through National League roster to build their teams. The second leg was held on October 15th between the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots in which the two could only raid American League teams. Fun fact about that draft is that only one future Hall of Famer was in the mix, Hoyt Wilhelm. Anyway, Morton was selected by the Expos with the 45th overall pick.

Without much of a farm system established, the Expos threw Morton out to the wolves on April 11, 1969 where he only lasted eight games before getting hurt. That year he went 0-3 with a 4.60 ERA and 16 strikeouts in five starts. With a taste of the Major Leagues out of the way, Morton was determined to do better the next season when he got back to 100%. Not only did he do that, Morton was phenomenal in 1970. In 37 stars, 43 games overall, Morton went 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA and 154 strikeouts. He unfortunately walked a league-high 154 batters, but it didn’t matter. Morton was voted as the NL Rookie of the Year and even finished ninth for the NL Cy Young and 27th for the NL MVP. While the rest of his career never quite matched the gusto of his 1970 season, Morton went on to play two more seasons for the Expos before getting traded to the Braves for Pat Jarvis before the 1973 season.

Morton played four decent years with the Braves, finishing with 15 or more wins in his first three years, but he only won four games in 1976. As a result of his falloff year the Braves traded him to the Texas Rangers along with Roger Moret for former-AL MVP Jeff Burroughs. Morton, sadly, never pitched in the Majors again, and only spent one last season in the minors before hanging it up for good at the age of 33.

With his playing career over Morton moved back to Tulsa. On the morning of April 12, 1983 Morton went out for a jog and when he arrived at the home of his parents he suffered a heart attack in their driveway and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. He was 39-years-old. One of the more tragic realities that came from Morton’s death involved another death less than a year before his passing. On August 2, 1979 New York Yankees former AL MVP and beloved catcher Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. Back in 1970 Munson had also won the Rookie of the Year honors in the AL. It is the only time in baseball history that two Rookie of the Year winners from the same year would come to premature endings.

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