Talking Baseball in Montreal

Expos, Blue Jays and More Discussed During Pitch Talks Event at Fairmount Theatre

Hosted by Dave Kaufman (left), Jonah Keri (middle left), David Palmer (middle right) and Mitch Melnick (right), Pitch Talks was held in the Fairmount Theatre last Tuesday Nov. 14, 2015. Photo Robin Psaila
Mitch Melnick (pictured) spoke about baseball and hockey at Pitch Talks which was held in the Fairmount Theatre last Tuesday Nov. 14, 2015. Photo Robin Psaila

It was a late July day in Cooperstown, New York, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Montreal Expos fans, and ESPN columnist Jonah Keri, are in town for the induction of legendary pitcher Pedro Martinez into the Hall as a member Boston Red Sox, despite having spent the earlier part of his career in Montreal. Keri, and nine other colleagues, were trying to sneak into a party for Martinez, which was being held by the Red Sox.

“We get into this party and realize it’s a black-tie event. [Major League Baseball] commissioner Rob Manfred is even there while [CJAD 800’s] Dave Kaufman and I are drunk in our Expos shirts,” said Keri.

This was one of the many stories told at the Fairmount Theatre this past Tuesday evening, where an event called Pitch Talks aimed to “connect diehard baseball fans with sports insiders by hosting informed and entertaining discussions on all aspects of the game.” This edition of Pitch Talks also included a hockey segment, Puck Talks—because what is a Montreal sporting discussion without the Canadiens?

Some guests included TSN690’s Mitch Melnick, CJAD 800’s Dave Kaufman, former Montreal Expos pitcher David Palmer, and ESPN’s Jonah Keri, whose story was one of the event’s highlights.

“While the Red Sox PR lady is upset with us, Pedro Martinez takes the stage to speak to address the crowd,” Keri said. “He switches from Spanish to English, primarily thanking a variety of different people from the Red Sox organization and so I decide to sneak right in behind Pedro and behind his third cousin twice-removed or something, and then Pedro just stops whatever he’s doing, looks over and says Bienvenue Mes Amis! He brings all ten of us on stage and that was the end of the speech,

“It was Expos time at the Red Sox party.”

While the Montreal Expos were a primary discussion topic, the night began with talk about the Toronto Blue Jays and their success from this past season. The panelists discussed Notre-Dame-de-Grace native and Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, but also former general manager Alex Anthopolous, who acquired key players such as Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, which led them to their first playoff appearance in 22 seasons.

Sportsnet reporter Arden Zwelling discussed how Anthopolous “worked in a kind of bizarre world” with now former team president Paul Beeston, who okayed Anthopolous’s moves “as long as the money worked.” It apparently wouldn’t have been the case under the team’s new president, Mark Shapiro.

“He was good to go every time and it just wasn’t going to be like that anymore,” Zwelling said.

The biggest chunk of the baseball segment saw both Keri and Kaufman welcome Mitch Melnick and David Palmer to discuss baseball in Montreal; its past, present and future. The panelists provided reasons why Montrealers should be hopeful for a baseball team to return to this city. Progress continues to be made, as the recent discussions between Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred show.

The night allowed the hosts to reminisce over stories from the Expos franchise, who moved to Washington in 2004, after beginning in 1969. Palmer specifically discussed his relationship with former Expos manager Dick Williams.

“Dick Williams gave me the baseball. And as a pitcher, you can’t ask for anything more than an opportunity. He said here’s the ball, don’t make me come take it away from you,” Palmer said. “As far as managing a game, he’s in the Hall of Fame for a reason. The man could manage a baseball game.”

Melnick recalled the managerial work of Felipe Alou, who was in charge of the Expos from 1992 to 2001, including in 1994 when the Expos had the best record in baseball before a lockout wiped out their season prematurely.

“He just had an incredible feel for the game. You didn’t just play the Expos and their starting pitching in 1994, but the guy in the dugout too,” said Melnick.“He just had this incredible sense of getting in front of the momentum of a game and could have that type of effect on the outcome of the game.”

During the Puck Talks event that occured towards the end of the night, stories and laughs were shared from the likes of former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan, writer Arpon Basu, as well as Keri and Melnick. The talk began with the current success of the Montreal Canadiens and shifted into contemporary issues such as fighting in the National Hockey League.