A Victory For Family, Canada, The Expos

by Kevin Burton

   Game one of the sibling rivalry baseball series went to yours truly last week.  It was the moves I didn’t make that saved me.

   Life is like that sometimes.

   I mentioned earlier on Page 7 that my brother Steve and I are playing a best-of-five baseball series using a really great board game created by Sports Illustrated (Taking The Helm Of Expos Baseball, May 19).

   We’re using the series to shake off the Covid blues and the quarantine mindset and interject some fun into a stressful year.

   The SI game was created using 1971 statistics. My brother chose the Cincinnati Reds for the challenge, I chose the Montreal Expos. 

   The glory of the win would be enough for such a titanic struggle, but also at stake is a case of Herr’s brand red hot potato chips.  Get them at www.herrs.com. You won’t be sorry kids! And remember, tell them Kev sent you!

   Game one turned out to be a little bit more fun for me. The Expos won it 2-0 on a ninth-inning two run single by Ron Woods.

   More importantly, we played this game at my mother’s house.  It was great to have the three of us together again. I can’t remember the last time that happened. 

   How many hugs has the virus stolen from the world in general, your family, my family in particular?  We did the responsible thing and kept our social distance. We showed our love in different ways, waiting prayerfully but I must admit impatiently, for a vaccine to become available.

   This was the first of many celebratory gatherings we are hoping for. As in the past, our family allowed baseball to be part of the fun.

   The game was scoreless into the bottom of the eighth when my brother lifted starting pitcher Gary Nolan for pinch hitter Hal McRae. McRae flied out and the Reds went down 1-2-3 in the eighth. 

   Steve chose right hander Wayne Granger to pitch the ninth. Just three batters in, Montreal had the lead. It was a single for Bob Bailey, a double for Ron Fairly and then the two-run single by Woods. The rally ended there but those two runs stood up. 

   Expos starter Bill Stoneman threw a complete game six-hitter with seven strikeouts.

   Hands-off managing allowed for the ninth inning rally.   

   After the Bailey single I thought about it did not hit and run with Fairly and he doubled. After Woods delivered the two-run single and catcher John Bateman struck out, I thought about it but did not pinch hit for light-hitting shortstop Bobby Wine.

   Wine’s double play ended the threat, but he is Montreal’s best defender and he was still in the game in the ninth and came through with a fine defensive play with one out to rob George Foster of a hit.  Stoneman struck out Lee May to end the game. 

   So the Expos stole game one at Cincinnati, now have home-field advantage and the underrated Kansas native Steve Renko pitching in game two.

   You know me, I hunt metaphors with the intensity of Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits.  My game one metaphor?  Sometimes if you keep your “genius’ moves to yourself, stay the course and just let it happen, things turn out the way you want. 

   Game two could go differently and I could easily come away saying “he who hesitates is lost.” That’s baseball. That’s life. But for now, bragging rights to Kev.

   This game was me in my favorite role, that of the underdog.  The 1971 Expos were two years removed from expansion going up against the Big Red Machine. So I’m supposed to lose, right?

   The 70s Reds earned the name Big Red Machine, but the 71 version was a clunker.  The Reds finished tied for fourth, four games under .500.  They were only 71/2 games better than Montreal.

   In 1971, the Expos were so bad in large part because they only had three decent pitchers. But in a short five-game series, I can lean heavily on those three and maybe claim a title for Montreal, one they never claimed in real life.

   And, I’m now only two wins away from a free case of those great Herr’s red hot chips.   

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