Maxwell Kates: Greatest Play I Ever Saw

While in Montreal over the Mother’s Day weekend, author Kates had a chance to visit with two other historically inclined friends, historical researchers Mike and Anne Vance of Houston.

Perhaps, Maxwell Kates will spare some space for a future article and do a piece on Mike Vance’s Greatest Play, which, of course, will always be the lovely and brainy Anne Vance.

 

THE GREATEST PLAY I EVER SAW

By Maxwell Kates

Author Maxwell Kates

We live in apologetic times.

It seems that every time you open a newspaper, somebody is apologizing for their own transgressions or those of their fore bearers. Today it is my turn. Most of the subscribers to the Pecan Park Eagle live in the Houston area and naturally support the Astros. I realize that in one of my earlier columns this year, I violated a sacrosanct axiom while discussing baseball in Houston. I wrote a laudatory article about Jim Edmonds.

Yes, I watched Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series the same way all of you did. I should have known better. And although the Astros did come back to defeat those same St. Louis Cardinals the following year on their way to the World Series, it still does not erase the sting. I can empathize.

You see, the National League team I followed growing up was the Montreal Expos. They too had their dreams shattered by a home run in the National League Championship Series, 1981 to be precise. Imagine for a moment that a freelance writer from Los Angeles, let’s call him Stan Mauch (né Stanley Moskowitz from Brooklyn) wrote an article praising the player who sunk the Expos with that home run. Here is how it goes:

April 25, 1976, Rick Monday Wins Capture the Flag.

The greatest play I ever saw was on April 25, 1976 at Dodger Stadium. I remember it well; my son Jeremy was eight years old and it was his first baseball game in person. The Cubs had taken a 1-0 lead when in the bottom of the 4th, he elbowed me and asked “Dad, why are those people trying to burn the flag?” I looked on the field in horror and indeed, two men looked like they were about to incinerate Old Glory. Ted Sizemore popped out to Manny Trillo and out of nowhere, there sprinted Rick Monday to save the flag. A raucous ovation followed when Monday came to bat in the top half of the 5th. The Dodgers won the game 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th but all anyone could remember was Rick Monday’s dramatic play. You can imagine how thrilled Jeremy became that winter when the Cubs traded Rick Monday to the Dodgers. Now he has three boys of his own and they all refer to the stars and stripes as “Rick Monday’s flag.”

Stan Mauch

Los Angeles, California

Rick Monday and His Flag

Now imagine for a moment there existed a baseball nostalgia newspaper in Montreal called the Poutine Park Pigeon. The paper is edited by the eminent psychologist Dr. Guillaume Lecourdis (rhymes with “McCurdy”), who decided to pick up Stan’s article about Rick Monday. Now imagine my reaction when I read Stan Mauch’s article. Some of you know that I like to write letters to the editor. Therefore, here is my rebuttal to the Rick Monday article:

Dear Mr. Mauch:

I read your article entitled “The Greatest Play I Ever Saw” with great interest. That being said, it would appear that your knowledge of baseball in Montreal is a little general. You see, Rick Monday is hated in Montreal. Even though the Expos have been gone for fourteen years, Monday continues to be vilified amongst their fans.

This is Gene Mauch — the Little General

In the 9th inning of the deciding Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS, Monday a hit solo home run to put the Dodgers ahead of the Expos, a lead they never relinquished. As Gary Carter said years later, “we were going to watch the World Series on television.” Of course there were other factors at play. The Expos merely tied, not led, when Monday hit the home run. Montreal put two baserunners on in the bottom of the 9th, only to leave them stranded. Steve Rogers, who gave up the home run, was the ace of the starting rotation but may never have pitched in short relief in his life. Closing the deciding game of a playoff series was most definitely an unfamiliar experience.

The fact remains that in sports, as in life, perception is reality. To the casual baseball fan in Montreal, Rick Monday is the reason the Expos were denied their most likely opportunity at a World Series appearance. They never made another postseason after the Rick Monday home run.

October 19, 1981: The Rick Monday Pitch

When the Dodgers returned to Montreal in 1982, Rick Monday and Steve Yeager went to a bar. The owner insisted that they leave because six patrons wanted to pulverize Monday. He was frequently hassled while clearing customs at Dorval Airport, and when he returned to Montreal as a broadcaster for the Dodgers nearly fifteen years later, a fan recognized him and said “You ruined our franchise!”   No, I was not that fan. Almost forty years after the fact, Game 5 of the NLCS continues to live in infamy in Montreal as “Blue Monday.”

Sincerely,

Maxwell I. Kates

1981 Montreal Expos Reunion

In conclusion, this article was written to signify that Jim Edmonds stinks. What really happened during that SABR game in 2004, Edmonds went back to right field to catch the ball but some fan in the stands yelled “Yo la tengo!” This distracted Edmonds, forcing him to drop the horsehide, which he then booted towards second base. Meanwhile, Jason LaRue circled the bases happily and ultimately crossed the plate. He was credited with a double and two errors by Edmonds. The debable in right field rattled St. Louis reliever Jason Isringhausen to the point that he beaned Jacob Cruz. Pinch hitter John VanderWal was then able to add to his already generous collection of pinch home runs, this one a walk off. Reds 8, Cardinals 7. Talk about revisionist history!

 

POSTSCRIPT

If you’d like to learn more, Danny Gallagher is writing a book called “Blue Monday” about the monumental game in Expos history. Danny has also contributed the Montreal Expos essay to the anthology on baseball’s expansion teams co-edited by the author and Bill Nowlin. Look for both volumes to be completed before 2018 draws to a close.

Vive Le Baseball!

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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2 Responses to “Maxwell Kates: Greatest Play I Ever Saw”

  1. Fred Toulch Says:

    Great story. Sad reminiscence.

  2. Mark W. Says:

    The Expos would have made another post-season in 1994, had the ballplayers decided not to strike on August 12, while the Expos were running away from the rest of their division.

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