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The Home Run That Changed Everything

Many baseball fans have a unique story about how they came to love their team, and as a Dodgers fan living so far from my team – about 3,500 miles away from Dodger Stadium, in another country – I am often asked “Why the Dodgers?”. It’s a fair question and one I am proud to answer, and it all started with the Montreal Expos.

I’ve written in the past about my connection with baseball as a young girl growing up in Canada. And after the Dodgers clinched the NLCS on October 19, 2017, I contributed a piece for Dodgers Nation. It was about the profound ways in which that very same date 36 years earlier had helped shape my early years as a diehard Expos fan throughout the 80’s and into the 90s

http://www.dodgersnation.com/october-19th-a-tale-of-two-dodgers-pennant-clinchers/2017/10/20/

It is possible that if Blue Monday had never existed – if Rick Monday’s home run had not broken my little 9-year old heart on that dark day in October 1981 – I would not be the baseball fan I am today, as that was the day my deeply personal connection to baseball was formed. I became emotionally attached to the team (and specifically their young handsome third baseman) after that day, hoping and waiting for that next playoff appearance that never came.

In thinking back and reflecting on how fate shapes our lives in unexpected and mysterious ways, I believe that it is quite probable that if Tim Wallach had never played, I would never have grown to love baseball the way I do. With the perspective of time that comes as we get older, I realize that it is entirely possible that if former Expos beat writer Danny Gallagher had not written a book about the 1994 Montreal Expos, I would not be the fully immersed Dodgers fan I am today.

Then

In 2014, I learned that an Expos writer whose stuff I had read often, Danny Gallagher, had written a book. It was on the 20th anniversary of the great 1994 Expos team. I learned this as a result of connecting with the great sportswriter Bob Elliott after reading an outstanding article he had penned about Tim Wallach’s Canadian Baseball HOF induction.The book was called Ecstasy to Agony: The Story of the 1994 Montreal Expos. Caught back up in Expos nostalgia as a result of my communicating with Bob, I sent an email to an “Expos94Book” email address, inquiring on how I could order a copy. A short and sweet question (Hi, how can I order a copy?”) would end up opening a world of baseball possibilities.

I received an email reply from Danny himself, stating that he would prefer to receive a cheque but would be leaving on his honeymoon the following day and would be away for a while. To avoid delay, he offered to send me (a complete stranger) a copy of the book through the “honour system”. We chatted briefly about my love of the Expos, and the book arrived at home the following week. When I wrote that cheque and threw it in the mail at work a few days later after devouring the book, on a whim, I wrote a short thank you note to Danny on the back of a business card. 

Keep in mind that as this played out over the summer and fall of 2014, I was previously not the kind of person who wrote letters to strangers or who really felt confident enough talking online to people I had never met. Communicating with sports greats like Bob and Danny, and realizing how happy talking about baseball made me, helped to change that. 

Eventually, the Dodgers 2014 season would come to an end in October in St. Louis, and life went on. About a week before Christmas, I arrived at work to one of the greatest surprises of my life, a personal letter sent to me from someone whose name I recognized, from his home address in California:

Dear Gail, thank you for being such a great fan. I really appreciate it. I hope this letter finds you well. All the best, Tim Wallach

In my initial shock, I couldn’t fathom how a letter like this had reached me at my place of work. Then I remembered – my business card that had doubled as a short thank you note to Danny! To this day I am positive that Bob and Danny, colleagues at the Canadian Baseball Network, were both involved in this surprise. It’s one that I truly never forget.

At the time, my Twitter interactions with other Dodgers fans were rare as I was still social media shy, but that season I had become acquainted with another long-distance Dodgers fan Andy Lane Chapman (@DodgerGirlInPA), so I posted a photo of the letter online so that she could see it. As a result of this, another Canadian Dodgers fan by the name of Mike Leclair saw the tweet and told Ron Cervanka of Think Blue LA about it. Ron contacted me as he was interested in my connection to Wallach. I was introduced to a group of Dodgers fans through their forum, even having the opportunity to write a few guest pieces of my own. Mostly about my journey as a Dodgers fan.

Throughout the 2015 season, my confidence as well as my ‘following’ and connections on Twitter grew, thanks to Ron and to Andy. I gradually became better acquainted with many in the extended Dodgers “Twitter Fam” and finally got out to Dodger Stadium in September 2016 for Vin Scully Appreciation Weekend and its many special memories. Those friendships and connections only grew in 2017 as I started contributing to Dodgers Nation and experienced the greatest joy in my life so far – that of attending games 1 and 2 of the World Series in LA. 

I’ll be forever grateful that fate intervened that summer as I think I was subconsciously searching for meaning in my life – something that would end up setting my soul on fire the way Dodgers baseball has. If I’d stayed in my bubble and never been lucky enough to meet other passionate baseball fans like Bob, Danny, Andy and Ron back in 2014. I would still be looking forward to Opening Day in 4 weeks, but likely not quite in the same way. I doubt I would have made the connections within the Dodgers community if not for this chain of events. It’s really difficult to imagine life any other way.

Now

Thankfully, Danny Gallagher and I have remained in touch since that summer 4 years ago. I even received a surprise visit from him and his wife at my place of work. They were travelling through my city last summer and decided to stop by. When I learned recently that he has a new book coming out, I was thrilled. The idea of talking about and promoting it to all Dodgers fans was just so exciting. I’m already looking forward to reading it myself, certain that it will bring back many emotions of those early 80’s Expos teams. More specifically the 1981 team that would end up paving the way for my devotion to this sport we all love.

Danny Gallagher stopped by my workplace to say Hello on his way through the Maritimes in the summer of 2017.

Danny’s 256-page book is called Blue Monday: The Expos, The Dodgers and the Home Run That Changed Everything. It will be released later this year. The book will contain 20 photos and a number of Excel charts and illustrations. It is sure to be a nostalgic thrill ride for both Expos and Dodgers fans.

All Dodgers fans will remember Blue Monday. Even if you weren’t born yet or were still in diapers, it is very likely that you have seen the old video clip of Rick Monday hitting Steve Rogers’ pitch over the center field fence at Olympic Stadium, breaking the hearts of Expos fans across Canada while thrilling Dodger fans everywhere.

 

Danny told me recently that he conducted 65 interviews in total for the new book. That includes several long conversations with Rick Monday. He also interviewed Dodgers co-owner Peter O’Malley, Dodgers pitching coach Ron Perranoski, bullpen coach Mark Cresse and Dodgers players Jerry Reuss, Dusty Baker, Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes.

“My first chat with Rick Monday for this book was about 45 minutes long and then a few months later, we talked for another 75 minutes,” Gallagher said. “I also talked with Steve Rogers and many other players and officials with both the Expos and Dodgers. 

“The book takes a broad look at the 1981 season with emphasis on the post-season, especially the memorable at-bat involving Monday and Rogers. There are a lot of nuggets in the book, a lot of secrets unlocked. I spent about a year researching and writing the book.”

 The book is now available for pre-ordering from Chapters here , and also available for order through Amazon.

As for this then-Expos, now-Dodgers fan, I used to wonder how things may have turned out if Monday had never hit that fateful home run in October 1981. Now, I don’t even want to imagine life any other way. 

“The Expos, the Dodgers, and The Home Run That Changed Everything”.

Wow, did it ever.

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Written by Gail Johnson

Biggest Dodgers fan north of the border, living about 3,500 miles from my beloved Boys In Blue, in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. I think Dodger Stadium is the happiest place on Earth. I'll catch up on my sleep in the off-season.

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