SI Vault
Jim Kaplan
October 05, 1981
It was the best of times for Montreal, which won six of seven games last week, and the worst of times for St. Louis, which lost four of seven
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October 05, 1981

Retelling The Tale Of Two Cities

It was the best of times for Montreal, which won six of seven games last week, and the worst of times for St. Louis, which lost four of seven

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THURSDAY. Bill (Spaceman) Lee, Montreal's resident lefthander, warms up by discoursing at length on Kurt Vonnegut, philosopher Ervin Laszlo and the Russian mathematician and mystic Ouspensky. "I never look beyond the next batter," he says. "It's called centering yourself."

Lee can talk about anything he wants. Though he starts the game with a 3-5 record, he has a 2.57 ERA, a club-leading six saves and just 12 walks in 76⅔ innings. He's also batting .389. In one of his finest clutch performances, Lee fools the Pirates with 88 sinkers, sliders and curves.

But if there's one thing Lee likes as much as pitching, it's hitting. He leads off the fifth by depositing a 3-1 Odell Jones fastball over the 114-meter sign in right. He does it with a smooth, slow swing, and the ball leaves his bat in a gentle arc, like a satellite in the night sky. Spaceman, indeed. The 23,459 fans at Olympic Stadium give him a standing ovation, and an even louder one when he interrupts the game in the seventh inning to chase a butterfly out of the batter's box. "That was Thomas Yawkey [his late owner in Boston] coming back to tell me he appreciates my effort," Lee says. He leaves the game in the eighth with a 6-1 lead, and the Expos go on to win 7-1.

The next morning the French-language tabloid le journal de montréal carries a picture of Lee on the front page; inside, there's the headline LEE LANCE, FRAPPE ET FAIT RIRE (Lee pitches, bats and makes people laugh). "The French Canadians love him," says one longtime Expo-watcher. "They're free spirits and so is he. They don't speak English and neither does he."

It has been a night for laughter and cheers. Cromartie goes 4 for 5, with two singles, a double and a homer. Carter drives in three runs, and Reardon, the ex-Met who has given the Expos a much-needed bullpen ace, finishes up. But the event that brings down the house is the announcement on the scoreboard of the third-inning score from St. Louis. Paul Shubin, the Expos' producer-director of electronic wizardry, flashes a "I" next to ST. LOUIS and—after a long pause—an "11" next to PHILADELPHIA.

You really don't want to know what happened to the Cardinals. In the top of the third inning the Phillies get eight straight hits (two short of the major league record) and 11 runs (most in the majors this season) and go on to win 14-6. "If hiding's contagious," says Cardinal Second Baseman Tommy Heir, "I guess that was a plague."

FRIDAY. The Expos bask in both celebration and cerebration. For much of the season they've been pushing Andre Dawson for Most Valuable Player, citing his hitting (.305), power (23 homers), speed (26 stolen bases), Gold Glove work in center and oh-so-many intangible contributions. But of late Dawson has been off, and their argument looks weak. In the fourth inning against the Mets, however, Dawson hits a line drive over the second baseman and, without breaking stride, easily beats the throw to second. Parrish doubles him home, and the Expos are off to a 6-3 win. Afterward, awesome Dawson permits himself a rare boast. "Other guys are having good years—Schmidt, Foster—but I'm the people's choice."

But the people's choice at Olympic Stadium tonight is Parrish. When he hit 30 homers in 1979, expectations were high for him. Then, on May 3, 1980, Ed Whitson of the Giants hit Parrish on his left wrist, and he lost much of his power—only 11 homers since then. No one cheers louder than Expo fans, but if the spirit moves them, they would boo Mother Teresa: The riding they have given the slumping Parrish in the wake of his injury is perhaps the worst in the 13-year history of the Montreal franchise. But on this night they reverse themselves when Parrish goes 3 for 4 and drives in four runs. As he stands on first after delivering a two-run single in the seventh, they give him a thunderous, prolonged ovation. Parrish finally tips his hat. The ovation continues, and he tips his hat again. It's as if 41,351 people are exorcising their guilt.

The Cardinals are having another bad night: a 5-4 loss to the visiting Pirates. With Kaat knocked out, Ponce de León gives way to Luis DeLeon, who helps shut out the Pirates the rest of the way, but St. Louis blows its chance for a comeback with some bad base running. After Card Catcher Darrell Porter opens the ninth by striking out, Sixto Lezcano walks and Herzog inserts rookie Dave Green to run for him. With two strikes on Tito Landrum, Herzog sends Green. Landrum swings and misses—and Green is tagged out after his foot comes off the bag. "We stink," says a melancholy Dane Iorg.

The Expos haven't been scoreboard-watching very carefully, but afterward Cromartie hears the Cardinal result on his radio. "The game's over, the game's over," yells the most expressive Expo, "2½, 2½, 2½!"

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