One of my favourite and most vivid Expos memories is “The Reggie Sanders Game,” the time, early in the 1994 season, when Pedro Martinez was perfect for seven and one-third innings at Olympic Stadium. It was the first of many occasions that I saw Martinez pitch live, but this one remains the most special. I remember little things about that night, like Lynn getting on the scoreboard just before the game began, when she had gone to say hello to her brother and his fiancé, who had tickets down in the VIPs. I remember the black and white checkered blouse Lynn wore and the sceptical smile that appeared on her face when she saw herself up on the jumbo screen. I remember that we brought tin foil-wrapped sandwiches in a brown paper bag from the sausage place on Monkland to eat for dinner during the game; mine with sauerkraut, hers without. I remember still being a little angry that they’d traded Delino DeShields, my favourite player, for Pedro Martinez. I remember being won over by this skinny 22-year old, by his performance and by his guts. I was also 22 years old. Of course I did not know at the time how great Pedro Martinez would turn out to be, but it sure is nice to close my eyes and see it again, the Hall of Famer as a young man.
I couldn’t be more pleased that “The Dad was Drinking” is in the running for this year’s 3Macs carte blanche Prize. It’s also great to be among some very talented fellow finalists, Larissa Andrusyshyn (whose work I’ve admired for many years, going all the way back to the Wednesday’s Child days at Ciné Express) and Sheryl Curtis and Elaine Kennedy. None other than Lisa Moore is serving as juror, and the winner will be announced at the QWF Awards Gala on November 18, 2014.
Update: Congratulaions to Elaine Kennedy and Sheryl Curtis, winners of the 2014 3Macs carte blanche Prize for their translation of “It’s Late, Doctor Schweizter” by Didier Leclair.
The finalists for this year’s Quebec Writing Competition named their favourite short stories in a post on the CBC’s QWC page. Some guy talks about Ernest Hemingway’s “The Three Day Blow” like it’s the best thing since “The End of Something.”
I was extremely happy to learn that a story of mine is a finalist for this year’s Quebec Writing Competition. “Salut King Kong” is from the project I’m currently working on, a collection of linked short stories about the suburbs called Dreamers and Misfits of Montclair. The ten shortlisted QWC stories have been appearing online, one per day, since the beginning of last week, along with a Q&A with each of the authors. “Salut King Kong”
will be up on Tuesday, November 5 is up now. Congratulations to the other finalists!
On September 17, 1992, the Montreal Expos faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second of a short two-game series at Three Rivers Stadium. Coming off a Chris Nabholz win over Bob Walk the night before, the Expos were just three games behind the Pirates for first place in the National League East with 17 games remaining in the season. The 1992 season was the beginning of, if not for the strike that would wipe out everything two years later, a renaissance for the Expos. Under the tutelage of the wily Felipe Alou, who had taken over as manager on May 22 after the team stumbled to a mediocre 17-20 start under (General) Tommy Runells, the promising young Expos were making life difficult for the favoured Pirates much later in the year than anybody expected. Though nothing would be decided mathematically on this night, everybody knew all of Montreal’s post-season hopes rested on this game. Win, and the Expos would move just two games behind the Pirates with two more head-to-head games to come later in the month at Olympic Stadium. Lose, however, and the Expos would drop back to four games out of first place with very little schedule left.
In September of 1992 I was twenty years old. I was living on the corner of Monkland and Old Orchard in N.D.G., in a second-floor apartment above the Monkland Tavern. I had no cable, so at game time I made my way downstairs with my brother Mike and a few friends to take in the game on the Tavern’s television. In those days, the Monkland Tavern was still a tavern, with simple wooden tables and hard chairs. The windows were set high in the wall, up near the ceiling, to keep prying eyes from knowing who might be inside enjoying a tall Molson. There was only one bathroom in the place; women were permitted to enter – it was 1992, after all – but facilities were shared.
We were so excited that night. We were giddy about our team. Young stars like Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Delino DeShields were meshing with veterans like Tim Wallach, Spike Owen, and the unforgettable Gary Carter, back to round out his career where it had begun. On the mound, Dennis Martinez was the ace, and newcomer Ken Hill was making us all feel good about the Andrés Galarraga trade. The bullpen was shaping up to be a beast with the young set-up man Mel Rojas and rising closing star John Wetteland. I’ll always remember how, a minute or so before the first pitch of the game, my friend Dickles turned to me and said, “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
The game turned into a 13-inning affair, with the Pirates coming out on top. We were devastated, and made our way back upstairs to my apartment. We needed some therapy, and assigned my brother to call the doctor: Mitch Melnick.
At the time, Melnick was the host of (if I remember the name of the show correctly) Sports Phone on CJAD, the late-night sports call-in show. What ensued was the kind of strange call that made late-night Montreal radio so great. While Mike and Mitch conversed about the issues of the day, the rest of us evoked the ghosts of Expos past by screaming out the names of players like Warren Cromartie, Bill Lee, and Woodie Fryman. The tape is old and the audio contains a drone, but it’s possible to make out the whole thing:
Convinced a real humdinger of an Expos party was going on, Mitch asked for our address and hinted he might just stop by later. After a couple of hours had passed, and a few more Molsons had been consumed, we were sure he wasn’t coming. So convinced we were of being stood up, that when the intercom buzzer rang near three o’clock in the morning, and the voice downstairs announced, “IT’S THE POLICE,” we collectively shat our pants. Thinking it best to get out in front of whatever trouble we were in, I opened the door to my apartment and took a step out into the hall to greet the cops. I felt relieved and completely idiotic when Mitch Melnick appeared around the corner of the hallway.
Mitch brought the late Mark Rennie along with him, “for protection.” We escorted the two announcers to the living room, sat them down, and offered them beer, which was disappointingly warm (why it was warm, I cannot remember or understand, except to remind myself I was twenty). There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, which Mitch did away with when he spied my computer screen and quipped, “Gee, guys. Sorry to interrupt your Jeopardy! game.” Mitch and Mark hung out for about an hour, regaling us with tales of the sordid underbelly of the Montreal sports and radio scene (“Yes, Ted Tevan really does eat every single meal at Chenoys.”).
Fast-forward twenty years and Mitch is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon, the best radio show in Montreal, on TSN690. As I mark the anniversary of this particular call, it hits me: though he’s been on the air longer, I’ve been listening to Mitch Melnick for twenty years. That’s half my life. Melnick’s voice is as much a part of the soundtrack of my life as any of my favourite musicians are, some of whom I’ve been listening to for less time than I’ve been listening to Melnick. Which makes what appears to be the impending end of TSN690, a station that Melnick practically built from scratch, such a fucking shame. I just hope that when the station goes, Mitch doesn’t. His talent is too vital a talent for this city to lose. And I’m pretty sure I still owe him a beer, a cold one this time.