Friday, April 9, 2010
Up, Up and Away!
Baseball and radio are very much interlinked. Opening day used to be one of the highlights of my year. That all changed when the Expos left Montreal after the 2004 season.
The Montreal Expos held a special place in my heart. Unlike the Canadiens, the Expos were the proverbial underdogs for most of their existence. Some might disagree, but I believe Montreal lost a good part of its sports soul when the Expos left town.
Baseball is unlike any other sport. Its regular season is a marathon of 162 games. You start off in the spring, when all is reborn and anything seems possible, and you wrap things up in the fall, when the leaves start to fall and we begin the tedious transition into another winter.
Baseball on the radio is special. It requires the ability to paint a picture not only of what is going on on the field, but of the surroundings. For Expo fans Dave Van Horne was the artist that painted that picture for 31 seasons. Van Horne was teamed up with some great commentators over the years, most notably Duke Snider and Ken Singleton. In French, it was Jacques Doucet who was the radio voice of baseball in Montreal. Both Van Horne and Doucet deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
The Expos only made post-season once, and had their best season crushed into oblivion in 1994. Over the years, they participated in many a pennant race only to fall short. It may be hard to believe right now, but there was a time - even going right up into the 1990s, when the Expos actually had some of the highest radio ratings in MLB.
In the spring of 2000, the unthinkable happened: The Expos english radio voice fell silent. A french language deal was struck at the very last minute. The saddest years in the franchises' history were about to begin. Dave Van Horne was relegated to Internet broadcasts and left the Expos for Miami the following season. He's been there ever since. It's hard to imagine that Dave Van Horne has been the radio voice of the Marlins for nearly a decade.
If you are a big fan, you take your team along with you. At home, in the backyard, in the car and so on. The game can always be on in the background. The west coast trips were always fun. You knew you might lose some sleep for a week or so, but you didn't care. Also fun was the rare doubleheader. You just wouldn't see back-to-back games in any other sport, now would you?
I miss baseball on the radio... It's something special and timeless. When it came to radio, Expo fans were very lucky over the years. Unfortunately our luck and time ran out...