Volume 92, Issue 23

Thursday, October 15, 1998

talk it out


Alou remains Montreal's best friend

The title of Canadian sports hero is an honourable title, befitting only the greatest individuals which represent this nation in the field of athletics.

Normally it is also required that the individual is born within the borders in Canada.

That was until Felipe Alou stepped onto Canadian soil. The veteran manager of the Montreal Expos is the true representation of a national hero. Forget the fact he was born and grew up in the Dominican Republic – his contributions to his adopted homeland far exceed that minor detail.

In a league where managers have become more expendable than the back-up catcher, Alou has become an institution in Montreal. In fact the reason the Expos still reside in the province of Quebec could be in large part due to Alou's presence.

Many who have not followed baseball consistently since the strike may question the ability of Alou. After all, no division pennants hang from the roof of Olympic Stadium.

True. But Alou has done much more considering what he has had to work with. He has taken the team on his shoulders and played the role of underdog every season with the same amount of enthusiasm. He has led one of the most dysfunctional baseball clubs in recent memory to respectability with a budget, often smaller than the current $10 million salary of Ken Griffey Jr..

He has watched with a tear in his eye as many a superstar has bid adieu to the franchise in which they climbed through the minor league ranks, for bigger dollar signs which other clubs can offer. The list is long and painful. Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Dennis Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Andres Galaraga, Mel Rojas and the list goes on. No loyalty to a team which boosted them to stardom.

That is part of what makes Alou so special to baseball and Canada in particular. There has been little stability in the Expos front office but that hasn't stopped Alou from playing miracle worker with what he has. And he did this for seven seasons in a Montreal uniform.

So when his contract ran out at the end of last season no one in baseball had any intention of looking down on Alou if he left for greener pastures. In fact everyone expected it. Alou – over anybody else in the league – deserved a change.

Los Angeles was the front runner and supposedly the winner of the Alou sweepstakes. There was even a press conference announced for Monday to introduce him to the California masses.

However, such an event never happened. Instead, Alou threw the world of baseball a curveball and returned to the Expos for another three years. In doing so he established himself as one of the greatest sporting heroes in Canada.

What he did is unheard of in professional sports. He stayed loyal to a city which can be questioned on their own love for the game. Yet Alou's love for the city is so strong that the new contract has an escape clause if the team leaves town. In essence he has signed on for three more years with the City of Montreal – not the Expos franchise.

This is really not surprising. His legendary image in Canada's second largest city is so strong that fans kicked up more of a stink about him leaving than they have about recent troubles over the team staying in town.

Few would dare to take on such a challenge for another three years but this Canadian hero isn't planning on taking the easy way out.

He's staying exactly where he wants to be – Canada.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998