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.
On November 19, 1993, Dan Duquette was the general manager of the Montreal Expos and I was a 22-year old know-it-all fan of the Montreal Expos. On that day, Duquette traded Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pedro Martinez. DeShields was the Expos’ very popular but very replaceable second baseman. Martinez was a young fireballer, buried in the Dodgers’ bullpen, in the very early stages of what would turn out to be a fantastic career that saw him win three Cy Young Awards (one with the Expos) and a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox.
Of course I thought this was a terrible, terrible trade. The worst, perhaps, in my entire baseball-watching career.
So, as any self-respecting know-it-all 22-year old should do, I fired off a letter to Dan Duquette. I don’t have a copy of my letter, but suffice to say I let Duquette have it. Culling from every corner of my vast array of knowledge, I let the Expos’ general manager know why it was a terrible idea to trade his starting second baseman for what I thought at the time was merely a middle relief pitcher. I also accused him of lying, because Duquette had stated publicly that he would not break up the core of the team, and I considered DeShields to be as much a part of the Expos’ young, impressive core as Larry Walker, Moises Alou, John Wetteland, and Marquis Grissom were. To Duquette’s everlasting credit, he wrote me back, and promptly. It’s a letter I still have. His reply to a raging, passionate Expos fan was concise, courteous, and absolutely spot-on:
Thank you for your letter and concern for the Montreal Expos.
Let me remind you how vital pitching is to a championship team. I think you will feel a lot better about our trade after you see Pedro Martinez pitch for the Montreal Expos.
Vice-President, General Manager
Hearty congratulations to Dan Duquette, who, yesterday, was named executive vice president of baseball operations of the Baltimore Orioles. I wish him nothing but the best and hope that he can pull off another stellar, cunning trade like the one he made for the Expos back in November of 1993. It’s the trade that put that edition of the Expos over the top, making them a team that, if not for the work stoppage in 1994 and all of its consequences, had the potential to win multiple championships. I never wrote him back to let him know, and it’s not as if he doesn’t already know, but, nearly 18 years to the day, let me say it: Dan, you were right.
And thank you.