Memories of Steve Rogers

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My first memories of Steve Rogers were during the 1976 baseball season.  While everyone else was watching the Montreal Olympics, I was watching the woeful Expos.  The 1976 team, although they finished 55-107, had many of our future stars such as Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Ellis Valentine, and Larry Parrish.  This core group grew up together and over the years became the nucleus of some of the most exciting teams in Expos’ history.

Steve Rogers was easily my favorite.  When I played little league baseball, I would mimic his mannerisms and his quirky pre-pitch ritual.  Before releasing a pitch, I would heave a deep sigh, just like he did.  Unlike the Expos, our Pee Wee team was very successful that summer.  We ended up winning the Montreal North League Championship and I pitched the winning game.  It was a complete game, no one knew how to count pitches in those days and my coach never bothered asking me if I had a sore arm.

In the Fall of 1976, we had a banquet and celebrated our championship.  There was a special guest: none other than Steve Rogers.  Steve was very cordial with us as a group and even spent a good amount of time one on one with me.  We talked about everything baseball and I remember him saying that he had a good feeling about the team.  He told me that Gary Carter and Andre Dawson would become special players.  He had left me a lasting memory of someone who took the time to talk to baseball fans – a class act.

Fast forward to 1981, I was a hard-core baseball fan.  I knew every player on every team in both leagues.  I read Baseball Digest from cover to cover the minute that it arrived at my house.  I followed the team religiously, there was nothing more important than the Expos in the Summer of 1981.  The strike upset me but my anger quickly subsided when the Expos won the second half of the season.

Steve Rogers was nicknamed Cy.  This moniker could not have been more a propos as demonstrated during the 1981 playoffs against our arch-rival Phillies.  Cy out-duelled Steve Carlton and we were on to the NLCS against the powerhouse Dodgers.  The winners would advance to the World Series.

I will spare you many of the details of what happened in that deciding game against the Dodgers.  Many of us skipped our college classes to watch that fateful game at the Brasserie T.P., located across the street from the campus.  We were in shock when Jim Fanning brought in Rogers to face Rick Monday.  Fanning ignored the lefty-lefty matchup and chose not to go with Bill Lee.  I don’t blame Cy for this; it’s all on Fanning.

After the 1981 season, Rogers dominated for a few more years and should have had a better fate record-wise.  He lacked the run support and could have easily been a 20-game winner at least three times.  It was great to see him in Montreal last March as he participated in the ceremony honoring Gary Carter.  What an emotional night!  Steve Rogers is an all-time Expos great and a true gentleman.  I hope to someday hope to see his number 45 retired.

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