By IAN WILSON
The Montreal Expos had a professional baseball following that was truly national in scope.
During their 36 years of operation in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Expos ran minor-league affiliates across Canada, including Triple-A clubs in Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg, as well as a Double-A squad in Quebec City.
At the rookie level, the Expos operated two Pioneer League teams in Alberta. The Lethbridge Expos gave Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson his first taste of pro ball in 1975. Montreal stayed on as the parent club for another season before the Dodgers took over from 1977 through 1983 in Lethbridge.
The Expos returned to Wild Rose Country in 1979 when Calgary’s MLB affiliation shifted from the St. Louis Cardinals to Montreal. The Calgary Expos competed in the Northern Division of the Pioneer League for six seasons before giving way to the Triple-A Cannons of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 1985.
During their time in Calgary, the Expos produced a number of major leaguers and outstanding ball players.
The following are some of the best players to suit up at each position for the Expos in Cowtown. The roster consists of the following: manager, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, designated hitter, utility/bench players, middle relief pitcher, closer, and five starting pitchers for the rotation. A lineup card and a rotation will be revealed after we go through the selections.
Talcott Edwin Creech – who went by the first names of both “Pat” and “Ed” – was the skipper of the Expos during their final two years in the Stampede City. Montreal’s second-round selection in the 1973 MLB Draft posted a record of 70 wins and 70 losses in those seasons, and he also guided the club to the Pioneer League final in 1983. The Billings Mustangs won the championship that year, but the Expos finished with a .600 winning percentage and four players from the squad eventually graduated to the big leagues.
Only Junior Miner had a more successful campaign with the Calgary Expos. His team went 46-24 in 1981.
We’ll give the nod to Creech, however, because he was the longest-tenured manager in the club’s history and he also did a better job of sending prospects to the majors. Following his time in Calgary, Creech had a lengthy MLB scouting career. He was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame in 2015.
A number of catchers put together strong showings for Calgary in the Pioneer League, but there were also years where the workload was shared by three or more backstops.
That said, a few performances stand out.
Steven Ramler played all but two games for the Expos in 1982, and despite framing pitches for freshly minted pros all season, the undrafted prospect excelled at the plate. Ramler batted .303 with 42 runs and 35 runs batted in (RBI) through 68 games and 221 at bats. His 18 doubles and eight homers were also tied for the team lead in those offensive categories and he was named a Pioneer League All-Star.
Mike Rupp was also good in 1983. In 56 games, Rupp, another Pioneer League All-Star, had a .326 batting average, 39 RBI, 38 runs and a .433 on-base percentage.
Our choice to gear up behind the dish played two seasons for the Calgary Expos. Hector Rivera played 113 games for the squad in 1980-81. The undrafted catcher made the most of his 398 at bats, registering 11 long balls, 68 RBI, 48 runs and 15 doubles. His batting average was .313 in his first pro season, followed by .283 average in year two. Rivera never played higher than Single-A, but he was an effective presence on the Expos roster.
Andres Galarraga would seem like the obvious choice to handle first base duties for this team, based on his accomplished MLB career. But the truth is that he hadn’t found his potent batting ability when he started his professional career. The Venezuelan was just 18 years old when he reported to Calgary and it took him some time to adjust to life away from home. The “Big Cat” played 101 games for Calgary in 1979-80 and hit just .214 in his first season. He showed improvement in his second year at Foothills Stadium and received a promotion to Single-A Jamestown of the New York-Penn League, but the overall counting numbers weren’t eye-popping with Cowtown: eight homers, 38 RBI, 41 runs and 14 doubles.
Another contender is Jerome Coleman, a Newman, Georgia product who was drafted as an outfielder. While playing first base Coleman produced outstanding leadoff hitter numbers in his 58 games for Calgary in 1981. Through 209 at bats, he posted a .306 batting average and a team-best .444 on-base percentage. Coleman also led the Expos in runs (61), stolen bases (23), and triples (five). Not exactly conventional first baseman numbers, but useful for run production, no doubt.
We also cannot forget about Tom Krupa, who put his name in the franchise record books in 1983 when he clubbed 20 home runs in 69 games. That number of round trippers led the Pioneer League that season, as did his 70 RBI. Krupa, who played 13 games for the Calgary Expos the previous year, had a .335 batting average and 63 runs in his best pro campaign. As a result, he was named a Pioneer League All-Star and he was given a spot on the Topps Chewing Gum Rookie All-Star Team.
We can only give the first base assignment to one player, however, and Galarraga gets the nod. The future star – who twice won National League (NL) Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and Comeback Player of the Year awards – had noticeable potential, even if it wasn’t realized in Calgary.
Don’t worry about Coleman and Krupa – we found a place in the lineup for both of them.
The Expos always seemed to have some reliable hitters manning the keystone corner.
In 1979, Kirk Forbes appeared in 69 games and generated a .287 batting average, 48 runs, 24 RBI, 16 extra-base hits, and 25 stolen bases.
Two years later, Georgia’s Derrell Baker led Calgary in batting average (.371) and hits (101), while notching 54 runs, 49 RBI, seven swipes and a .432 on-base percentage in his 66 games. Baker never cracked a big-league lineup, but he did play Triple-A after he left Alberta.
Armando Moreno turned in a Pioneer League All-Star season in 1982. The Puerto Rican suited up in 66 contests for the Expos. His stats from that season: .338 batting average, .473 on-base percentage, 52 runs, 42 RBI, 18 doubles, five homers and five stolen bases. It marked the start of a decade-long playing career in the minors, which ended for the undrafted middle infielder with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons in 1991.
In 1983, H.J. Lopes inspired the Calgary faithful in his 68 games. The Pennsville, New Jersey product collected 10 long balls, 55 runs, 44 RBI, 13 doubles and a .316 batting average.
Lots to choose from here, but Moreno’s well-rounded game places him slightly ahead of his peers. He’s our starting second sacker.
There are a pair of options to handle the hot corner, both of whom were Pioneer League All-Star selections.
David Perez, an eighth-round pick from San Mateo, California, played as a shortstop at Stanford University before shifting to third base in Calgary. He appeared in all 70 games for the Expos and another 38 contests for Single-A West Palm Beach in 1979. In the Pioneer League, Perez batted .272 and averaged a hit per game. The infielder also collected 48 runs, 36 RBI, 12 stolen bases and seven homers.
Thomas Fettig represented the rookie-level Expos in 63 games in 1981. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native smacked 10 homers, 20 doubles and 49 RBI while batting .303 with a .405 on-base percentage and 126 total bases.
Fettig’s power profile gives him a leg up, so we’ll write him in at third base on our score card.
Calgary baseball fans saw a number of capable shortstops take the field between second and third base at Foothills Stadium in the early 1980s.
Terry Strickland, who could also play at third base, had a .301 batting average in 68 games in 1982. As a hitter, the North Carolina infielder produced 54 runs, 15 doubles, 38 RBI, five homers and five stolen bases.
David Lucas, drafted 766th overall in the 32nd round, scored 53 runs and swiped a dozen bags in 1983.
However, it was Angel Salazar who won the job here. Similar to Galarraga, Salazar arrived in Alberta from his home country of Venezuela as an 18-year-old prospect. He played 114 Pioneer League games in 1980-81 and during that time he recorded 66 runs, 36 RBI and 26 stolen bases. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but Salazar was on his way to The Show. He ended up playing 383 MLB games for the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs.
Fernando Marin was superb for the junior Expos in their inaugural campaign. He led the team in homers (19), RBI (52), doubles (19), runs (50), walks (43), extra base hits (39) and total bases (143). The Pioneer League All-Star, who was later converted to a second baseman, provided much of the offense that season and is an easy selection to roam the pasture on this squad.
The pride of St. Claire Shores, Michigan – Glen Stacheit – received a Pioneer League All-Star nod in 1981. Stacheit finished tied for the team lead in long balls, with 10, and was tops for the Expos with 53 RBI and 127 total bases. He batted .302 with a .406 on-base percentage, 42 runs and 15 doubles in 66 games.
Bill Moore could hit. One of the older players on the 1983 club, the 22-year-old Californian posted a team-best .362 batting average and ludicrous .502 on-base percentage. The sixth-rounder out of Cal State Fullerton University swatted 13 round trippers, scored 63 runs and produced 51 RBI for Calgary in 59 appearances. The right-handed hitter graduated to the Montreal Expos, who played six games for in 1986, and continued playing at the Triple-A level through 1991. Like Marin and Stacheit, Moore was also named a Pioneer League All-Star.
There’s a logjam at first base, but the power numbers of Tom Krupa are just too good to ignore. His single-season and franchise records for long balls and RBI for the Calgary Expos make him the obvious choice to serve as the DH on this team.
That crowded first base position also meant a shift to the batting order involving Jerome Coleman. As an on-base expert and a threat to steal, Coleman fit perfectly atop the lineup, so we moved him back to his natural position in the outfield.
That adjustment meant that outfielder Glen Stacheit was moved to the bench. We added second sacker Derrell Baker (who later in his minor-league career played in the outfield and at third base) to the dugout, as well, giving us some outfield/infield flexibility from our reserves.
The front of our rotation will be led by a pair of unheralded pitchers who turned in excellent performances in the club’s first season.
Right-handed hurler Tony Fadhel and lefty Louis Blows handled the bulk of the starter duties, alongside Mickey Torres, who also had a respectable campaign in 1979.
Fadhel went 7-3 with five complete games in his 13 starts. The 19-year-old Cuban led the Expos in strikeouts (98), innings pitched (97), and ERA (3.15).
When he wasn’t atop the hill, Blows could often be seen there. The southpaw tossed 94 innings in 14 starts and produced three complete games, two of them shutouts. He finished with 85 Ks and a 3.54 ERA.
Randy St. Claire suited up for the Calgary Expos in back-to-back seasons, putting in mound time as both a starting pitcher and a reliever.
The righthander from New York arrived in the Stampede City as an 18-year-old undrafted prospect in 1979. That year he made six starts and showed promise, going 1-2 with a 4.36 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 33 innings. He split that season between Calgary and the Jamestown Expos, a Low-A affiliate. St. Claire returned to Cowtown the following year, appearing in 21 games and making just four starts. His stats included a 5-7 record, 4.26 ERA and an improved strikeout rate of 51 Ks in 57 innings.
He spent the next three seasons trying to get beyond the Single-A level of the minor leagues and eventually did so, making his way to the major leagues for parts of nine seasons. St. Claire pitched in 162 games, most of them with the Montreal Expos, and collected nine saves and a 12-6 record in his 252 big-league innings. He wrapped up his professional playing career by returning to Calgary in 1995, this time as a member of the Triple-A Cannons. He served as the closer that season and picked up 19 saves and 43 Ks in his 54 innings on the bump.
Like St. Claire, John Dodd also spent a pair of seasons in Calgary as both a starting pitcher and a bullpen arm. His introduction to pro baseball in 1983 was a bit rough. The southpaw from California took the mound in 13 games, six of which were starts. Over 33.2 innings that year, Dodd went 1-5 with a complete game, 19 Ks and a 6.68 ERA. Not great numbers, but he bounced back the next season in a big way. The 751st overall draft pick from the 31st round logged 91.1 frames for Calgary and assembled an impressive 9-2 record in his 14 appearances. Dodd registered 69 strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 4.04. He led the team in both wins and Ks. The improvements resulted in a Pioneer League All-Star award for the 6-foot-1 pitcher.
Another lefty completes our five-man rotation. Cliff Young made 13 starts for Calgary in 1983 and topped the team in strikeouts, with 72 in 79.1 innings. The 18-year-old out of Willis, Texas had an impressive 7-1 record that included four complete games. The only real blemish was his 5.11 ERA. Young later pitched in 123 games for the Edmonton Trappers between 1989 and 1992, serving as both a starter and a reliever. The fifth-round pick also appeared in 49 MLB games for the California Angels and Cleveland.
On the outside looking in are a couple of right-handed pitchers who could step in if needed. Greg Richards went 7-6 with six complete games in his 14 starts in 1982. In his 99.1 innings, he posted a 3.44 ERA and 57 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Sergio Valdez of the Dominican Republic had a 6-3 record and 41 Ks through 72.2 frames in 1983. Valdez ended up pitching in 116 contests in the major leagues for five different teams.
Two arm barners come to mind when we consider the need for pitching in the middle frames.
Texan Steve Winfield, who was a starter in college, was fairly dependable for the Expos in 1979. He led the circuit in saves that year by closing out 13 games. During his 44 innings and 25 games, Winfield had a 1-4 record, a 4.30 ERA and 62 Ks. The righty never cracked an MLB roster, but he kept pitching through the mid-1980s and played as high as the Triple-A level with the Louisville Redbirds.
However, Joseph Impagliazzo has the edge here. The native of Rhode Island was tops in saves in the Pioneer League in 1983 with 12. He had the best ERA (1.83) and WHIP (1.14) on the pitching staff. In addition, Impagliazzo registered a 6-1 record and 62 strikeouts through 39.1 innings of mound work.
Barry Branam was unstoppable for the Expos in 1981. The product of Cincinnati, Ohio pitched 60 innings for Calgary over the course of 33 appearances, none of them starts. In that time, he was the Pioneer League leader in both wins (10) and saves (11). In addition, he was tops on the Expos in strikeouts (69), ERA (2.70) and WHIP (0.95).
The righthander, an eighth-round pick, is the man we trust the most with the game on the line in the ninth inning.
- Jerome Coleman, OF
- Armando Moreno, 2B
- Bill Moore, OF
- Tom Krupa, DH
- Fernando Marin, OF
- Andres Galarraga, 1B
- Thomas Fettig, 3B
- Angel Salazar, SS
- Hector Rivera, C
Bench … Glen Stacheit (OF), Derrell Baker (2B, 3B, OF)
- Louis Blows, LHP
- Tony Fadhel, RHP
- John Dodd, LHP
- Randy St. Claire, RHP
- Cliff Young, LHP
Bullpen … Joseph Impagliazzo (RHP), Barry Branam (RHP)
There it is – your Calgary Expos All-Time roster! What do you think? Did we miss any any top players? Would you make any roster changes to the squad? Sound off in the comments.