I have some sort of cosmic connection to the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, some parallel pathway to fate with them, like some astrological force keeps sticking me with this team in some metaphysical room in the universe. It has to be true, for before they followed me to DC, I was one of very few people on this planet who watched Les Expos on television. "Why?" you might ask, bewildered by my confession, or perhaps you think I am lying to be "cool" like those people who buy Expos jerseys and caps to wear to RFK (losers!) Nope, sorry, that bandwagon garbage isn't for me.
It was September 1998, my senior year of an all too short college journey. I had spent the previous best-year-of-my-life-thus-far in Luxembourg, where I had learned to appreciate the art of food, good beer, and that glorious gift us English-speaking folk call life. I had developed a modest level of proficiency in la lingua franca ancienne, enough to be able to watch Rodger Brulotte call baseball for Les Expos.
That September gifted us with baseball memories as luminous as the autumn trees that lined the cobblestone streets of Oxford, where I watched them all unfold. It was a time when the whole country was watching, when baseball became our nation's pasttime again, when the man who gave home runs their magic was roused from his eternal slumber to stand in the shadows of two mighty sluggers. Oh, and Roger Maris, too. Proving that God is a baseball fan once again, the teams of the two sluggers played each other on the night the Babe decided it was time to step aside. I can't forget it. Skipping yet another social engagement for baseball, I spread books and papers across the floor of my room as if I actually thought I would study. But I couldn't. I couldn't take my eyes from the television, not wanting to miss a second of this moment in American history, a moment that could end up as legendary as Mr. George Herman himself.
Number 62 was not a thing of beauty; indeed, the mighty slugger in red missed first base as he rounded it. Still, the country had fallen in love with baseball again. I couldn't get enough, that's for sure, and that's when I began watching Les Expos. Yes, it was only a month of baseball, but my brain took rolls and rolls of film during those weeks, and even as many of those pictures fade from my mortal mind, some of them will be there when the last vestiges of my vitality melt away with time and my intellect succumbs to the gray senility of age.
Guerrero frappe un circuit et les Expos gagnent le match! I learned a lot of baseball terms in French by watching those games, though I've forgotten most of them by now. But I can't forget Rodger Brulotte's "Bonsoir elle est partie!" as a Vlad Guerrero ball sailed into the Quebecois night. (And it did that '98 season - they had to play outdoors since pieces of the roof of Stade Olympique kept falling off.) Thirty-eight coups de circuit that year, his first full year in the Majors.