Sixty-four men in Montreal Expos history have at one point or another been a part of the team’s coaching staff. Out of all those coaches, 10 of them never even played a big league game. That leaves a 54 men group of ex-Major League ballplayers who later took on a role as a staff member on the Expos bench.
With this information, I created a roster, a roster filled with Expos coaches in their heyday as young talented MLB players. In this case, there isn’t a staff to decide on the roster, so bWAR is the brain behind the ball-club. The player (coach) at each position with the highest career Wins Above Replacement total will be assigned the starting role on the club. Just like an actual team, if a particular position is in-need of an upgrade, the mathematical system with no emotion is actually willing to move a player from a place of depth to their secondary spot.
Just like many successful managers, Buck Rodgers was a catcher during his playing days. Rodgers spent nine seasons with the California Angels hitting .232/.288/.312. He was an anchor of an infield that included future Blue Jays coaches Bobby Knoop and Jim Fregosi. But Buck’s most memorable years took place in Montreal as the boss of the Expos. After spending parts of three years with the Milwaukee Brewers, Rodgers was hired by the Expos in 1985. With the Canadian club, Rodgers did a lot with a little, keeping the club somewhat in contention with the New York Mets and the St Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, his time in Quebec ended when he was fired early in 1991, but as usual, the likable manager was always good for a quote.
Known as a great player and person, Vernon was the hitting coach in Montreal for two years under Dick Williams. But before his coaching days, the left on left first baseman was a figure for 14 years with the original Washington Senators. Vernon wasn’t necessarily a slugger at the dish, but an all-around force who ended up winning two batting titles in a 20-year-career.
Ozzie Guillén was without a doubt one of the more fascinating characters in baseball throughout his playing/coaching career. He said it as he thought it and was respected because of that. Guillén’s career started in 1985 with the Chicago White Sox where he won the Rookie of the Year Award at shortstop. Although the passionate infielder played another 15 years in the league, he is better remembered for his personality traits than his success. The fan favorite player joined the Expos as a third base coach a year after he retired as a player. The gig later led him to a managerial role back on the south side of Chicago where he won a World Series Championship in 2005.
Like Guillén, Hansen was also a Rookie of the Year Award Winner. He was an above average offensive shortstop in the big leagues as well as a solid defender during his 15-year career. His expertise as an infielder led him to a role as an MLB instructor. While in that role with the Expos, Hansen worked closely with infielders Vance Law and Hubie Brooks.
Utility man Tommy Harper is slotted at third base on this club because of the Hall of Famers in the outfield. Although Harper spent most of his time in left and right field, he did play in 270 games at the hot corner. His career was divided between seven teams including the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. He also stole 73 bags with the Seattle Pilots during their only season. Harper was with the Expos for ten years, splitting time as a hitting coach and first base coach.
The Stacked Expos outfield includes the first ever African-American AL player Larry Doby. The outfielder made his debut shortly after Jackie Robinson, once the legendary Bill Veeck signed him. The 1998 Hall of Fame Inductee was a 7-time All-Star and a 1948 World Series Champ. He was a force in the middle of the Cleveland Indians lineup, winning two home run titles along with a bolded RBI slot in 1954. He was later hired as a hitting coach under Gene Mauch with the Expos.
One of the greatest players of the 1950’s, Duke Snider was a massive celebrity in Brooklyn. With himself, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle all playing in New York, there was constant argument over who the best was out of the three. Unlike Mays, Snider won multiple championships. He earned a title in 1955, and later in 1959 once the team moved out west to Los Angeles. The Duke was a definite Hall of Famer on the field and a quality contributor off the field. Snider spent a decade plus in the Expos radio booth alongside Dave Van Horne. He also spent time as the team’s hitting coach.
Frank Robinson rounds off the Hall of Fame outfield, and he may very well be the best of the bunch. Robinson did it all in the game of baseball. He won two World Series Championships, Two MVP’s, A Triple Crown Award and because of that all, an induction into the Hall of Fame. He began his managerial career with Clevland in 1975, becoming the first-ever African-American manager. While managing the Indians, Robinson was also a part of the active roster. And in his first game as a player-manager, he hit a home run. The great Robinson later managed the Expos for their last three seasons as a team.
One of many terrific ballplayers in his family, Felipe Alou was arguably the best of the bunch. He was a career .286/.328/.433 hitter in a 17-year career split between six MLB teams. His second last season was spent in Canada as an Expo, a country he’d reunite with two decades later. Alou rejoined the Expos organization as a minor league hitting coach after his playing days, an opportunity that set the foundation for a promotion. In 1992, Alou was hired as a manager, and in 2001, he was fired, a ten-year span which featured good times sadly overshadowed by bad times. The highlight of the first-ever Dominican-born manger’s tenure had to be the 1994 season. That year, the Expos had their World Series push cut short by the season-ending strike. Alou also had the chance to manage his son, Moises Alou. And in ’94, the Alou’s were definitely the talk of the town. Moises was the clear club MVP, and Felipe was the NL Manager of the Year.
Hal McRae had a tremendous 19-year big-league career, but unfortunately, it is completely overshadowed by a tantrum as a manager with the Kansas City Royals. The three-time All-Star put up a 27.9 WAR in a career spent mostly in Missouri. Before making the highlights as a manager, McRae was a hitting coach for multiple years in Montreal.
Remembered for his distinctive glasses, Bill Virdon was a gold-glover in center field. He emerged as a rookie in 1955, and because of that, the Cardinals were forced to move Stan Musial to first-base. After winning the rookie of the year award in ’55, he was even better offensively the next season before taking a permanent step back in that area. His glove allowed him to have a long career that was split between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Four years after he retired as a player, he got the gig to manage the Pirates. He managed 14 more seasons including his last two with the Expos.
Peanuts Lowrey spent 13 years in the bigs as a light-hitting utility man. He played every position except pitcher and catcher during his career with the Cardinals, Philidelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. He was a key part of the last Cubs team to appear in the World Series before 2016; 1945. Lowrey was the hitting coach for the Expos during their inaugural season of 1969, however, would be replaced the next year.
A career .246/.309/.361 hitter, McCraw made this team purely because of the lack of overall depth. His last season was the same as Frank Robinson’s first season as a manager. He was later the hitting coach under Robinson during the last three years the Expos existed.
Brother of World Series MVP Larry Sherry, Norm’s career was not the least bit comparable. Although not on the World Series roster, he was a part of the Dodgers the year Larry became a playoff legend, a nice brotherly moment for the two to share. The intelligent former catcher was the bullpen coach for a few years with the Expos. While with Montreal, he played a considerable part in the future success of Gary Carter.
The only quality starting pitcher to coach for the Expos, Mclish was a career .500 pitcher. In 15 seasons, he threw at least 200 innings three times, along with multiple 15 plus win seasons. His smarts as a pitcher caught the eyes of Phillies manager Gene Mauch. He later was the pitching coach during Mauch’s full tenure as an Expos manager.
Like McLish, Brewer also played for the manager he later coached with, Dick Williams. After a fine pro career which included a World Series ring with the Dodgers, Brewer joined the Expos as a pitching coach for three years. He was later replaced by Galen Cisco.
Edition #1: Here
(Photos: Phil Carpenter / The Gazette, Canadian Baseball News, Associated Press, Getty)