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Encore Performances: Bleu, blanc et rouge.

I used to have a quiet blog where I would hold forth on anything and everything. It’s gone now, but I still have the content, and every so often I’ll repost something that holds up over time.

The following post, written in June 2008, is presented in slightly updated form in memory of Gary Carter and the equipe for which he shone.


I totally shoulda bought this T-shirt.

I found it in the racks of the gift shop at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., while mucking around waiting for the museum to open.

I took a pass because it was much too small for me, and I’m moving past the point in my life (I think) where I accumulate essentially useless stuff just because it’s cool.

What we have here is Charlie Brown — wearing the “MANAGER” T-shirt that occasionally replaced his familiar zig-zag getup — voicing his support for the Montreal Expos.

What makes this great, for my baseball-illiterate readers, is that the Expos were one of baseball’s all-time snakebitten teams.
They scraped into the postseason once, in 1981, only to lose on a ninth-inning home run in the deciding game of their playoff series.
They racked up baseball’s best record in 1994, then lost their best shot at a World Series title to the players’ strike.
And in 2003, with the Expos in an unlikely playoff hunt, Major League Baseball — which owned the financially struggling team — decided to save money and not call up players from the minor leagues for the traditional end-of-season push.

That pretty much killed the city’s remaining interest in its team, which was already playing one-quarter of its home games in Puerto Rico as a marketing move.
The Expos left Montreal for Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season.

MLB’s choice to manage the Expos during their ward-of-the-state final years was Frank Robinson. He was, in most respects, the right man for the job — a hard-nosed baseball veteran with little to lose.

But this T-shirt made me think:
Maybe a better choice for manager would have been someone who was used to being kicked in the junk again and again.
Someone who had learned years before to get nothing and like it.

Someone who would have seen the bright side — the tiny glimmer of hope — in the fifth pitching change of the day in a temporary home stadium in a foreign country.

Someone who would have been perfectly used to 95 losses a year, and for whom 67 wins would have been an unimaginable carnival of joy.

Someone who would have welcomed the chance to manage in a sterile, dimly-lit dome, because it meant his players could not embarrass him by planting trees and shrubs all over the field.

Someone who would not have been afraid to give Joe Shlabotnik regular work in right.

In fact, I think this would have been a wonderful plot line for Charles Schulz, had he lived long enough. The Expos call to request permission to talk to Charlie Brown about their managing job … but Snoopy, concerned about going unfed while his master is out of town, rebuffs them.

Schulz is gone, of course; as are Charlie Brown, Snoopy, the Expos, and now even some of the Expos’ star players. (Charlie Lea and Gary Carter have both died within the past year.)

I hope, at least, that some kid is wearing the hell out of that Charlie Brown Expos T-shirt.


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