Up above us all
Leaning into sky
A golden business boy
Will watch the north end die
And sing “I love this town”
Then let his arching wrecking ball proclaim
I hate Winnipeg
– The Weakerthans, “One Great City”
Ok, this entry is not about Winnipeg. But it is partially about Montreal, and a little bit about Dallas. It is about cities, and about people, and about sports – and especially how the latter ties the three together in a knot that only a schizoid puppy knows how to untangle.
Imagine for a moment that your favorite team – your hometown team – moved. As in packed their bags and went elsewhere, establishing a new team name in a new city, thus eschewing all history previously accumulated. There are examples of this in many of the professional sports leagues of North America, but for the purpose of this entry, and due to the events of the night, I choose to focus on baseball.
I was reminded today that it has only happened twice in the last 40 years of baseball. The earlier example was the Washington Senators becoming what is now my hometown team of the Texas Rangers. The second was when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals. And tonight was all about the Expos, because I went to an event featuring their number one fan, Jonah Keri, who was going to talk about the book he just wrote about “his” team and what might have gone wrong.
Jonah (I met him, so I feel like I can address him by his first name) just published a book titled “Up, Up, and Away” about his beloved Montreal Expos ceasing to exist. As part of his whirlwind tour to promote the book (Keith Olbermann and Seth Meyers coming up) he stopped in Dallas to do a combination of Q&A and book signing. Of course, I had to go see/meet him. He and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs.com are my two favorite baseball writers, although each have different styles.
So that is how I found myself at a small bar in Deep Ellum (Dallas) on a Tuesday night. I went with my friend Peggy (who sprung for the $25/ea tickets that included – get this – open bar and free food) and finally met up with an old internet friend – Bob – who I had yet to meet in person, even though we’ve “known” each other for about 15 years. But, for me, the highlight was getting to listen to Jonah speak about all things baseball, and not just the Expos.
Earlier in the evening, Jonah was sitting in on a podcast on the back patio and Peggy snapped a photo of him where he appeared to be deep in thought, but unfortunately was holding his head up with only his middle finger elongated. I tweeted this photo in an attempt to be humorous, and I tagged him in it. (This will be important later.)
Another break between listening to Jonah meant another Lone Star for me (thank you, Twilite Lounge, for having those on hand) and what was perhaps the funniest interaction of the evening for me. I ran into Jamie Kelly (@JamieSportsTalk) and she asked me “Are you Austin?” Of course, it was kind of loud there, so I thought she asked “Are you awesome?” So, naturally my reply was “Of course I am.”
Then I realized that my Twitter handle is @AustinLeemer and she thought my first name was Austin. (Former MLBer Gabe Kapler has also called me Austin on Twitter, so good company, I guess.) Anyway, we introduced ourselves and that was cool.
The main event of the evening followed shortly thereafter. The great Jonah Keri being interviewed on stage by Sean Bass of the Ticket. And Sean was awesome – he seemed to punch all the right buttons, and Jonah’s answers were eloquent and down to earth at the same time. Mentions of former Expos greats such as Tim Raines, Pedro Martinez (sorry, Red Sox fans – he was an Expo first), and even a great story about non-Expo Reggie Sanders. (Pro tip: Jonah cannot stand Sanders.)
Finally, we got to the book signing portion of the evening. Each person wishing to get their book signed got to sit on the make out couch with Jonah and have a little chit chat. I was kind of wondering what I would talk to him about. I was a fan of the Expos as a kid (I told Jonah they were “sexy” but provided no context for that adjective), but what could I tell him that he had not already heard? Then it hit me.
When it was my turn, I introduced myself as Leemer. Then I said my name was John, but my friends call me Leemer. The disgusted look of recognition on his face was immediate. “As in Leemer from Twitter?” At first I was elated. I thought that he somehow recalled me tweeting him months ago about owning a Montreal Expos helmet as a kid, but no. He had already seen the tweet I sent earlier that evening. (Couldn’t figure out how to embed the tweet, so click on the “pic” link below to get the joke.)
— The Leemer (@AustinLeemer) April 9, 2014
So I immediately tried to have him recall that I sent him the Expo helmet tweet and that seemed to do the trick. This is when I called the Expos “sexy” and he proceeded to name off their greats at the time: Raines, Dawson, Carter, etc. And I reminded him of the “arm of Warren Cromartie” and that my favorite Expo was Tim Wallach. Then I blurted out “I guess I had a thing for white third basemen back then because Buddy Bell was my favorite player.” He then added that between Wallach, Bell, George Brett, and Mike Schmidt that it was the heyday of white third basemen who kicked ass. (I’m still kicking myself for not adding Kelly Gruber into that group.)
Time for a photo with the two of us on the make out couch. Encouraged by Bob and Peggy, and even the event photographer, I did the old “stretch your arms and place it behind the other person” trick that all of us guys did to chicks when we were at the movies at the age of 13 or so. I’m told there were some photos taken of this.
But, to me, this is the photo I love. This is how Jonah signed my book. Now the Tim Wallach and middle finger references should make sense.
People, don’t take your cities for granted. Cities, don’t take your people for granted. And sports teams? They could care less. The players on those teams? That’s a different story, and one told in Jonah’s new book. I cannot wait to read it.