Where are they now? Woodie Fryman
Former Expos hurler remembers time in Montreal fondly
WASHINGTON -- The fans of Montreal were good to Woodie Fryman.
The left-handed pitcher -- who both started and relieved over two separate stints totaling eight seasons with the Expos -- said he felt plenty of love from the people who affectionately referred to him as "the old goat."
Fryman said he wouldn't even have to pay for meals when he went out in Montreal. He said the fanbase may not have been quite as baseball savvy as some others, but they still understood the game -- and they loved their Expos.
"I'd be at the ballpark at 12 o'clock in the daytime," Fryman said. "A lot of times I'd just go up in the stands and talk to a lot of them. I got used to them, and I liked them a whole lot."
Fryman pitched in the Major Leagues for six teams over 18 seasons, compiling a 141-155 record and a career ERA at a low 3.77. He struck out 1,587 batters over his career, and the southpaw won nine or more games in a season nine times.
The Ewing, Ky., native pitched in Montreal in 1975 and 1976, and then again between 1978 and the end of his career in 1983. He was part of the Expos' 1981 National League East championship team, a squad he contends could have gotten past Los Angeles and even won the World Series if it had just one more left-handed power bat in the lineup.
"That's one of the better teams that I ever played with," Fryman said. "The young kids got better and better and the older ones played good because [of the young players]. It's a shame we didn't get a chance. ... We had the team to do it."
That team became known as one of the best and certainly the most successful in Expos history. Fryman said Montreal fans packed Olympic Stadium back in the early '80s to see the Expos play, a sight many current fans can't associate with Montreal.
ARI: Travis Lee | ATL: Mark Lemke
BAL: Chris Hoiles | BOS: Bill Lee
CHC: Randy Hundley | CIN: Eric Davis
CWS: Dan Pasqua | CLE: Dave Burba
COL: Curtis Leskanic | DET: Steve Sparks
FLA: Charlie Hough | HOU: Doug Drabek
KC: Mike Macfarlane | LAA: Rick Reichardt
LAD: Jim Gott | MIL: Don Sutton
MIN: Kevin Tapani | NYM: Ed Kranepool
NYY: Jim Abbott | OAK: Ben Grieve
PHI: Tommy Greene | PIT: Barry Jones
STL: B. Tewksbury | SD: C. Hernandez
SF: Brian Johnson | SEA: Henry Cotto
TB: Doug Creek | TEX: Dave Hostetler
TOR: Alex Gonzalez | WAS: W. Fryman
So what happened, then, to baseball in French Canada? Fryman has a theory -- that the group of 14 that bought the Expos from original owner Charles Bronfman in 1991 did irreparable damage to the club.
"The people that bought [the Expos], as far as I was concerned, they were just in it for money alone," Fryman said. "I think that hurt them a lot."
Bronfman, Fryman said, was "one of the nicest people I've ever seen." The former Expos hurler said his old owner just tired of the game, and wanted to get away from it.
Fryman himself said he stays away from baseball to a great extent these days, and he doesn't keep up with the Expos reincarnate club, the Washington Nationals. He has a farm near his hometown of Ewing, where he stays busy tending to different things.
"I don't really watch a whole lot of ballgames, I watch them some," Fryman said. "It's just something you get tired of."
To this day, however, Fryman still holds a soft spot in his heart for the city of Montreal, and according to the "old goat," the feeling is mutual. Fryman was unequivocally certain baseball could make a successful return there. He said the key would lie in the players' ability to accept the Montreal fans, something he said was easy.
Whether baseball ever returns to the city of Montreal is anyone's guess, but this much is certain: Fryman would come back.
"I wouldn't mind going back up there for old-timer day if they did," Fryman said.
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.