Baseball: Alou at the helm of Expos' success

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The Independent Online
NEITHER the Toronto Blue Jays, who first played in the American League in 1977, nor the Montreal Expos since joining the National League in 1969, have appeared in the World Series. However, both are in contention this year as Americans face the spectre of a British Commonwealth World Series.

Toronto have contended perennially since the mid-Eighties, winning three recent divisional titles and are again poised at the top for another one. In contrast, the Expos have not offered a serious challenge since three near misses - in 1979, 1980 and 1981 - and with a squad of mostly unproven youngsters, were hardly a prime suspect for the 1992 National League East title, until 22 May with the surprise promotion, from coach to manager, of Felipe Alou.

Experienced observers have been captivated by Alou's wit and passion. Now with his club just 2 1/2 games behind the division leaders, Pittsburg, Montreal's fans have returned to the Olympic stadium.

Alou's first task was instilling confidence in his team and relieving them of an oppressive obligation: 'When I arrived I found fear. They were afraid to lose. They got stronger mentally and this is what confidence is all about. We needed a change of attitude; now they say, 'hey, we got a good team]'. They have become aggressors.'

Montreal's only obligation now may seem overly simple: 'Work hard and arrive (at the ballpark) early; if they do that, we're going to win plenty of ball games,' Alou said.

With the prospect of opposing Toronto, managed by Cito Gaston, whose club won two titles in the past three years, fans may witness a World Series match between two of the three minority managers in the Major League.

The Expos outfielder Larry Walker will help the prospective series become a minority showcase; the native of British Columbia is one of the few Canadians, and probably the best in memory, to succeed in the majors. Walker's role as clean-up hitter adds substance to Alou's managerial skills.

'Walker is one of the best outfielders in the majors,' Alou said. 'And it's good that fans identify with him. He is their own son. Also it makes the team feel more comfortable, knowing that we have a Canadian clean-up hitter.'

As for Alou's own family: brothers Felipe, Mateo and Jesus played together in the San Francisco Giants outfield, in 1963, and - in keeping with family traditions - Alou's son, Moises, graduated this spring, from the minor leagues to the Expos outfield. Alou's nephew, Mel Rojas, occupies the key role as a relief pitcher.

Meanwhile, his thriving Canadian club, with its Alou bloodlines and Canadian clean-up, is making its way to the Series.

----------------------------------------------------------------- RESULTS AND STANDINGS -----------------------------------------------------------------

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Cleveland Indians 4 Toronto Blue Jays 2 (1st game); Toronto Blue Jays 6 Cleveland Indians 2 (2nd game); Milwaukee Brewers 1 Boston Red Sox 0; Kansas City Royals 15 Baltimore Orioles 2; Seattle Mariners 8 Minnesota Twins 7; Oakland Athletics 5 California Angels 4; Detroit Tigers 6 Texas Rangers 0; Chicago White Sox 4 New York Yankees 2.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L Pct GB Toronto Blue Jays. . . . . . . . 69 49 .585 - Baltimore Orioles. . . . . . . . 66 52 .559 3 Milwaukee Brewers. . . . . . . . 63 64 .538 5 1/2 Detroit Tigers. . . . . . . . . .57 62 .479 12 1/2 Boston Red Sox. . . . . . . . . .54 64 .458 15 New York Yankees. . . . . . . . .53 64 .453 15 1/2 Cleveland Indians. . . . . . . . 53 65 .449 16 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Western Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L Pct GB Oakland Athletics. . . . . . . . 72 46 .610 - Minnesota Twins. . . . . . . . . 67 51 .568 5 Chicago White Sox. . . . . . . . 60 55 .522 10 1/2 Texas Rangers. . . . . . . . . . 59 62 .488 14 1/2 Kansas City Royals. . . . . . . .53 64 .453 18 1/2 California Angels. . . . . . . . 53 66 .445 19 1/2 Seattle Mariners. . . . . . . . .47 72 .395 25 1/2 -----------------------------------------------------------------

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Pittsburgh Pirates 4 Atlanta Braves 2; St Louis Cardinals 5 Montreal Expos 2; Cincinnati Reds 12 San Diego Padres 2; Chicago Cubs 1 Houston Astros 0; San Francisco Giants 2 Los Angeles Dodgers 1; Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets (postponed).

----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L Pct GB Pittsburgh Pirates. . . . . . . .66 51 .564 - Montreal Expos. . . . . . . . . .64 54 .542 2 1/2 Chicago Cubs. . . . . . . . . . .57 60 .487 9 St Louis Cardinals. . . . . . . .56 61 .474 10 1/2 New York Mets. . . . . . . . . . 52 63 .452 13 Philadelphia Phillies. . . . . . 49 67 .422 16 1/2 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Western Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L Pct GB Atlanta Braves. . . . . . . . . .70 45 .609 - Cincinnati Reds. . . . . . . . . 66 50 .569 4 1/2 San Diego Padres. . . . . . . . .64 54 .542 7 1/2 San Francisco Giants. . . . . . .56 61 .479 15 Houston Astros. . . . . . . . . .52 66 .441 19 1/2 Los Angeles Dodgers. . . . . . . 49 68 .419 22 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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