2011 – Dave Van Horne and Jacques Doucet

Dave Van Horne

Jacques Doucet

By Richard Griffin, The Toronto Star

Back in May of 1968 baseball’s National League announced it was expanding from 10 teams to 12, granting as yet unnamed franchises to San Diego and Montreal. Baseball had finally emerged as a truly North American sport. By setting up an outpost north of the 49th parallel in La Belle Province, baseball was clearly taking a chance and rolling the dice on the sport’s future.

Baseball was moving forward and becoming the International Pastime. Oh sure there were sceptics that truly believed Canadians were not knowledgeable enough about baseball and likely never would be. Canada was, after all, a hockey nation, wasn’t it? However, in 1969 the fledgling National League Expos led by charismatic redheaded slugger Rusty Staub, nicknamed Le Grand Orange, took the city, the province and the country by storm.

Those that work in the sport know that a team’s message is forever moved forward and its image carved and enhanced, often finally deemed worthy of respect by its broadcast personalities. These guys see the team and are in the clubhouse on an everyday basis. As such, the two biggest ambassadors for the early Expos, trusted for both their strong opinions and undeniable knowledge of the game in those halcyon years before the Blue Jays joined the fun, were Dave Van Horne and Jacques Doucet.

Van Horne joined the Expos during the club’s first Spring Training and remained for 33 seasons, doing radio and television for an audience from coast-to-coast in Canada. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania Van Horne was broadcasting Richmond Braves games when he got the call from Expos’ president John McHale who had been with the Braves when they moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee. The choice was an inspired one. Van Horne’s voice became the voice of Canadian summer.

Van Horne worked in the booth with Hall-of-Famers Don Drysdale, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese, as well as Ken Singleton and Tommy Hutton at various times. His signature home run call of “Up, Up and Away” for an Expos home run became his calling card, while his spectacular wrapup of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against the Dodgers as the game-ending fly ball settled into Marquis Grissom’s glove, “El Presidente, el Perfecto” stands as undeniably one of the most perfect calls by any baseball broadcaster in history.

Doucet began covering the Expos for La Presse, a French-language daily newspaper in Montreal. He was asked to join the Expos’ radio crew early on, filling in for Jean-Pierre Roy and taking the job full time in 1972. Doucet’s radio audience in Quebec was larger than the club’s English-language broadcasts reflecting the same relationship of the Dodgers Spanish crew led by Hall-of-Famer Jaime Jarrin to the legendary Vin Scully.

Doucet carried the message of the passionate Quebec fans around North America and spread the word that baseball was a thriving sport in Canada, well understood and appreciated by the local population. Doucet broadcast dozens of World Series for the Telemedia Network. The native of Montreal continued to broadcast Expos games on radio until the team departed for Washington after the 2004 season.

Dave Van Horne and Jacques Doucet … synonymous with the Expos … together 2011 recipients of the Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for Career Achievement.

Dave Van Horne’s career beyond the Expos took him to South Florida and the Marlins. He was honoured in 2011 with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting over his 40-plus years in the Majors.

“This obviously is the highest award a baseball broadcaster can receive so I am absolutely thrilled,” Van Horne said when informed of the Frick Award. “I am humbled and very excited. It’s been the professional highlight of my career.”