Steve Rogers was a 4-F civilian who hated the Nazis so much that he was willing to became a human subject for the Super Soldier Serum, eventually transforming into Captain America. Steve Rogers is also a man from Jackson City, Missouri, who, ironically, played his entire career with the Montreal Expos of Not-America. He is also the only Steve Rogers to ever grace a Major League box score. With tonight’s midnight release of Captain America, I thought it would make sense to take a look back at the baseball version’s career, one that shares some startling similarities with the First Avenger.
Despite twice leading the league in losses, 1974 and 1976, and upsetting his manager, Dick Williams, for not being a big game pitcher, Rogers actually had a pretty spectacular career. In 13 seasons, the longest tenure for any player who spent their entire career with les Expos, Rogers won 158 games while posting a 3.17 ERA, good enough for a career ERA+ of 116. While averaging 244 innings per season, Rogers ended up leading the league in ERA, ERA+, and complete games once, shutouts twice, and was elected to five separate All-Star games. Perhaps it was Rogers’ depressive appearance on the mound, as he would stare at the baseball like “Hamlet with Yorick’s head,” that rubbed Williams the wrong way. And while small sample size caveats apply, Rogers went 3-1 with a 0.98 ERA in four postseason games (3 GS, 2 CG). Williams is entitled to his opinions, but the information indicates that he was wrong. Before arm injuries ended Rogers career, he was a fine choice to run onto the mound at any time.
Unfortunately, it’s his lone postseason relief appearance that is Rogers’ legacy. Just as Captain America must continuously relive Bucky’s fiery death atop a rocket, so too must the baseball playing version have his own rocket related memory. With the score tied at one in the 1981 NLCS, Rogers was brought on to pitch the top of the ninth inning. With two outs, Rick Monday stepped to the plate. On a 3-1 pitch, Monday took Rogers’ offering and blasted the ball over the fence, ending the Expos season. Is Rick Monday an anagram for Captain America’s arch nemesis, the Red Skull? No, it’s not. But their first names both begin with R’s. Coincidence? You decide.
And just as good ole Cap is known for hurling his signature shield, Rogers was also known for his bizarre delivery that was described by Sports Illustrated’s Ron Fimrite as “so unorthodox that it offends the sensibilities of pitching purists.” Unfortunately, the the only footage available online comes from Rick Monday’s home run, now known as Blue Monday, the day that lives in infamy for the 3,000 remaining Expo fans.
After retiring, Rogers, who was the union rep for the Expos during his playing days, began working for the Major League Baseball Players Association. With daring aplomb, Rogers performs heroic acts of admin work, approving health care claims and fighting pension battles. And in the 21st Century, isn’t that the definition of a real hero? It’s either that or having a drinking glass with your own face on it.
You can have your Steve Rogers, Sentinel of Liberty, but I’ll take mine: Capitaine Expo, I salute you.
(Image lovingly cobbled together by MarissaMoogs. And for those interested in more Captain America and baseball related pieces, I scanned a few pages of Captain America playing baseball on the Fourth of July. They can be found here, here, and here)