A great sportsman will leave us: “My dismissal by the Expos was more difficult than requesting medical assistance in dying”

A giant of Quebec sport is about to leave us. A man with whom I have shared a friendship for over 60 years. This man, a baseball fan, worked with the Montreal Royals and was one of the co-founders of the Friends of Baseball Club.

He played elite junior baseball and subsequently owned the Ville-Marie team. He had a successful career as a police officer for 21 years with the Sûreté du Québec.

As incredible as it may seem, he rubbed shoulders with the best players in baseball history as well as Canadian legends. In November 2018, he was inducted into the Baseball Quebec Hall of Fame as a builder.

Rusty Staub and Claude Lavoie, at the Olympic Stadium.

Photo ARCHIVES

This man is Claude Lavoie.

Last Sunday, I reached him by phone. I had just learned without his knowledge that his request for medical assistance in dying had been accepted. He constantly told me that he was calm with his decision to leave on May 30, and that his generalized cancer was making him suffer too much.

Incredible memories

We spoke by telephone with the journalist Serge Touchette, whom Claude considers a great friend. We laughed for over an hour reminiscing about the incredible memories we had during his time as the visitors’ locker room manager at Expos games.

An adventure which began at Jarry Park in 1971 and continued until 1993 at the Olympic Stadium.

I thought he was hospitalized, but to my surprise, I learned on Monday that he was still at home when I reached him.

He was preparing to leave the house with his daughter Danielle to head to a palliative care center.

I was amazed to see my friend leave his house, leaving behind the memories of his life without shedding a single tear. He was at peace with his decision.

“My dismissal by the Expos is more difficult than requesting medical assistance in dying”

Claude, what led you to be bitter towards the Expos?

“It’s simple, one of the reasons for my dismissal is linked to my behavior during the death of former Montreal Royals and Dodgers player Don Drysdale, who was also the commentator at Dodgers games. The great right-hander died suddenly following a cardiac arrest in Montreal. Drysdale’s family and the Dodgers organization asked me to liaise with a funeral home so that Don’s body could be returned safely to Los Angeles.


Photo Agence QMI, ARCHIVES

“Following my efforts, I was summoned to the Expos office. One of the managers, who I do not want to name, demanded that I pay the bill for the phone calls I made from the players’ locker room. I had no choice but to notify the Dodgers organization of the fate the Expos were putting me through. The president of the Californian team was furious.

“A few days later, the Dodgers refunded me the money I had to pay. It was the beginning of my destiny, which would lead to my dismissal. After being fired in February 1994, the man who ended my career offered me another job. He wanted me to take care of the maintenance of the Expos locker room without having any contact with the players. Without hesitation, I refused his offer.”

“Also, a few weeks after my dismissal, some players joined forces to give me a large sum of money to thank me for what I had done for them.”


SPO-CLAUDE LAVOIE

In the photo, we see Monique, the wife of Claude Lavoie, Gary Carter and Claude Lavoie who told me that he was very sad knowing that in a few days he would no longer be able to wake up with his children Danielle and Pierre that he loves so much. He is proud of his grandchildren and his great-grandchild. However, he is eager to join his late son, Claude fils, in Heaven.

Photo provided by LA FAMILLE LAVOIE

A long pause followed, because Claude was crying his eyes out, he was so saddened. He couldn’t stop crying when he told me:

“The Expos were my family. I didn’t deserve what they did to me. The Expos put me through an ordeal more sad and heartbreaking than having accepted medical assistance in dying. Thank you to all my friends and I hope that one day you will experience the return of the Expos.”

Maurice Richard already told him to wake up

Legendary coach Toe Blake, who won the Stanley Cup eight times behind the Canadiens bench, was Claude Lavoie’s assistant coach when he led the Former Canadiens in two friendlies against the former Maple Leafs at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens.

Claude still remembers Toe Blake’s piercing look when he thought he hadn’t made the right line changes.

Also, when the team captain, Jean Béliveau, leaned over and whispered softly in his ear that maybe he should use a certain player more often.


SPO-CLAUDE LAVOIE

Claude Lavoie, seen with former Canadian captain Jean Béliveau, considers this moment to be the most precious of his sporting career. Jean Béliveau presented him with the trophy for winning the Canadian-Maple Leafs challenge as head coach of the Anciens Canadiens. Even today Claude is very emotional when he thinks that he directed Maurice Richard, Jean Béliveau, Henri Richard and Guy Lafleur, whom he will join in a few days in Heaven.

Photo provided by LA FAMILLE LAVOIE

He was even more intimidated when the game referee, the great Canadian legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard, walked past the bench and told him to wake up, because the Canadian had to win this game against the Leafs.

Ultimately, the Old Canadians won both games.


SPO-CLAUDE LAVOIE

Photo provided by LA FAMILLE LAVOIE

He experienced the October crisis up close

Claude Lavoie was part of the Sûreté du Québec for 21 years. At the end of his career, he was one of five media relations officers within the SQ. October was a tragic month in the life of Claude Lavoie. On October 7, 1969, his best friend, Corporal Robert Dumas of the SQ, was killed during a demonstration in front of the Murray Hill bus garages. He had to organize his funeral.

The following year, on October 5, 1970, the October Crisis began with the kidnapping by the FLQ of the commercial attaché of the Consulate General of the United Kingdom in Montreal, James Richard Cross.

Claude Lavoie’s task was to transmit police information to the media. On October 10, 1970, provincial Minister of Labor Pierre Laporte was kidnapped. The War Measures Act is put in place.

As part of his work, he was present when the body of Pierre Laporte, who had been murdered, was discovered in a car suitcase. The following year, Claude joined the Expos as manager of the visitors’ locker room during games at Jarry Park.

Equipment attendant for 100 Temple members

Claude Lavoie began his career in professional baseball in 1955, as a batting attendant with the Montreal Royals. In 1958, he was the equipment man on the team of former Canadian defenseman Émile Bouchard, who had won the International League championship with players such as Tommy Lasorda and Sparky Anderson.

Both became managers in major league baseball and were later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Throughout his career, Claude Lavoie has been responsible for the equipment of more than 100 players who are members of the Temple. The Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Tom Seaver and Hank Aaron were excellent players, but also exceptional human beings.

In 1975, he welcomed his favorite player, who also became his great friend, Gary Carter, as well as other players including Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, into the locker room of the opposing team’s players at Jarry Park. and Larry Parrish. The talented young players participated in the evaluation camp for future Expos stars.


SPO-CLAUDE LAVOIE

Photo Agence QMI, ARCHIVES

Last but not least is a Quebec pitcher, Claude Raymond, a dear friend.

Once he arrives in Heaven in the coming days, Claude wants to bring together a group of players who will form a team for eternity.

This time, instead of being their locker room attendant, he might want to manage the team.

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