Baseball | When Pepe Mangual became the word of love

Name a forgotten player in Expos history.

Posted at 7:45 p.m.

Posting this message on Twitter recently, I didn’t expect to receive too many responses. Over 800. Many names have impressed me as a Proust madeleine. Casey Candaele, Archi Cianfrocco and Pascual Perez reminded me of the smell of Olympic Stadium hotdogs. Razor Shines, Spike Owen and Rowland Office change the taste of bubblegum with O-Pee-Chee card packs. Trace Coquillette, Peter Bergeron and Chris Widger took me back to my early years in sports coverage at The Press.

Within a few days, I also found a lot of exotic names that were fun. Coco Laboy. Boots Day. Bombo Rivera. John Boccabellaaaaaaa. Then the wave calmed down. When I thought the Twitter algorithm was swallowing up the conversation for good, Olivier Racette sent me the most amazing response of all.

“Pepe Mangual, whose face I tattooed on my left arm. »


An Expos logo tattoo? OK ra.

With Vladimir Guerrero? It will go.

From Youppi! ? Finally, I understand.

But with Pepe Mangual? At first I thought it was just a joke. Mangual is not a star or even a key player in the Expos. He remained here for five seasons, from 1972 to 1976. Four in a reserve role. One as holder. His pace was fast. He’s hit hard in the minor leagues – but not in the majors. The only time he played more than 70 Expos games, he was the fourth-most strikeout batter in the entire National League. On defense, he was one of the worst outfielder, with nine errors.

But that was not a hoax. The tattoo is available. It covers about twenty centimeters, on the left biceps of Olivier Racette. We recognized the face of Pepe Mangual, who was wearing a beautiful Expos tricolor cap. “The joke, Olivier explains, is that he lowered his arm, so I was born eight years after he left the Expos. I didn’t see him play!»


Olivier Racette proudly displayed her Pepe Mangual tattoo.

So how did the face of the unknown reservist become permanent on his skin?

It is above all a family story. That of Racettes. Here, we have been supporters of Canadiens for many generations. Olivier’s great-grandfather was a die-hard Howie Morenz fan. His grandfather, Maurice Richard. “I’m, from Guy Lafleur,” said his father, Richard.

And Expos?

Okay ra. Medium.

“In the 1970’s, I went there from time to time,” says Richard Racette. I enjoy baseball, not being a huge fan. But I like Latin American players. I think their names seem so cute. Coco Laboy is so beautiful. Pepe Mangual is very beautiful. »

When Olivier was born in 1984, Richard was looking for a little love name for him. My Chick? My kitten? Gougoune? No. The one that came to my mind, all of a sudden, was… Pepe Mangual.

“Why? I don’t know. He’s not a player I admire. It would have been hard, because he hardly ever plays anymore. [rires]. I think I just like his name. »

It became Olivier’s common nickname. “When it was time for dinner, my father would say, ‘Pepe Mangual, hurry up and eat.’ I am young. I am laughing. I have never thought about the origin of the name. »

She discovered this at the age of 16, when her father Pepe Mangual called her in front of a man who had come to have dinner at home. “You said Pepe Mangual? “The visitor was launched by his host.

“Yes. »

Young Olivier took the jumping ball and threw the man back.

“What does that mean, Pepe Mangual?

– Well there! He used to be an Expos player! »

Ah! So! The mystery is solved.


Pepe Mangual with Expos in 1973

For the next two decades, Olivier Racette somewhat forgot this story of Pepe Mangual. Until five years ago, his brother Simon posted a photo of the outfielder in Expos uniform on his Facebook wall.

“This could be my next tattoo,” Olivier replied, sneering.

“You’re not a game.”

“No. Honestly, I’m not a gamer.»

Except that after reflection, hurt by the challenge, Olivier changed his mind. The pain did not frighten him. She already has CH letters tattooed, to emphasize her love of Canadians. At heart. Literally. He asked his tattoo artist to draw the outline of Pepe Mangual, with a tricolor cap, on his arm. Proud of the result, he showed the tattoo to his father.

“How did he react?

– Hmmm. My father was a man of his generation. Not always comfortable with how he felt. As far as I can remember, he didn’t say anything. He just smiled, as if to say: “So you and your brother are very stupid” [rires]. Sure a tattoo of an Expos player, it’s not really his style. But I think inside him, he was touched. »

Richard later confirmed this to me: “Yes, I am very happy. I thought it was a nice sign of affection. »

“Sport, Olivier explained, is the constant connection between my brother, my father and me. I remember very well when we watched the Canadiens games together on television, on Saturday night, in our brown basement in Repentigny.After his divorce, my father moved to the Laurentians.I don’t see him much anymore.But I like to go back and forth in the car.We talked about music, movies, and a lot of games.Especially hockey. »

Today, Olivier is particularly interested in the Canadiens and the Minnesota Vikings. He proudly wore a tattoo of wide receiver Randy Moss, pulling up his pants after a touchdown against the Green Bay Packets. “My sons and I are now a little different in the sport,” Richard said. You see, basketball is not my business. But we still had a good conversation. Because sport, after all, remains a breeding ground for communication. »

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