The bugle sounds, and resounds, but no one yells "charge."
There is only an undifferentiated roar.
"I asked my French teacher about that," said Norma Williams, wife of Dick Williams, the ex-Expo manager. "They don't say charge because it doesn't mean the same thing in French."
Montreal is in an undifferentiated uproar about Les Expos. They flash the words to "Take Me Out to The Ballgame" on the screen but they aren't singing that song.
They're singing "The Happy Wanderer."
"You know," said Warren Cromartie, stretching out his baritone. "Fol-der-eee, Fol-der-aaa, fol-der-eee, fol-der-ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ah, ah."
It is the unmistakable cadence of the first Gallic pennant race.
Expo Fever: catch it and freeze.
"Sports play an important part in the social fabric of Canada," said team owner Charles Bronfman, solemnly. "Our country is so huge, so disperse, so sparsely populated -- the trade routes go north-south, not east-west -- there's not a whole many things about which we can talk to each other.
"We're one of the few democracies not born out of war. We've never had the bomb, and little of the responsibilities of world leadership. We keep trying to find ourselves. Sports becomes something around which we can gather, not out of fear of the enemy but of love and kinship."
In their 13th season -- "our bar mitzvah year," Bronfman calls it -- the Expos have survived a rite of passage. Today you are a man. Yesterday, the Montreal Canadiens, the hockey team, were on Page 4 of the sports section.
The day before, 200 fans showed up at the airport at 7 a.m. to greet "Nos Amours" (our loves) when they returned from the coast with a split against the Dodgers; 10,000 greeted the return from New York two weeks ago with the split season championship.
"It's not like, it's love," Bronfman says.
"Latins are supposed to be great lovers," said Dick Williams. "They get more emotional that way. It carries over to baseball."
Olympic Stadium is known as the Big O, the land of the Standing O. One day soon, someone will get a standing O for kneeling in the on-deck circle. "The last time I cried here, was when Larry Parrish (who had been slumping and hearing about it) got a single and a three-minute ovation," Bronfman said. "They had a guilt trip about it. They were saying, 'Larry, we didn't mean it.' "
"My favorite story about that was a couple of years ago, when (Jose) Morales set a pinch-hitting record for 25 in a season," said Logue MacDonald, who has had season tickets since 1969. "It was one of the last games in Jarry Park and he sets the record with a double. Of course, he got a standing ovation, though there were only 8,000 people in the park. He turned to center to doff his cap and no one was there. They had closed down the center field seats."
The new place resembles a concrete eggshell with a hole on top. "Nice for sea urchins," said Bill Lee. "They always cheer late. There's a three-second delay, 'cause the stadium's too big. If they cheered at the speed of light, they'd be on time."
"The fans are flamboyant," Cromartie said. "We are underdoggish . . . We don't go loudening (popping off) in the papers."
Especially not Andre Dawson (.302, 24 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 1981). He has never gotten (or begged for) recognition, and, perhaps, as a consequence, does not have it for those in the media, who could give it to him. No media gourmet, Dawson gently referred to Roger Angell, 61, the chronicler of the sport for the New Yorker, as "that nice, young man."
Dawson was asked where would he rather play, Montreal or New York? "If I had to look at it financially, you've got double taxation here. Half your paycheck is taken away. You don't get the publicity and the prestige. But I've grown accustomed to the organization. I like the city, the fans, Montreal, period." Partly, he says, that's because Montreal is particularly gracious to black athletes. "We've been treated real well," he said. "You don't find any prejudice."
Expos' fans bristle that they possess a certain baseball naivete. Jackie Robinson broke the color line here, they remind you, for the Montreal Royals (the Dodgers' farm team) in 1946.
The new generation of fans is enthused if not always expert.
They no longer 'ooh' and 'ah' at pop flies to the second baseman, but "they do have their little mental lapses," Cromartie said. On Friday night, with two outs, and Dave Lopes on first -- running with the pitch -- Ken Landreaux struck out looking. The fans, busy watching Lopes go to third, could not understand the Expos leaving the field. "Mais alors. Qu'est qui se passe?" (loosely translated: what's going on out here?)
They are known for their highs and lows -- in this weather, mostly their highs. "They come prepared," Cromartie said. "Rum, cognac, Courvoisier," and thermos bottles filled with coffee and Seagrams. What else in the house of Bronfman, the Seagrams magnate.
"Beer is very difficult when it's below 50 degrees," said MacDonald, an original Expo fan. "It goes right through you."
Still, the beer garden in the rotunda does a brisk business before the game. People mill and swill, and sway to Strauss waltzes, courtesy of the Bavaroise Carlsbury: five men in lederhosen, with an accordian, a trumpet, a sax, a tuba and a drum.
The difference between the Dodgers and the Expos is the difference between Don Rickles and Donald Sutherland, the actor.
Sutherland wears an Expo patch on the cast of his broken arm and a peanut pin that says, "I'm a nut about baseball."
In 1979, he began sending a good-luck telegram before every game, and had a special Montreal telephone number arranged so he could plug into Expos' broadcasts. On Sept. 14, he joined the team full time. They are 21-11 with him; glamorless without him. He declines interviews on his obsession, not wanting to "rip off" the team and the game, he says.
He is a Canadian who went Hollywood (rooting for the Dodgers, horrors) and had a conversion experience three years ago (in the vanguard of his countrymen who have followed suit.)
The reason? "Guilt," he said.