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JOURNÉE JACQUES DOUCET À GRANBY

Jacques Doucet Day in Granby – August 12, 2007

Article by BILL YOUNG (First Published in Sherbrooke Record, August 2007)  
Thomas Wolfe notwithstanding, there are times when you can go home again. Just ask Jacques Doucet. Doucet, the French-language radio voice of the Montreal Expos for all but three of the club’s 36 years, grew up in Granby. Earlier this month his boyhood home town threw a party in his honour. They called it Jacques Doucet Day and held it at the ball park, charming Stade Nap Fontaine whose 900 aluminum seats once belonged to Jarry Park. It was a glorious event.

Doucet is a broadcast icon in Quebec: his was the voice that brought the Expos to life in so many homes across the province, and beyond. The timbre of his rich baritone and his distinctively smooth delivery – not to mention his obvious delight in the game itself – never failed to draw the listener into the action. His signature home run call still rings true -“Elle est loin, elle est loin, elle est partie!

According to his peers, Doucet was a major force in shaping the francophone nature of baseball. He added significantly to the development of a distinct French-language baseball vocabulary and continues to encourage its popular use.

In 2004, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame awarded Doucet the Jack Graney Award for broadcast excellence. He has been a strong candidate for similar recognition by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

But on August 12 past, in what counts as much as anything, Doucet was feted by the folks with whom he grew up.

Jacques Doucet Day

Jacques Doucet day was sponsored by les Guerriers de Granby, the local baseball organization administering baseball activity in the city. One of its driving forces is Denis Cabana, spokesman for les Guerriers over the past 35 years. Well-known in the community, he is the man behind the microphone at the ball park. The idea of celebrating native son Doucet seemed to him an idea long overdue.

Doucet has been associated with baseball in Granby since 2002 when he was named honorary chairman of the Guerriers organization. He remains connected through his friendship with Cabana. “He’s my pal” says Cabaña.” He’s one heck of a nice guy.”

However, Doucet’s links to the city run deeper than that. His mother still resides there, as do boyhood friends, the Goulet brothers. In fact, Richard Goulet is now mayor of Granby.

Jacques Doucet day featured an Atom level championship game involving Granby and a team from Sherbrooke - which Granby won – and two junior matches. The Atom game was filmed, with Doucet providing play-by-play description and Cabana doing colour commentary. For a time it was available on the internet at http://www.journalsport.ca/

“It was so much fun to watch that game” said Doucet. “The little kids were great.”

Official ceremonies featured the handing out of trophies and words from various dignitaries, and Doucet. The highlight was a touching presentation to a young man, Dave Bernier. For many years he has been a faithful supporter of the Guerriers’ entry in the LSSEQ, Quebec’s elite senior league, helping out wherever he can.

Bernier’s efforts are deeply appreciated, especially as he labours under a disability that makes life something of a challenge for him. To acknowledge their gratitude the club gave him a team jersey signed by every player and Jacques Doucet. He loved it.

Throughout the afternoon fans had ready access to Doucet, seeking autographs, chatting and taking pictures. “Jacques had a great time,” said Cabana. “He loves meeting people. Others might think of him as a ‘vedette’ perhaps, but that is not his way.”

 

Jacques Doucet - broadcaster

Jacques Doucet came by his interest in baseball honestly. He still remembers the early days of the Provincial League when he and his father would spend Sundays at Granby’s old Laval Stadium, cheering on home-town heroes such as Joe Monteiro and Roger Bedard. The passion fostered by this experience has never left him. 

Doucet entered the workforce as a journalist and in his first few years was employed by several Montréal newspapers. By the late 1960s he had become a sports reporter at La Presse and was doing radio work on the side.

But then came May 27, 1968, and everything changed: Major League Baseball announced it had awarded a National League franchise to Montreal.

This was the moment Doucet had been waiting for. Even before the news had really sunk in, he was in the office of La Presse sports editor Gerard Champagne, exclaiming, “That job is mine. I want to cover the new baseball team.”

He was hired, launching a remarkable 36-year career. Doucet spent the first three seasons as the La Presse beat writer, until the broadcasting position opened up in 1971. He remained in the booth for the next 33-years, right up until October 3, 2004, at Shea Stadium in New York City, when the Expos played their last game ever.

“I am sure I have seen more Expos games than anybody,” Doucet says today. “Over the 36 years I doubt that I missed even as many as 25. At the most!”

Currently, he still keeps his professional hand in the mix. He handles home games on radio for the Capitales de Quebec, working from a broadcast facility set right in the middle of the stands. And this summer he was named official spokesman for the 2007 Baseball Canada Championships, which concluded recently in Quebec City.

“That was good baseball,” he notes. “Why, there were as many as 46 professional scouts accredited for this tournament, many affiliated with major league clubs. That tells you something about baseball in Canada and this province.”

Jacques Doucet is man of the people, a man whose avocation is to keep the wonder of baseball before the public. “He is very down to earth,” said Denis Cabana. “Maybe that is why he has been so successful all his life, why he was so loved in the world of baseball.”

When Doucet signed off as Expos broadcaster for the final time at Shea Stadium, he concluded his parting remarks with these words:

“I thank you all for being there…and if by chance our paths should ever cross – upon the street, within the shopping mall, or by the lakeside on a fishing trip – I will be honoured to reach out and shake your hand – proud baseball devotee, proud Expos fan.” 

As the good folks of Granby will tell you, he has kept his promise.