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Late actor Donald Sutherland was a quiet superfan of the Montreal Expos

FILE - Actor Donald Sutherland appears at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2017. Sutherland, the towering Canadian actor whose career spanned "M.A.S.H." to "The Hunger Games," has died at 88. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Well before the celebrity superfan became a trend in the sports world, Donald Sutherland was in on the ground floor with a casual style all his own.

The Canadian actor — who died Thursday at age 88 — was a big supporter of the Montreal Expos during their time in the National League.

“We knew he was a superfan, he was always seated on the third-base side of Olympic Stadium, just about 10 rows from the field,” said longtime sports writer and former Expos PR chief Richard Griffin.

“He made his movie schedule and he made his summer schedule around the Expos’ schedule.”

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Sutherland grew up in Nova Scotia and studied at the University of Toronto. He later attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to study acting.

Sutherland became a respected character actor and went on to appear in dozens of films, including “Ordinary People,” “Animal House” and “The Hunger Games.”

The Expos, meanwhile, arrived in 1969 as a Major League Baseball expansion franchise. Sutherland, who had a home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, gravitated to the team “immediately,” Griffin said.

“He had attained stardom by that time and (coupled) with his love of the game, it gave him the opportunity to be a low-key (supporter),” he said.

The actor had a yacht on the West Coast and would often take in the Expos’ California road swings through Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, Griffin said.

“He wanted to be behind the scenes,” Griffin said. “He didn’t want to be the story, he wanted to watch the story unfold.”

Serge Touchette covered the Expos for nearly 30 years for Le Journal de Montreal but never got the chance to talk to Sutherland.

“He didn’t want to be interviewed back then,” Touchette said via text message. “We tried many times but we struck out. Too bad because it would have been a great story.”

A high point for the Expos came in October 1981 when the team finally qualified for the postseason. Sutherland was there as Montreal edged the New York Mets 5-4 to secure a playoff berth after a strike-interrupted season.

“I think our travelling secretary had to drag Donald at Shea Stadium into the clubhouse,” Griffin recalled. “He didn’t want to be a part of the picture. So when people think about celebrity fans, they think about people trying to be a part of it. He never did.”

NBC cameras captured Sutherland in the crowd as Montreal played the Philadelphia Phillies on the network’s Game of the Week in May 1983.

“This is one of the biggest of all Expos fans: Donald Sutherland,” commentator Bob Costas said on the broadcast. “This is not the kind of celebrity who shows up at a World Series game and makes sure he gets a seat by the TV camera. This is a legitimate fan.”

For the club’s 20th anniversary in 1989, Sutherland — sporting a stylish coat and fedora for his standups outside Olympic Stadium — narrated a script that Griffin wrote for a highlight film project.

The actor oozed charisma as his deep pipes and smooth delivery provided warmth to the package.

“All he wanted (for it) was his same tickets — two tickets in the same spot — and we gave them to him for like four seasons. And that was it,” Griffin recalled. “Can you imagine, Donald Sutherland, the type of star power that he has, and he does a two-hour (narration) for two season tickets for four years? That’s crazy. But that was Donald.”

The Expos moved to Washington in 2005 and were renamed the Nationals. Sutherland also kept an eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, now the only Canadian team left in MLB.

In an interview last October to discuss a postage stamp that commemorated his career, he segued into talk about the Blue Jays’ elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

“Of course, my team is the Expos,” Sutherland said. “They’re gone.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB