Montréal Expos

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The Montréal Expos were a Major League Baseball team located in Montréal, Quebec, Canada from 1969 to 2004. After the 2004 season, the franchise relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. The Nationals retain all the Expos records, contracts, spring training sites and minor league affiliates.

Franchise history

Founded: 1969 (Expansion Team)
Relocated: 2005 (to Washington, D.C.)

Jarry Park, Montréal (1969–1976)
Olympic Stadium, Montréal (1977–2004)

Uniform Colors: Red, white and blue
Logo Design: A stylized red E for Expos, an L for le bleu, and a B for baseball, which forms an M for Montréal.
Mascot: Youppi
Theme Song: Les Expos sont là by Marc Gélinas
Division Titles Won: 1981, 1994** (unofficial; led division at time of strike)
National League Championships: None
World Series Championships: None
Geographical Rival: Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies

Creation of the franchise

In 1960, Montréal lost its International League team, the Montréal Royals (an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers). The move to get a new team for the city was led by Montréal mayor Jean Drapeau and councilman Jerry Snyder of Snowdon. They worked to create the Expos in conjunction with Montréal's 1967 World's Fair, Expo 67 (hence the team name). The first owner was Charles Bronfman of the Seagrams' whisky empire.

The Expos debuted in the Major Leagues in 1969, two years after Expo 67. This marked the first time in its long history that MLB expanded outside the United States.

Social impact of the Expos

Quebec was a deeply Catholic, agrarian society. In the 1960s, socio-economic changes under the Quiet Revolution saw massive social upheavals and improvement of the status of French Canadians. The arrival of Expo 67, the new Metro subway and the Expos allowed Montréal and Quebec to see itself as international and "major league." This search for a "Quebecois" movement later came into fruition as the separatist movement.

In 1977, Toronto received its own MLB franchise, the Blue Jays. In 1978, a national title between the Expos and the Blue Jays, called the Pearson Cup (after Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson), was created. This was meant to be Canada's "baseball cup" and a fundraiser for amateur baseball in Canada. Pearson Cup games were played from 1978 to 1986; each team won three times, and there were two ties.

In 1997, MLB revived this rivalry as part of interleague play.

The team

The Montréal Expos franchise joined the National League in 1969, along with the San Diego Padres. Their home stadium was Jarry Park. The Expos suffered through 10 straight losing seasons under their first manager, Gene Mauch (19691975) and three other managers (including a 52–110 debut season in 1969, tying the Padres for the majors' worst record that year). In 1979 they posted their first winning record with a 95–65 record, under manager Dick Williams. They would post five consecutive winning seasons, and reach their only post season in the split season of 1981. In the 1981 playoffs, the Expos defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3–2 in the divisional series, but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3–2 in the National League Championship Series. Montréal was led through these years by a core group of young players, including catcher Gary Carter, outfielders Tim Raines and Andre Dawson, third baseman Larry Parrish and pitchers Steve Rogers and Bill Gullickson.

The Expos had several mediocre years in the mid 1980s under manager Buck Rodgers, but rebuilt and under manager Felipe Alou, who took the position midway through the 1992 season, finished second in the National League East in both 1992 and 1993.

The 1994 season: hope and disappointment

1994 proved to be heart-breaking for the Expos. With a very talented group of players, including outfielders Larry Walker, Moisés Alou and Marquis Grissom and pitchers Ken Hill, John Wetteland and a young Pedro Martínez, the Expos had the best record in Major League Baseball, 74–40 when the players' strike forced the end of the season on August 12, 1994. They were six games ahead of the second place Braves and were on pace to win 105 games. (The New York Yankees had the second-best record in the majors, at 70–44.)

The strike hurt the team's campaigns for a new stadium, and a local conglomerate failed to invest the necessary funds making it impossible for ownership (such as Jean Coutu and Stephen Bronfman) to retain the talented players on the team. Coutu and Bronfman had the resources to buy the team outright and also build new a "retro" stadium downtown. (Mitch Melnick, CKGM Team 990 and Pat Hickey, Montréal Gazette). This conglomerate unsuccessfully launched a lawsuit against Major League Baseball years later.

In 1995, led by Claude Brochu and Jacques Ménard, general manager at the time Kevine Malone was ordered to release its major stars. Many of the leading players said in retrospect that they were willing to take pay-cuts in order to return in 1995 and compete once again for the World Series. On ESPN, Larry Walker, asked rhetorically, "I was willing to take a cut to keep the team together, but I was never offered a contract. Where did the money go? We may never know." This major overhaul proved to be damaging to the franchise and its temperamental fan base.

The final decade

After 1994, the Expos lost most of their star players through free agency and trades, and produced poor records nearly every season, except for a second place finish in 1996 and a few respectable seasons in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the Expos were 67–95 after losing superstar Vladimir Guerrero to free agency during the previous off-season.

Montréal is often cited as an example of a small-market team, unable to compete with teams in bigger markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and therefore no longer a viable competitor. Jeffrey Loria, the last owner prior to the team's purchase by Major League Baseball, made some personnel moves, however the future of the franchise in Montréal never appeared strong. Attendance in the 2001 season was usually fewer than 10,000 people. On November 7, 2001, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that major league baseball would undergo a contraction of two teams, after a 28–2 vote by the owners. Montréal was one of the dissenting franchises.

On February 14, 2002, after a 30–0 vote, Major League Baseball formed a Delaware partnership (Expos Baseball, LP) to buy the Expos for US$120,000,000 with the intent of eliminating the franchise along with the Minnesota Twins. When legal maneuvers prevented the Twins from being shuttered, a collective bargaining agreement followed between MLB and its players association which prohibited "contraction" through 2006, so the Expos survived. Major League Baseball named Frank Robinson manager and Omar Minaya as vice-president and general manager.

In 2003, the team played 22 of its home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, despite having the highest percentage attendance increase in 2002 (from 7,935 per game to 10,025) and placing second in the National League East. Despite being a considerably smaller facility (it seats approximately 19,000) than Montréal's Olympic Stadium, San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium regularly outdrew the attendance in Montréal. Thanks in part to the San Juan games, the Expos were able to draw over a million fans at home in 2003 for the first time since 1998.

Led by Vladimir Guerrero, the 2003 Expos were part of a spirited seven-team Wild Card hunt as late as August 28. However, MLB led by Bud Selig, in what ESPN's Peter Gammons called "a conflict of interest", decided that it could not afford an extra $50,000 to call-up players from its minor leagues. The budget was some $35 million dollars. All teams have this right around the end of August. This doomed any hopes of reviving the franchise. Omar Minaya, the General Manager later said, "Baseball handed down a decree.” They would not be allowed to call up players from the minors on Sept. 1 like every other team in the game, as it was deemed too expensive. They would have to make do with what they had. The heart went out of the Expos that day. "It was a message to the players," Minaya said. "It was a momentum killer." He also stated:

They're a tough group of guys. You cannot ever forget 2003; they were as good as the Marlins, who won the World Series. But nobody knows this because nobody saw Montréal in 2003. What killed us was not getting the call-ups.[1]

Orlando Cabrera, who had been the Expos' shortstop, cited that development as a reason he didn't want to remain with the team. [2]

Fan attendance dropped off, and the Expos went 12–15, finishing eight games out of the Wild Card.

The Players' Union initially rejected continuing the San Juan arrangement for the 2004 season, but later relented. Meanwhile, MLB actively looked for a relocation site. Some of the choices included Washington D.C., San Juan, Monterrey, Mexico, Portland, Oregon, Northern Virginia, and Norfolk, Virginia. In the decision-making process, Selig added Las Vegas, Nevada to the list of potential Expos homes.

On September 29, 2004, MLB officially announced that the Expos franchise would move to Washington, D.C. in 2005. The move was approved by the owners of the other teams in a 29–1 vote on December 3 (Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos cast the sole nay vote). On November 15, 2004, a lawsuit by the former team owners against MLB and former majority owner Jeffrey Loria was struck down by arbitrators, ending legal moves to keep the Expos in Montréal.

For the history of the franchise after its move to Washington, see Washington Nationals.

Historic games

  • On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit a three-run home run and two-run triple that highlighted an 8–7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Expos' first home victory as a franchise at Jarry Park. Jones' blast was also the first MLB home run hit outside the United States.
  • Three days later, on April 17, in just the franchise's ninth game in existence, Bill Stoneman pitched a 7–0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.
  • On October 2, 1972, Stoneman pitched his second career no-hitter (the final score of this one was also 7–0) in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. The no-hitter was the first ever pitched outside the United States.
  • On July 13, 1982, the All-Star Game moved across the border and was played in Montréal's Olympic Stadium. It was the first Midsummer Classic ever to be held outside of the United States. The National league won 4–1 before a crowd of 59 057. Steve Rogers was the winning pitcher and Dennis Eckersley took the loss. Dave Concepcion was named MVP. Five players represented the Expos on the National League squad: Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Al Oliver.
  • On July 28, 1991, In a 2–0 victory, Dennis Martinez pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
  • On September 29, 2004, hours after the announcement of the impending move to Washington, the Expos played their final game in Montréal, a 9–1 loss to the Florida Marlins before 31,395 fans at Olympic Stadium.
  • On October 2, 2004, the Expos win their last game in franchise history, defeating the New York Mets 6–3. Brad Wilkerson hit the last home run in Expos history in the 9th inning, his 32nd of the year.
  • On October 3, 2004, the New York Mets defeated Montréal 8–1 at Shea Stadium, in the final game the franchise existed as the Montréal Expos. Jamey Carroll scored the last Expos run and Endy Chavez became the final Expo batter in history when he singled out in the top of the ninth to end the game. Ironically, it was at Shea Stadium where the Expos played their first ever game in 1969.

Players of note

Baseball Hall of Famers

Not to be forgotten

* Manager

Retired numbers

File:4442 3.jpg
The Montréal Canadiens honored the Expos with a commemorative banner in 2005.

Note: The Washington Nationals did not retain these numbers as retired after the franchise moved in 2004. On October 18, 2005, the Montréal Canadiens honored the departed team by raising an Expos commemorative banner, which lists the retired numbers, to the rafters of the Bell Centre.

Some notable broadcasters

  • Jacques Doucet (1969–2004)
  • Dave Van Horne (1969–2000) - continued with the Florida Marlins
  • Duke Snider (1973–1986)
  • Tommy Hutton 1982–1986
  • Don Drysdale (1970–1971)
  • Gary Carter (1997–1999)
  • Elliot Price (2001–2004) - could not continue as radio broadcaster when the team moved to Washington, D.C., because allegedly immigration and visa issues prevented him coming to the United States. He now works for the TEAM 990, a Montréal sports radio station.
File:Au revoir.jpg
An Expos jersey and cap lain in tribute

External links

  • La Defense de Montréal - Voros McCracken's notes on the meddling by ownership and Major League Baseball that killed the Expos in Montréal.
  • 1985 Expos - Radio highlights from the 1985 season on AM-60, including "The Heat is On" Expos-mix.
  • Encore Baseball Montréal- Encore Baseball Montréal is a non-profit organization that aims to be the voice of baseball fans in order to keep up the interest in baseball in the province of Quebec
  • - Valderi-Valdera! Les Expos Sont Là! It's Up, Up, & Away! A site dedicated to the history of the Montréal Expos. See every day in Expos history, including scores/box scores, day-to-day standings, transactions and more.

de:Expos de Montréal es:Montréal Expos fr:Expos de Montréal