Will The Montreal Expos Live Again?
Gone are the days of baseball’s glory within the Montreal community. Everyone (especially Canadians) remembers the Montreal Expos, the first Major League Baseball franchise to set foot on Canadian territory. Coming to light in 1969, the Expos were named after the Expo ’67 World’s Fair and baseball in Montreal was an instant hit.
The team had a talented group of core players come and go throughout the years, including the likes of Gary Carter, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Raines, Larry Walker, and even Pedro Martinez. Throughout its history, Montreal was plagued by constant up-and-down seasons until the early 90’s when things started to come together. Perhaps the most infamous “plague” of the Expos came in 1994, when they sat atop the standings holding the best record in the Major Leagues… and then the whole world seemed to fall apart. The ’94 season was ultimately cut short because of the player’s strike, and after that major disappointment the Montreal fan base slowly began to whittle away as the Expos front office began shedding key players. The ultimate demise of baseball in Montreal came with the team’s sale to Jeffrey Loria who could not secure a plan to build a new ballpark for the club, as well as television broadcast deals. Eventually Loria, along with the approval of Major League Baseball, packed up and moved the team to Washington and renamed them the Washington Nationals, thus writing the final chapter for the Expos. From that point on, it has been nothing but nostalgia and old memorabilia for Montreal fans.
In recent times however, there has been a small but constant push to revitalize the baseball scene in Montreal. The face of this movement comes from former ballplayer Warren Cromartie, who was a favourite of Montreal Expos fans. He leads the Montreal Baseball Project, which aims to show that there is more than enough support to bring baseball back to Montreal through feasibility studies.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has gotten word of the Montreal Baseball Project as well as various other home-grown and national initiatives, and has said he’s been paying close attention to it and can see the dedication and belief these people show that baseball can once again work in Montreal. How much ground his statement actually holds is open to debate because it is important to remember that he is resigning after the 2014 season, but nonetheless it shows that everything Montreal is doing to secure a ball club again has not gone unnoticed. MLB also does not have any expansion plans at the moment, nor is anyone planning on getting up and shipping a team out of a city just yet. In light of this though, it really is nice to see the attention that the city is receiving.
Alongside the number of initiatives going on right now, Montreal actually has received a little bit of recognition from Major League Baseball recently. After the General Managers Winter Meetings ended on Thursday afternoon, Bug Selig acknowledged that two exhibition games will be taking place north of the border during the upcoming Spring Training. On March 28-29, the Toronto Blue Jays will take on the New York Mets as part of the pre-season schedule. Baseball – at least in some form – will return to Olympic Stadium, the former home of the Montreal Expos, once again.
The games will be the first major league face-off in Montreal since September 29, 2004 when the then Florida Marlins downed the Montreal Expos in their final MLB appearance with a final score of 9-1.