"Expos" redirects here. For the reggae band, see The Expos
Immediately after the minor league Triple-AMontreal Royals
folded in 1960, political leaders in Montreal sought an MLB franchise, and when the National League
evaluated expansion candidates for the 1969 season
, it awarded a team to Montreal. Named after the Expo 67World's Fair
, the Expos originally played at Jarry Park Stadium
before moving to Olympic Stadium
in 1977. The Expos failed to post a winning record in any of their first ten seasons. The team won its only division title in the strike-shortened1981
season, but lost the 1981 National League Championship Series
(NLCS) to the Los Angeles Dodgers
. The team was sold in 1991 by its majority, founding owner, Charles Bronfman
, to a consortium headed by Claude Brochu
. Felipe Alou
was promoted to the team's field manager in 1992, becoming MLB's first Dominican-born manager. He led the team to four winning seasons, including 1994
, where the Expos had the best record in baseball before a players' strike
ended the season. Alou became the Expos leader in games managed (1,409).
The aftermath of the 1994 strike initiated a downward spiral as the Expos chose to sell off their best players, and attendance and interest in the team declined. Following a failed attempt to disband the Expos
, Major League Baseball purchased the team prior to the 2002 season after the club failed to secure funding for a new ballpark. In their final two seasons, the team played 22 home games each year at Hiram Bithorn Stadium
in San Juan, Puerto Rico
. On September 29, 2004, MLB announced the franchise would relocate to Washington, D.C. for the 2005
and the Expos played their final home game in Montreal.
The Expos posted an all-time record of 2,753 wins, 2,943 losses and 4 ties during their 36 years in Montreal. Vladimir Guerrero
led the franchise in both home runs
and batting average
, and Steve Rogers
. Three pitchers threw four no-hitters
: Bill Stoneman
(twice), Charlie Lea
, and Dennis Martínez
, who pitched the 13th official perfect game
in Major League Baseball history. The Expos retired four numbers in Montreal, and nine former members have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame
, with Gary Carter
, Andre Dawson
and Tim Raines
' plaques depicting them with Expos caps.
Professional baseball in Montreal dates back to 1890 when teams briefly played in the International Association
. A second attempt at hosting a pro team failed in 1895. The Montreal Royals
of the Eastern League
were subsequently founded in 1897 and played 20 seasons.
The Royals were revived in 1928 and were purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers
in 1939 to serve as one of their Triple-A
Under Dodgers' management, the Royals won seven International League championships and three Junior World Series
titles between 1941 and 1958.
In 1946, Jackie Robinson
joined the Royals and led the team to a Junior World Series title in advance of his breaking baseball's colour barrier
one year later.
By the late 1950s, the Royals' championship years were past, and faced with declining attendance, the team was sold and relocated following the 1960 season as the Dodgers reduced the number of teams they maintained at the AAA level.
Almost immediately upon the Royals' demise, Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau
and city executive committee chairman Gerry Snyder began their campaign for a Major League Baseball
The city, which had previously been considered a leading candidate to acquire the St. Louis Browns
if the team had relocated in 1933,
was too late to submit its candidacy for a team as part of the National League
's (NL) 1962 expansion but presented its bid to the league's owners at the winter meetings in 1967.
Aiding Montreal's bid was the fact that Walter O'Malley
, who owned the Dodgers and formerly oversaw the Montreal Royals, was the chairman of the NL's expansion committee.
On May 27, 1968, National League president Warren Giles
announced the league would add expansion teams in San Diego
and Montreal at a cost of US$10 million each.
With the franchise secured, Snyder built an ownership group of six partners led by financier Jean-Louis Lévesque
heir Charles Bronfman
. Lévesque was originally tapped as chairman and the public face of the ownership group since he was a francophone. However, he bowed out, and Bronfman took over as chairman.
The new group was faced with the immediate problem of finding a suitable facility in which to play for at least two years.
Drapeau had promised the NL that a domed stadium–thought to be a must due to Montreal's cold weather in April, October and sometimes September–would be built by 1971.
However, Snyder's successor as executive committee chairman, Lucien Saulnier
, told Bronfman that Drapeau could not make such a guarantee on his own authority. As 1968 dragged on without movement from the city on a facility, Bronfman and his group threatened to walk away. While they had more than enough money between them to pay the first installment of the expansion fee, they wanted assurances that a park would be built before proceeding any further with the effort. Delorimier Stadium
, which hosted the Royals, was rejected even as a temporary facility; it could not be expanded beyond its 20,000-seat capacity because it was in a residential area. The Autostade
, home of the Canadian Football League
's Montreal Alouettes
, was ruled out due to the prohibitive cost of expanding it and adding a dome,
as well as doubts that the city even had the right to make the needed renovations to the federally-owned facility.
By August 1968, the NL owners had grown increasingly concerned about the unresolved stadium question, putting the franchise's future in doubt. There were rumours of awarding the franchise to Buffalo, New York
instead, whose War Memorial Stadium
was ready to host a team.
League president Warren Giles
was reassured of Montreal's viability when shown a 3,000-seat community field in the centrally located Jarry Park
that Drapeau proposed expanding to 30,000 seats as a temporary home for the Expos, at a cost of over C$1 million.
Several options for a team name were considered: "Royals" was a popular option with fans in honour of the minor-league Royals, but the name had already been taken by the Kansas City Royals
. Other names considered included "Voyageurs" and "Nationals".
The team settled on "Expos", a name with the same spelling in French and English, in recognition of the recently concluded Expo 67 World's Fair
Less than a year after the city was awarded a team, the Expos took to the field to begin the 1969
Jarry Park years (1969–1976)
A game at Jarry Park, 1969
With Gene Mauch
as their inaugural manager, the Expos made their debut on April 8, 1969: an 11–10 victory over the New York Mets
at Shea Stadium
The team played its first home game—and the first Major League game outside the United States—on April 14; it was an 8–7 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals
before 29,184 fans at Jarry Park Stadium
Three days later, on April 17, in just the team's ninth game played in their history up to that point, Bill Stoneman
pitched the first no-hitter
in Expos history with a 7–0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies
The excitement of the early-season heroics quickly gave way to the realities of being an expansion team as the Expos struggled for much of their inaugural season.
Montreal tied their expansion cousins, the San Diego Padres
for the worst record in the NL with a record of 52–110.
The team fared little better in the following seasons; the Expos went 73–89 in 1970
and 71–90 in 1971
The team's best player, and first star, in its early seasons was Rusty Staub
. Acquired from the Houston Astros
in a trade prior to the Expos' inaugural season,
he led the Expos with 30 home runs in 1970 and, owing to his red hair, was nicknamed Le Grand Orange
Staub was Montreal's lone representative at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game
in the team's first three seasons, and endeared himself to the local fans by learning French.
Also popular was pitcher Claude Raymond
, who completed his Major League career with Montreal in 1972 and was the team's first French-Canadian star.
Pitcher Carl Morton
, who posted an 18–11 record in 1970, was the first player in franchise history to be named National League Rookie of the Year
Bill Stoneman threw his second no-hitter, and the first pitched outside the United States, in a 7–0 win over the Mets in Montreal on October 2, 1972.
The team failed to post a winning season in its first ten years and finished fifth or sixth in the six-team NL East eight times.
Attendance declined as the initial excitement of having a team wore off. It recovered briefly in 1973
as the Expos mounted an unsuccessful charge at the NL East pennant, before declining sharply in 1974
, attendance had dropped to just over 600,000 fans over the course of the season, less than half of what the Expos drew in their inaugural season.
The on-field performance was not the only concern for the Expos. Jarry Park was only intended to serve as a temporary home until 1971 at the latest.
Even allowing for this, it left much to be desired as a baseball venue. The grandstands were completely exposed to the elements, forcing the Expos to postpone a number of early-season games. Additionally, the sun set directly in the face of first basemen, forcing delays. Due to numerous delays and cost overruns with its intended replacement, Olympic Stadium
, the Expos were forced to stay in Jarry until 1976.
The team's future was also placed in doubt following an angry speech by Bronfman in which he threatened to relocate his family and the Seagram
company outside Quebec if the separatist Parti Québécois
(PQ) won a majority government in the 1976 Quebec election
The Parti Québécois did win the election; however, Bronfman and the Expos remained in Quebec.
The Big O and Blue Monday (1977–1981)
For the 1977
season, the Expos moved into their new ballpark, Olympic Stadium
, six years later than originally scheduled.
For a time in the 1976–77 offseason, however, it appeared that the Expos would have to play at least the early part of the season at Jarry Park due to delays in securing a lease for Olympic Stadium. The team broke off negotiations not long after the PQ's landslide victory in the 1976 provincial election. Negotiations dragged out through the winter, leading the Expos to begin selling 1977 season tickets under the assumption they would have to play at Jarry. However, an agreement was finally reached in early 1977.
A total of 57,592 fans attended Montreal's opening day
7–2 loss to Philadelphia.
The new facility was a significant upgrade, although weather-related issues created by Montreal's harsh climate persisted until the stadium's roof was installed in 1987. Over the years, the stadium became notorious for its poor playing conditions. Players were frequently at risk for injury due to thin padding on the outfield fences, as well as the original artificial turf
that remained in place for over two decades. Ultimately, the park became viewed as a white elephant
On the field, the Expos continued to fare poorly; the team won 75 games in 1977, and 76 in 1978
Though the losing seasons mounted, the Expos built a solid core of players, led by Gary Carter
, who went on to become one of baseball's best hitting catchers,
pitcher Steve Rogers
and outfielders Andre Dawson
and Tim Raines
They supplemented their young roster with veteran acquisitions such as future Hall of FamerTony Pérez
and in 1977, the Expos also hired Dick Williams
as the team's manager. Williams had developed a reputation for nurturing young talent; he had managed a young Boston Red Sox
team to the American League pennant in 1967
and the Oakland Athletics
to back-to-back World Series
titles in 1972 and 1973.
, Montreal had its first winning season in franchise history; in mid-July, the Expos led the NL East by 6.5 games,
before finishing second to the Pittsburgh Pirates
by two games with a 95–65 record.
The fans responded: Montreal drew two million fans for the first time in franchise history and it was the first of five consecutive seasons that the team was in the top-four of National League attendance.
Though they won five fewer games in 1980
, the Expos finished merely one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the division lead.
In both seasons, the Expos were in the hunt for the division title into the last weekend of the season before losing to the ultimate World Series champion.
Baseball hat and home jersey worn by the Montreal Expos players from 1969 to 1991.
, Charlie Lea
pitched the third no-hitter in franchise history. He defeated the San Francisco Giants
by a 4–0 score on May 10, 1981.
The Expos were in third place in the NL East with a 30–25 record when the season was halted for two months by a players' strike
. By the time the strike ended, 713 games had been lost and could not possibly be made up. Major League Baseball chose to adopt a split-season schedule, which gave the Expos a fresh start in the second half of the season.
With the team languishing near the .500 mark in post-strike play, the club fired Williams and replaced him with scouting director Jim Fanning
. The team continued to struggle, though, and had a 19–19 record with 15 games left to play.
Montreal won 11 of the remaining games and finished in first place, a 1
game ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, thereby qualifying for the franchise's first post-season berth. Terry Francona
caught the final out – a fly ball hit by Dave Kingman
– to seal a 5–4 victory over the New York Mets in the clinching game.
In the 1981 National League Division Series
, the Expos faced the first-half winners, the defending world champion Phillies. Montreal won the first two games, at Olympic Stadium, by identical 3–1 scores before dropping the following two games in Philadelphia. In the deciding fifth game, Montreal's Steve Rogers faced Steve Carlton
in a pitchers' duel. Rogers pitched a complete-game shutout as Montreal advanced to the 1981 National League Championship Series
with a 3–0 win.
Facing the Los Angeles Dodgers
, Montreal split the first two games of the best-of-five series in Los Angeles before returning home for the final three games. Montreal won game three, but failed in their first attempt to close out the series by losing game four and set up a deciding fifth game.
The deciding game, postponed by a day due to rain, was played October 19, 1981, in near-freezing temperatures.
The game was tied at 1 entering the ninth inning when Fanning opted to have his top starter, Steve Rogers, come out of the bullpen
to pitch. Rogers retired the first two batters before facing Rick Monday
What followed was the defining moment in Expos history: on a 3–1 count, Rogers hung a sinking fastball
that Monday hit over the centrefield fence for the game-winning and series-clinching home run.
The moment, and game, became known to Expos fans as "Blue Monday".
The dramatic loss was a bitter defeat for a franchise who by that time had been adopted as Canada's most popular baseball team.
"The team of the '80s" (1982–1988) Andrés Galarraga
, pictured here in 2002, also played with the Expos from 1985 to 1991.
By the end of the 1979 season, the Expos had earned a reputation for having one of the strongest player development systems in baseball; the team had stockpiled young talent throughout its roster including four starting pitchers below the age of 23, and was hailed as "the team of the '80s".
When Montreal hosted the 1982 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
on July 13, 1982, Expos fans voted four of their own into the starting lineup: Carter, Dawson, Raines and Rogers, while Al Oliver
was named as a reserve. It was only the second time since 1969 the host team had four starters.
The National League claimed a 4–1 victory in front of 59,057 fans in the first All-Star Game held outside the United States; Rogers was the winning pitcher.
Baseball historian and author Jonah Keri
argued in his book Up, Up and Away
that "no one at the stadium could know it then, but baseball in Montreal peaked that night at the Big O."
The Expos were widely predicted to win the NL East in 1982
; Sports Illustrated
, Baseball Digest
and The Sporting News
were among the publications that favoured Montreal.
However, the team disappointed. Montreal finished third in the division with 86 wins.
The Expos replaced Fanning with Bill Virdon
, and under their new manager, led the division in mid-July.
However, the team faded down the stretch and finished with an 82–80 record.
The Expos won more games between 1979 and 1983 than any other team in the NL East, but had only one postseason appearance to show for it.
Hoping to turn the team's fortunes around, the Expos signed 42-year-old veteran Pete Rose
, who was second all-time in base hits to Ty Cobb
, to a one-year contract in 1984
Rose reached a career milestone in Montreal's home opener by recording the 4,000th hit of his career in a 5–1 victory over Philadelphia on April 13.
Though players and management had praised the acquisition of Rose and predicted he would help the team win the division, he was ineffective for Montreal. Rose batted only .259 and failed to hit a home run in 95 games before he was traded back to his original team, Cincinnati,
and Montreal finished with a losing record on the season.
Montreal's failed 1984 season resulted in a 31 percent decrease in attendance at the same time salaries were escalating throughout baseball.
As a consequence, the Expos completed a major trade following the season, sending Gary Carter to the New York Mets on December 10, 1984, in exchange for four players.
In trading Carter, the Expos gave up a team icon who, like Rusty Staub before him, endeared himself to the fans by learning French and being one of the most accessible players on the team.
The trade came one year after Bronfman had called the seven-year, US$12.6 million contract Carter signed in 1981 "the biggest mistake he had made in his life".
The economics of Major League Baseball also resulted in the departure of Andre Dawson following the 1986
season. Throughout that off-season, MLB owners colluded
at the behest of Commissioner Peter Ueberroth
to drive salaries for free agents down. Dawson, who should have been one of the most valuable free agents
on the market that year, discovered that not only was there little interest in signing him, but that the Expos were publicly commenting about his knee problems in an effort to further drive interest down.
Angered by these actions, Dawson walked into the Chicago Cubs
' training camp with a signed, blank contract. The Cubs agreed to sign Dawson to a one-year, $500,000 contract, less than half of his previous salary.
Dawson hit 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs in 1987
, attaining the honour of NL Most Valuable Player.
Tim Raines was also affected by collusion: after receiving no offer worth more than the $1.5 million he earned in 1986, Raines returned to the Expos on a three-year, $5 million contract.
He had one of the best seasons of his career in 1987, leading the NL with 123 runs (in 139 games), stealing 50 bases, batting .330 and hitting 18 home runs.
He was also named the most valuable player of the 1987 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
, as he drove in the game's only two runs with a triple in the 13th inning.
Raines was ultimately traded to the Chicago White Sox
"El Presidente, El Perfecto!" (1989–1993)
On the field, the Expos won just four games more than they lost between 1986 and 1991 as the organization set about rebuilding its development system and acquiring a new generation of players.
The team struggled to attract free agents to Montreal,
and Bronfman had grown disillusioned with both the business of baseball and the challenge of drawing fans to Olympic Stadium for a middling ball club.
He hoped to take one more chance at winning a title, however, and in 1989
, the Expos made a push for a division title by acquiring starting pitcher and pending free agent Mark Langston
from the Seattle Mariners
The price would ultimately prove to be a high one as the Expos gave up future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson
and two other pitchers.
The trade helped propel the Expos to first place in the NL East by the All-Star break. They held the top spot into August before Langston and the team collapsed.
The Expos finished fourth in the division with an 81–81 record,
and Langston left Montreal as a free agent.
Bronfman grew increasingly uneasy about the reckless spending of his fellow team owners, increased strife with the players, and overall direction of MLB.
According to then-team president Claude Brochu
, the team's late-season decline in 1989 proved too much for Bronfman, who asked him to seek a buyer for the team.
Bronfman hoped to sell the team for around $50 million, but both he and Brochu found it impossible to find a local businessman willing to take primary ownership of the team.
Groups from American cities were interested, however. One group offered to buy the club for $135 million and relocate it to Miami; however, Bronfman viewed a relocation as a last resort. Robert E. Rich Jr.
offered to buy the club for $100 million and relocate it to Buffalo
at their recently built Pilot Field
, but received the same response.
Instead, Brochu opted to lead a group himself. The city and the province agreed to fund $33 million of the $100 million sales price Bronfman had settled on,
after which he and partner Jacques Ménard convinced 11 other Canadian businesses and businessmen—such as Bell Canada
, Desjardins Group
, the Jean Coutu Group
and Loblaw Companies
—to buy minority stakes. The sale was completed on November 29, 1990.
However, many of the investors Brochu cajoled into joining the partnership made it clear that they considered their investments to be the equivalent of charitable donations, and were not interested in providing additional funding.
With a new ownership group in place, the Expos traded Tim Raines to the Chicago White Sox
in a five-player deal.
General manager David Dombrowski
fired manager Buck Rodgers
, who had managed the team since 1985, after the team started the 1991 season with a 20–29 record,
replacing him with Tom Runnells
pitched nine no-hit innings in a July 26, 1991
game before losing 1–0 in the 10th inning to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Two days later, also in Los Angeles, Dennis Martínez
achieved a rare feat, throwing the 13th official perfect game
in Major League Baseball history (based on MLB's 1991 redefinition of a perfect game
), winning 2–0.
Dave Van Horne's iconic call of "El Presidente, El Perfecto!" following the final out became a hallmark of Expos lore.
Martinez's catcher, Ron Hassey
, also caught Len Barker's perfect game
ten years earlier and remains the only player to catch two perfect games in MLB history.
The euphoria of the pitching feats did not last, as the Expos were rendered homeless for the final month of the season after a 50-ton beam collapsed from Olympic Stadium's structure and fell nine metres onto a public concourse hours before a motocross
event on September 13.
The Expos hinted that they would have to open the 1992 season elsewhere unless Olympic Stadium was certified safe. While the stadium itself was given a clean bill of health by engineers in November, it took longer to get one for the roof since it had been badly ripped in a June windstorm. Ultimately, it was decided to keep the roof closed at all times; it had only been opened 88 times in a little more than four years.
The Expos finished 1991 with a 71–90 record, sixth in the NL East, and drew fewer than one million fans for the first time since 1976.
However, the foundation of the Expos' future was establishing their places in MLB: Larry Walker
, Marquis Grissom
and Delino DeShields
had made their debuts the season prior,
and the team acquired Moisés Alou
in a trade with Pittsburgh.
Moises' father Felipe
, who had been a long time employee of the Expos, was promoted to manager during the 1992
season and became the first native of the Dominican Republic to manage a Major League Baseball team.
, DeShields was sent to Los Angeles in exchange for Pedro Martínez
; the deal was initially pilloried by the Montreal Gazette
and other local publications as a move designed to save money rather than improve the ball club.
Nonetheless, the Expos improved on the field; they won 87 games in 1992, 94 in 1993 and finished second in the NL East both seasons.
1994 and the players' strike
"Most of my career, you'd go to the park that night, and hope you were going to win it. In '94, we pretty much knew were going to win it. Losing wasn't part of the equation. After the [All-Star] break, we played the Braves and beat 'em again. I remember leaving Atlanta, and we were just laughing. Like, 'This is our competition?!'"
—Larry Walker's retrospective of the 1994 Expos.
The Expos were recognized as having a strong team entering the 1994
season, but their hopes of winning the division were significantly impacted by realignment, as the three-time defending West Division champion Atlanta Braves
were shifted to the East.
Atlanta opened the season with 13 wins in 14 games, and quickly opened up an 81
-game lead on Montreal.
By late June, the Expos had moved to 21
games back when they hosted the Braves. Montreal won two out of three games in the series, including a late-game victory in the opener over future-Hall-of-Fame pitcher Greg Maddux
that the players viewed as the turning point of their season.
Montreal then embarked on a west coast road trip in which they won the final five games and entered the All-Star break in first place.
The Expos pulled away from the Braves after the break; between July 18 and August 11, Montreal won 20 games and lost only three.
For the second time in team history, five players were named all-stars: Moisés Alou
, Wil Cordero
, Darrin Fletcher
, Marquis Grissom
and Ken Hill
An offense led by Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou, Larry Walker and Wil Cordero scored more than 5 runs per game. With a record of 74–40, on pace for a 106-win season as the pitching staff with Butch Henry, Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero and a young Pedro Martinez put up the National League's best ERA. The Expos had the best record in baseball on the morning of August 12, when MLB's players went on strike
The season began without a collective bargaining agreement as MLB's owners could not agree on how to share revenue between teams. Many teams were unwilling to agree to revenue sharing unless a salary cap
was put in place, something which the Major League Baseball Players' Association
(MLBPA) adamantly opposed. Unable to come to an agreement, the owners attempted to unilaterally force their system into effect, prompting the players to walk out. Most of the players believed they would be back on the field by Labour Day (celebrated on the same date in the U.S. as Labor Day) at the latest.
On September 14, following a month of fruitless negotiations, the remainder of the season was cancelled.
The franchise would never reach the playoffs as the Expos again.
From Brochu's perspective, a salary cap was not a major concern for the Expos as they could not afford to spend the maximum value of any negotiated cap. But when the strike ended eight months later, by the order of United States federal judge Sonia Sotomayor
, the failure to implement strong revenue sharing was a major blow to the Expos.
The team had already built a reputation as a penny-pinching organization (Larry Walker once complained in the media that the team asked the players to buy their own vitamins),
with the second-lowest payroll in MLB in 1994.
Following the strike, the team initiated a fire sale
of players: Ken Hill
, John Wetteland
and Marquis Grissom were traded while Larry Walker was allowed to leave as a free agent. Moisés Alou, Pedro Martínez and Mel Rojas
would eventually follow.
In his book, My Turn At Bat
, Brochu argued that the fire sale was the only viable option, since his partners in the ownership group were not interested in financing the team's losses. Brochu estimated that had he tried to keep the 1994 team together, the Expos would have lost $25 million in 1995, which would have pushed the franchise to the edge of bankruptcy. He claimed that he would have certainly kept Hill, Wetteland, Grissom and Walker had the partners been willing to put up the money necessary to keep them in Montreal.
When Brochu told general manager Kevin Malone
that Hill, Wetteland, Grissom and Walker all had to go, Malone tried to persuade Brochu to keep at least one of them. It was to no avail; Brochu told Malone that they all had to be off the roster by the deadline for salary arbitration—even though this made it all but impossible to get any leverage in possible deals. As a result, the Expos got almost nothing in return.
The strike and ensuing fire sale left fans in Montreal livid.
The Expos finished last in the NL East in 1995
, and average game attendance fell by nearly 26%, from 24,543 to 18,189. Interest in the Expos continued to decline in the years that followed;
they would never average more than 20,000 fans per game in a season again during their tenure in Montreal.
While noting the Atlanta Braves went on to win 11 consecutive NL East titles following the strike, Jonah Keri
expressed the viewpoint of the fans as it related to Brochu and the team's owners: "Expos fans couldn't help but wonder if that could have been them
celebrating every year ... had Brochu convinced the team's cheapskate owners to spend a few damn dollars, or taken a leap of faith that short-term financial pain would lead to long-term success."
The media, meanwhile, had taken to calling the Expos a "Triple-A team" as the team seemed to enter a period where they would develop players only to move them on to other organizations.
In spite of a sharp decline in attendance, Brochu claimed the Expos turned a small profit in 1995. While ticket sales increased in other markets in the seasons following the strike, though, Montreal's fan base continued to erode.
Even with the loss of most of their best players, the Expos were competitive in 1996
, achieving second place in the NL East with an 88–74 record. The team fared poorly in the following five seasons, however, finishing with a losing record in each year and no higher than fourth in the division.
Individually, Pedro Martínez became the first native of the Dominican Republic—and only Expo—to win the National League Cy Young Award
. He won the award in 1997
after recording an 18–7 record with an earned run average
(ERA) of 1.90.
One week after he was announced as the NL Cy Young winner, Martínez was traded to the Boston Red Sox
as part of another salary purge.
As the 1990s wore on, interest in the Expos dwindled to the point that they were barely part of Montreal's sports landscape. Alou recalled in the latter part of the decade, an old friend of his who owned a team in the Dominican Republic came to Montreal for a visit and couldn't find any downtown store that sold Expos caps, nor did he see anyone wearing an Expos cap during his weeklong stay in the city. When he took a taxi to a game at Olympic Stadium, the driver couldn't find the entrance, and there were no signs anywhere touting games. According to Alou's friend, with such lackluster marketing, it was no surprise that the Expos couldn't attract any fans.
Keri later wrote that the Expos would not have been in this position had a better-financed "champion" with the resources and the patience to shepherd the team through the 1990s bought the team.
Brochu attempted to convince his partners that the only long-term solution to keep the Expos in Montreal was to replace Olympic Stadium. In addition to being poorly located—far from population centres, restaurants, and bars—fans perceived it as cavernous and unsafe. Additionally, free agents were letting it be known they were not willing to play for the Expos because of Olympic Stadium's poor playing conditions.
A proposed 35,000-seat downtown facility, to be called Labatt Park, was announced in 1997 with a budgeted cost of $250 million and an anticipated opening date of 2001. It would have been a retro-classic park with a facade reminiscent of historic Bonaventure Station
. According to a Montreal Gazette
editorial supporting the new park, Brochu's threat to move the team unless Olympic Stadium was replaced was "simple logic." Brochu sought $150 million in funding from the provincial government, but Premier Lucien Bouchard
refused, saying he could not authorize public funding for a stadium when the province was being forced to close hospitals and had still not paid the Olympic Stadium debt.
Many members of the consortium instead favoured selling the team.
Hoping to pressure a sale, some members began to feed anonymous tips to the French press to make internal discord between Brochu and his partners public.
Attendance continued to fall, decreasing by 39 percent in 1998
to an average of 11,295 spectators per game.
It was the first of five consecutive seasons in which Montreal drew fewer than one million fans.
One of the few bright spots of this time was the blossoming of Vladimir Guerrero
into a star; he made four consecutive All-Star Games from 1999 to 2002, each time as the Expos' sole representative. Guerrero would eventually be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame
By 1999, the partners publicly began to question Brochu's fitness to lead the organization and he was criticized by the media.
Brochu was also accused of having a secret deal with MLB commissioner Bud Selig
to relocate the Expos to Washington, D. C.
, charges he denied in a spring press conference held to answer the accusations of his partners.
Brochu's rebuttals fell on deaf ears as fans sided with the consortium's smear campaign against Brochu.
He was ultimately replaced as managing general partner by American art dealer Jeffrey Loria
, who was initially hailed as the franchise's saviour.
Loria had originally bid for the team in 1991, but Brochu and Ménard had balked at his demand for controlling interest.
Failed contraction and relocation (2001–2004)
Omar Minaya was the first Latin American-born general manager in MLB history.
When Loria took control, he let it be known that Brochu's low-budget approach—or as he called it, "business as usual"—was over.
He promised to rebuild the Expos with "a winning attitude and winning players" in an effort to bring the team back to where it had been only six years earlier.
To that end, he drafted a new partnership agreement that gave him the right to call for cash investments in exchange for team equity—an option that had been unavailable to Brochu. Most of the minority partners, though, continued to treat their participation as a public-relations gesture and remained uninterested in investing additional money. When Loria issued a cash call in May 2000, the only other partners to increase their contributions were Coutu, Loblaw, and Stephen Bronfman. Rather than contribute more money, the minority partners proposed trading Guererro. Loria instantly vetoed this suggestion.
As Loria increased his own financial contribution over the next two years, most of the other partners failed to do likewise, which resulted in Loria raising his share in the franchise to 92 percent.
Speaking in retrospect, one of the minority partners, Mark Routtenberg, said that he was both "fooled" and "used" by Loria, and called him a carpetbagger
The team payroll for 2000 increased to $33 million, nearly double the $17.9 million from the previous season. However, Loria's options for rebuilding the team were somewhat limited. He discovered that he needed to improve the team immediately in order to win back the fans' trust, rather than relying on long-term improvements via the draft. Even with the team's renewed willingness to spend more on talent, most elite players were reluctant to play in Montreal, given the franchise's uncertain future and Olympic Stadium's poor playing conditions. As a result, most of the increased payroll came from the signings of free agent pitchers Graeme Lloyd
and Hideki Irabu
, as well as a three-way trade with the Rangers and Blue Jays that brought Rangers first baseman Lee Stevens
to Montreal. These moves failed to translate into on-field success: Lloyd missed the entire season due to arthroscopic surgery
, Irabu posted a 7.24 ERA, and Stevens only batted .265. The Expos lost 95 games. Interest in the team continued to decline, as both fans and businesses were unwilling to lend their support to a noncompetitive team.
Loria continued to pursue the construction of a new ballpark. He sought support from Major League Baseball, the Quebec government, and architectural firm HOK Sport
for a cheaper and re-designed version of Labatt Park that eschewed the retro-classic concept in favour of a more modern design with curved contours and glass. HOK and MLB both thought Loria's proposed design was structurally unsound. More seriously, although Loria had been led to believe that Ménard had convinced the provincial government to contribute funding, in reality no agreement had been reached.
To bolster the team's finances, Loria tried to renegotiate the Expos' broadcasting deals, which were far less valuable than that of any other team. He broke off negotiations with The Sports Network
, the largest English-language cable sports network in Canada, when it only offered the Expos $5,000 per game. Even allowing for the Expos' greatly reduced home territory compared to that of the Blue Jays (see below), TSN's offer was still a pittance compared to the $200,000 it paid the Blue Jays at the time. Loria had similar issues with prospective radio partners; the only interested parties would only air Expos games as part of a brokerage agreement
in which the team paid for the airtime. The Alouettes and Canadiens had similar arrangements, which was considered highly unusual for the time.
Although the team continued its French radio coverage on the Telemedia network—whose flagship, CKAC
, had carried the Expos since 1973—the Expos were unable to reach an agreement for English radio broadcasts. This resulted in the end of the Expos' longtime run on CIQC
(formerly CFCF), which had been the Expos' English radio outlet for all but four years of their existence. No television coverage was available in either language. This left English-speaking fans relying on Internet audiocasts. Local fans accused Loria and his stepson, David Samson
, of sabotage. In truth, though, according to longtime Montreal sportscaster Mitch Melnick
, there was no anglophone radio for the 2000 season "because nobody wanted to pay for it."
Years later, Samson said that he had initially hoped that if the Expos got off to a hot start, local broadcasters would initiate new negotiations, but further discussions never materialized. Dave Van Horne
, the team's English-language play-by-play announcer since the team's inception, left at the season's end to work for the Florida Marlins
, the Expos drew only 642,748 fans, one of the smallest totals in MLB in decades.
The minority partners, whose interest was now reduced to a combined seven percent, became convinced that Loria had planned his moves to force them out. When pleas to Selig and MLB officials fell on deaf ears, the group became convinced that Selig and Loria had conspired to force the Expos out of Montreal.
At the same time, MLB took steps to vote on contraction of the leagues
, with the Expos and the Minnesota Twins
slated for elimination.
On November 6, 2001, MLB's owners voted 28–2 in favour of contraction, with only the Expos and Twins opposed.
Initial plans called for the Expos and Twins to play a lame-duck season in 2002
before their franchises were revoked. Both teams were saved following a legal challenge filed in Minnesota that forced MLB to honour the Twins' lease with the Metrodome
, as well as challenges by the MLBPA.
As MLB was unable to find another candidate team to eliminate, the immediate threat for the Expos diminished, as MLB needed to keep an even number of teams to maintain its schedule.
Shortly afterward, Loria sold the Expos to MLB and used the money he received from the sale to purchase the Florida Marlins
from John Henry
, who had recently purchased the Boston Red Sox.
As a result of the transaction, Loria turned a significant profit on his initial $16 million investment – MLB bought the Expos from him for $120 million and gave him a $38.5 million interest free loan to complete the purchase of the Marlins.
Following the sale, Loria took virtually everything of value with him to Miami, including the Expos' computers and scouting reports.
His departure also marked the final end of the proposed Labatt Park, though any realistic chance of the park being built ended when the Bouchard government repeated its previous refusal to commit any public money to the project.
MLB formed Expos Baseball L.P., a partnership of the other 29 clubs, to operate the team. It appointed former Anaheim Angels
president Tony Tavares
as team president to oversee business operations and oversee a future move of the team,
and Mets assistant general manager Omar Minaya
as vice-president, general manager and operating head of the franchise.
MLB's chief disciplinarian Frank Robinson
was appointed as the team's manager
Minaya, the first Latino general manager in baseball history, inherited a difficult situation. He was hired only 72 hours before the start of spring training
, and there were only six other employees in baseball operations; most of the others had either followed Loria to the Marlins or taken jobs with other clubs.
As the Expos began what many assumed at the time to be their final season in 2002
, the mood in the Olympic Stadium for the home opener – a victory over the Marlins – was ugly. Montreal's home opener drew 34,000 fans, many of which came not only to say "goodbye" to the franchise, but also to express their disgust and anger at Loria.
Loria's minority partners, who had gone from collectively owning 76 percent of the Expos to less than seven percent of the Marlins, filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
(RICO) lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Selig and Loria. The partners contended that Loria and the commissioner's office had conspired to deprive them of their shares by issuing cash calls, and thus deliberately undermined the franchise's future in Montreal.
The partners were ultimately unsuccessful in their suit, as it was dismissed in 2005 after an arbitration panel rejected their claims.
On the field, the 2002 Expos exceeded expectations and were in playoff contention for much of the season. As they were owned by the other teams, including their direct competitors, the Expos did not have any flexibility to increase their payroll for a last-ditch post season drive.
Operating under the belief that the Expos were playing their last season in Montreal, Minaya completed a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians
in late June to make a final run at bringing post-season success to the city, acquiring Bartolo Colón
, one of baseball's top pitchers, in exchange for several star prospects and without increasing payroll. Remembering how the Seattle Mariners
had revived a stalled bid for what became Safeco Field
with a playoff run in 1995, Minaya believed that if the Expos made the playoffs, the renewed public and private sector support would lead to a viable owner stepping forward who would keep the team in Montreal.
Minaya made several smaller moves, but the team lost its early-season momentum; they went seven games under .500 in July and August. The Expos finished with an 83–79 record – their first winning season since 1996 – but finished second in the NL East, 19 games out of both the division lead and the wild card.
The Expos franchise was saved by a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players that forbade contraction until at least 2006. Speculation of contraction was replaced by rumours of relocation, as it was obvious MLB did not intend to keep the team in Montreal.
While MLB was not ready to relocate the Expos right away, in 2003
it sought to increase revenues by having the team play 22 of its 81 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Expos again found themselves in contention for the playoffs: on August 29, the team was tied with four other clubs for the National League Wild Card spot.
When MLB's rosters expanded on September 1, Selig announced that the Expos would not be recalling any additional players from the minor leagues: the other owners had decided against spending a few extra thousand dollars, a small fraction of the team's $35 million payroll, to bolster the team.
Several players, including relief pitcher Eric Knott
, were sent back to the minors due to budget constraints. The team faded again, finishing 18 games out of first in the East and eight games out of the wild card spot.
Later, Minaya said that the denial of the September call-ups was "a message to the players" and "a momentum killer."
Keri later wrote that MLB's refusal to authorize the September call-ups eroded what goodwill the Expos still had among the Montreal fanbase. After the season, Guererro was lost to free agency, while staff ace Javier Vázquez
was traded to the Yankees.
The final season of the Montreal Expos came in 2004
, and was again split between Montreal and San Juan.
The team never recovered from an April win-loss record of 5–19, and finished the season with a 67–95 record. On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball announced that the franchise would relocate to Washington, D.C. for the 2005
That same night, the team played its final game in Montreal: a 9–1 loss before 31,395 fans.
The team then played its final games as the Expos on the road, ending on October 3 against the New York Mets, the team they had faced in the franchise's inaugural game in 1969.
In the Expos last-ever game, the New York Mets
defeated Montreal 8–1 at Shea Stadium
. Jamey Carroll
scored the last Expos run and Endy Chávez
became the final Expos batter in history when he grounded out in the top of the ninth to end the game. The team ended their 36-year run with an all-time record of 2,753 wins, 2,943 losses and 4 ties.
The last active former Montreal Expos player in the major leagues was Bartolo Colón
, who played what is likely his last game with the Texas Rangers
in 2018. Colón played half a season with the Expos in 2002.
Panoramic view taken prior to an Expos game at Olympic Stadium in 2004.
The Expos logo consists of the stylized letters "eb", which stands for "Expos Baseball". When taken as a whole, the logo forms a large "M", representing "Montreal".
In 1972, the Telemedia
radio network brought in Jacques Doucet
and Claude Raymond
to serve as the Expos' French language broadcast team. They were asked by the Carling O'Keefe
brewery, the title sponsor for the French-language broadcasts, to create a French language glossary of baseball terminology. Previously, particularly in the Montreal Royals days, French broadcasters would use English for baseball concepts that didn't have a French equivalent. Through their efforts, a French language baseball lexicon was created: words like "home run" became "coup de circuit
" and "hit" became "coup sûr
". A knuckleball became "balle papillon
", literally "butterfly ball".
Youppi! prior to a game
The Expos introduced their first mascot during the 1978 season. Called "Souki", the mascot resembled Mr. Met
with a futuristic looking uniform but was met with such a negative reaction that the team immediately retired it after one season; Souki was once attacked by a father of children frightened by it.
Seeking a replacement, the Expos found a design for a mascot similar to the Phillie Phanatic
in the inventory of an American mascot company that had gone bankrupt.
The mascot was designed by Bonnie Erickson, who created the Phanatic as well as several Muppets
characters, including Miss Piggy
The team named the new mascot "Youppi!", which is French for "Yippee!"
Unlike Souki, Youppi! was immediately popular with fans upon its introduction in 1979, particularly children, and the mascot became a fixture at children's hospitals during its 25 years as the Expos mascot.
Youppi! made history in 1989 when he became the first mascot in Major League history to be ejected from a ballgame.
The incident occurred during the 11th inning of a game against Los Angeles when Youppi was dancing and parading on top of the Dodgers' dugout. LA's manager, Tommy Lasorda
complained to the umpires who ordered the mascot out of the game.
Youppi! was eventually allowed to return with the condition that he remain away from the Dodgers' dugout. The game, coincidentally, was the longest in Expos history as Los Angeles won 1–0 in 22 innings.
The relocation of the Expos to Washington left Youppi! in limbo. Several organizations expressed interest in taking over the character, including other Montreal sports teams. After a year in storage, the mascot was sold to the National Hockey League
's Montreal Canadiens
. The Canadiens claim Youppi! is the first mascot in professional sports to change leagues; he made his re-debut with the Canadiens on October 18, 2005.
Relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays
joined the American League
as an expansion franchise in 1977, and one year later, met the Expos for the first time in an exhibition contest, the first of an annual series that became known as the Pearson Cup
The Expos won that first game, 5–4, in front of 20,221 fans on June 29.
Eight annual exhibitions (except for 1981 due to the strike) were played between 1978 and 1986 as each team won three games with two contests ending as ties.
The teams did not meet again until 1997 with the advent of interleague play
, and the first regular season meetings between the two.
The games boosted attendance in both Montreal and Toronto, but the two teams failed to develop a serious rivalry.
A fan calls for a return of the Expos during the Jays-Reds exhibition series at Olympic Stadium in 2015.
, then president of the Expos, was a strong proponent of adding a second Major League team in Toronto.
The Expos remained Canada's most popular team until their mid-1980s downturn coincided with the Blue Jays' rise, culminating in the Jays' first American League East
pennant in 1985.
At the same time, the Blue Jays grew perturbed that the Expos were able to air their games in several markets in southern Ontario—such as Windsor
, and Toronto itself. The Jays lobbied MLB to designate southern Ontario as their exclusive home television territory. Bronfman opposed the request, as he feared that shutting the Expos out of Canada's largest and most lucrative television market would limit the team's fan base. As a part of the territorial changes, MLB allowed the Expos to air 15 games in the Jays' television market for free, and purchase the rights to air additional games. For the remainder of their existence, the Expos only had full broadcast rights in Quebec and Atlantic Canada
The loss of viewership in southern Ontario diminished the Expos' ability to attract sponsors and corporate partners. Indeed, Keri later wrote that the Expos miscalculated when they considered the Blue Jays an ally rather than a potential threat, and missed a chance to cement their right to air their games across Canada. Keri added that the loss of this revenue stream, along with "many other poor business decisions" over the years, made it difficult for the Expos to be viable in Montreal.
Longtime Expos play-by-play broadcaster Dave Van Horne
later argued that the loss of badly-needed corporate support "really started a long, downward spiral" for the team.
Regardless of their disagreements over television rights, when the Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series
, the team honoured Bronfman's contributions in bringing Major League Baseball to the country by having him throw the ceremonial first pitch for the first World Series
game played in Canada.
However, and while Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey
again acknowledged the Expos' role in his own team's existence, Godfrey nonetheless voted with the other teams to support contracting the Expos in 2001 and relocating them in 2004: "I know if it wasn't for the success of the Expos in those early years there would not be major-league baseball in Toronto. That wasn't an emotional or a baseball vote. It was a business decision."
The Blue Jays' failure to stand with their fellow Canadian team offended many Expos fans.
Ten years after the Expos relocated to Washington, a two-game exhibition series between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets was held at the Olympic Stadium to conclude the spring training schedule prior to the 2014
season. For the Blue Jays, the series was intended, in part, to increase the team's following in Quebec.
For others, the goal was to demonstrate that Montreal had an interest in returning to Major League Baseball.
Former Expos player Warren Cromartie
, who leads the Montreal Baseball Project, was among the organizers.
The series was a success: 96,350 fans, frequently chanting "Lets go Expos!" and "We want baseball!" attended the two games.
The Blue Jays returned for a two-game series in 2015
, against the Cincinnati Reds, which was attended by 96,545 fans.
The success of the series' bolstered the Montreal Baseball Project's efforts: retiring commissioner Bud Selig was impressed by the fans in 2014 and said the city would be an "excellent candidate" for a new team.
His replacement, Rob Manfred
, echoed those comments in 2015.
Olympic Stadium again hosted two spring training games prior to the beginning of the 2016 season between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox, with a combined attendance of over 106,000 fans; since 2014, the Blue Jays have made it an annual tradition to host two spring training games in Montreal before the start of each season.
In 2018, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
of the Blue Jays hit a game-winning home run against the St. Louis Cardinals
in an exhibition game to the delight of the Montreal crowd.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Nine people who represented the Expos organization have subsequently gone on to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
. Gary Carter was inducted in 2003 and was the first player whose Hall of Fame plaque depicted him with an Expos cap. The Hall's choice for his plaque logo followed initial statements by Carter that he preferred to be enshrined as a New York Met, with whom he won the 1986 World Series
. He accepted the Hall's decision with grace, stating: "The fact I played 11 years in Montreal and the fact that the majority of my statistics and accomplishments were achieved there, it would be wrong, probably, to do it any other way."
Andre Dawson became the second depicted as an Expos player when he was elected in 2010. Although he had played the majority of his 21-year career with Montreal, Dawson also preferred his plaque to display a different logo: when the decision was made, he publicly expressed his disappointment, saying it was "a little gut-wrenching" to find out he would not go in as a Chicago Cub.
Dawson's reluctance to be enshrined as an Expos player stemmed, in part, from the breakdown of his relationship with the team during MLB's collusion scandal
of 1986–87, when he claims the team not only "threw him out" of Montreal, but tried to prevent other teams from signing him as a free agent
The third player with an Expos logo on his Hall of Fame plaque is Tim Raines
, who was inducted in 2017, his final year of eligibility.
On January 24, 2018, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
announced Vladimir Guerrero
as an inductee into the Hall of Fame. Guerrero played eight of his 16 seasons with the Expos, being named to the MLB All-Star Game three times and winning the Silver Slugger Award
three times while with the team. Nearly half of his career 2,590 hits were with Montreal (1,215), while having 234 of his 449 home runs and 702 of his 1,496 RBIs with the Expos in 1,004 games. Guerrero announced his Hall of Fame plaque will display him wearing an Angels cap.
For the five other inductees, their time in Montreal played lesser roles in their careers. Manager Dick Williams was a member of the Expos between 1977 and 1981 as part of a 21-year managerial career in which he took three different teams to the World Series. Tony Pérez
played three years with the Expos but was primarily known for being a member of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" teams of the 1970s.
Pitchers Pedro Martínez
(1994–97) and Randy Johnson
(1988–89), who both played in Montreal early in their careers but spent the majority of their playing days elsewhere, were both elected to the Hall in 2015. Frank Robinson
managed the team from 2002 to 2006 (spanning the franchise's move to Washington), but was elected based on his accomplishments as a player, including being the first player to win Most Valuable Player honours in both the AL and NL, a triple crown
in 1966, and a rookie-record of 38 home runs while winning the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Longtime broadcaster Dave Van Horne
was named the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award
The award is presented by the National Baseball Hall of Fame to honour broadcasters who make "major contributions to baseball".
When the Washington Nationals unveiled their "Ring of Honor" at Nationals Park
in 2010, the franchise recognized its roots in Montreal. The ring was created to honour Hall-of-Fame players associated with Washington, D.C., baseball or the Montreal-Washington franchise, later expanded to include anyone who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Washington, D.C. Two Expos players – Gary Carter and Andre Dawson – were named among the inaugural members.
Frank Robinson was added to the Ring of Honor in 2015,
as was Tim Raines in 2017.
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Montreal Expos Hall of Fame
The team created the Montreal Expos Hall of Fame to celebrate the franchise's 25th season in 1993. Charles Bronfman was inducted as its inaugural member. In a pre-game ceremony
on August 14, 1993, a circular patch on the right field wall was unveiled with Bronfman's name, the number 83 (which he used to wear during spring training), and the words "FONDATEUR / FOUNDER".
A total of 23 people were honoured by the club.
No-hitters and cycles
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Last edited on 16 May 2021, at 09:51
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