Montreal Expos

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Montreal Expos
Established 1969 (Expansion team)
Relocated December 3, 2004 (to Washington, D.C., as the Washington Nationals)
Montreal Expos Logo.svg
Team logo Cap insignia
Major league affiliations
Other nicknames
  • The 'Spos
  • Nos Amours

[1] – The Expos played twenty-two home games in San Juan during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and the remainder in Montreal.

  • Blue, white, red


Major league titles
World Series titles (0) None
NL pennants (0) None
East Division titles (1)[2][3] 1981
Wild Card berths (0) None
[2] – In 1981, a players' strike in the middle of the season forced the season to be split into two halves. Montreal won the division in the second half, despite having the second best record in the division when considering the entire season, two games behind St. Louis.

[3] – In 1994, a players' strike wiped out the last eight weeks of the season and all post-season. Montreal was in first place by six games in the National League East Division when play was stopped. No official titles were awarded in 1994.

Other team information
Retired numbers 8, 10, 10, 30, 42
Mascot Souki (1978), Youppi! (1979–2004)[1]
Theme Song Les Expos sont là ("The Expos are here") by Marc Gélinas

The Montreal Expos (French: Les Expos de Montréal) were a professional baseball team based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada that played from 1969 until 2004. The Expos were the first Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise located outside the United States and played in the National League's East Division. The team left Montreal following the 2004 season as the franchise was relocated to Washington, D.C. and continues on as the Washington Nationals.

Immediately after the minor league Triple-A Montreal 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 67 World'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-shortened 1981 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 (1409).

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. 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 for the 2005 season, 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 in wins and strikeouts. 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 seven former members have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with Gary Carter and Andre Dawson's plaques depicting them with Expos caps.


Founding (1960–1968)[edit]

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.[2] The Royals were revived in 1928 and were purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939 to serve as one of their Triple-A affiliates.[3] Under Dodgers' management, the Royals won seven International League championships and three Junior World Series titles between 1941 and 1958.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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 (MLB) team.[6] The city, which had previously been considered a leading candidate to acquire the St. Louis Browns if the team had relocated in 1933,[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] On May 27, 1968, MLB announced that it was expanding by two teams to San Diego, California and Montreal at a cost of US$10 million each.[10]

With the franchise secured, Snyder built an ownership group led by Seagram's heir Charles Bronfman.[11] The new group was faced with the immediate problem of finding a suitable facility in which to play for at least two years.[12] Drapeau had promised the NL that a domed stadium would be built by 1971.[10] 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 form the city on a facility, Bronfman and his group threatened to walk away.[13] The 20,000-seat Delorimier Stadium, which hosted the Royals, was deemed too small for a major league team, while the Autostade was rejected as a site due to the prohibitive cost of expanding it and adding a dome.[14] By August 1968, the future of the team was placed in doubt as the NL had also grown nervous about the unresolved stadium question. However, league president Warren Giles was reassured by Drapeau when the city presented a plan to expand a 3,000-seat community field in the centrally located Jarry Park to something approaching MLB standards.[15] Jarry Park Stadium was quickly constructed and opened as a temporary home that seated nearly 30,000 spectators.[16]

Several options for a team name were considered: "Royals" was a popular option with fans, but the name had already been taken by the Kansas City Royals. Other names considered included "Voyageurs" and "Nationals".[17] 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.[17] Less than a year after the city was awarded a team, the Expos took to the field to begin the 1969 season.[18]

Jarry Park years (1969–1976)[edit]

Fans watch a game from the third base line; the scoreboard is visible beyond the right field wall.
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.[19] 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.[20] Three days later, on April 17, Bill Stoneman pitched the first no-hitter in Expos history with a 7–0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.[21] 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.[22] Montreal tied their expansion cousins, the San Diego Padres for the worst record in the NL with a record of 52–110.[23] The team fared little better in the following seasons; the Expos went 73–89 in 1970 and 71–90 in 1971.[24]

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,[22] he led the Expos with 30 home runs in 1970 and, owing to his red hair, was nicknamed Le Grand Orange.[16] 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.[25] 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.[16] 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.[26] 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.[27]

Losses continued to mount for the Expos, however. 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.[24] Attendance declined as the initial euphoria 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 and beyond.[28] By 1976, 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.[16] 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 won a majority government in the 1976 Quebec election. When asked about the fate of the Expos by a reporter, Bronfman stated: "Under normal circumstances, I'd sell it. But who's gonna pay in a separate Quebec? So I guess I have to take it with me."[29] The Parti Québécois did win the election, however Bronfman and the Expos remained in Quebec.[30]

The Big O and Blue Monday (1977–1981)[edit]

For the 1977 season, the Expos finally moved into their new ballpark – six years later than originally scheduled.[31] A total of 57,592 fans attended Montreal's opening day 7–2 loss to Philadelphia at Olympic Stadium.[32] The new facility was a significant upgrade on Jarry Park, although weather-related issues created by Montreal's harsh climate persisted for another five years until the stadium's roof was installed. Poorly designed outfield fences and artificial turf resulted in injuries to players, and the ballpark ultimately became viewed as a white elephant.[33] On the field, the Expos continued to fare poorly; the team won 75 games in 1977, and 76 in 1978.[24]

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,[34] pitcher Steve Rogers and outfielders Andre Dawson and Tim Raines.[16] They supplemented their young roster with veteran acquisitions such as future Hall of Famer Tony Pérez,[35] 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 AL East pennant in 1967 and the Oakland Athletics to back-to-back World Series titles in 1972 and 1973.[36] In 1979, Montreal had its first winning season in franchise history; in mid-July, the Expos led the NL East by 6.5 games,[37] before finishing second to the Pittsburgh Pirates by two games with a 95–65 record.[24] 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.[38] Though they won five fewer games in 1980, the Expos finished merely one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the division lead.[39] In both seasons, the Expos chased the pennant into the last weekend of the season before losing to the ultimate World Series champion.[40]

In 1981, 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.[41] 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. When the strike ended, Major League Baseball chose to adopt a split-season schedule, which gave the Expos a fresh start in the second half of the season.[42] With the team languishing near the .500 mark in post-strike play, the club fired Williams and replaced him with Jim Fanning. The team continued to struggle, though, and had a 19–19 record with 15 games left to play.[43] Montreal won 11 of the remaining games and finished in first place, a 1/2 game ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, thereby qualifying for the franchise's first post-season berth.[44][45] 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.[44]

In the 1981 National League Division Series, the Expos faced the first-half winners, the Philadelphia 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.[46] 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 another deciding fifth game.[47] The deciding game, postponed by a day due to rain, was played October 19, 1981, in near-freezing temperatures.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50] The moment, and game, became known to Expos fans as "Blue Monday".[51] The dramatic loss was a bitter defeat for a franchise who, at that time, had been adopted nationwide as Canada's most popular baseball team.[52]

"The team of the 80s" (1982–1988)[edit]

Close-up view of Galarraga as he poses.
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 as one of the best developmental organizations 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".[50] 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 that the host team had four starters.[53] The National League claimed a 4–1 victory in front of 59,057 fans in the first All-Star Game held outside of the United States; Rogers was the winning pitcher.[54] 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."[55]

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.[56] However the team disappointed. Montreal finished third in the division with 86 wins.[50] The Expos replaced Fanning with Bill Virdon in 1983, and under their new manager, led the division in mid-July.[57] However the team faded and finish with an 82–80 record.[50] The Expos won more games between 1979 and 1983 than any other team in the NL East, but had only the one post-season experience to show for it.[58]

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.[59] 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.[60] Though players and management had praised the acquisition of Rose and predicted they 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 trading him to Cincinnati,[61] and Montreal finished with a losing record on the season.[50]

Montreal's failed 1984 season resulted in a 31 percent decrease in attendance at the same time salaries were escalating throughout baseball.[62] 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.[63] 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.[62] The trade came one year after owner Charles Bronfman had called the seven-year, US$12.6 million contract Carter signed in 1981 "the biggest mistake he had made in his life".[64]

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.[65] Angered by these actions, Dawson walked into the Chicago Cubs' training camp with a signed, blank contract. The Cubs agreed to sign Dawson to one-year, $500,000 contract, less than half of his previous salary.[66][67] Dawson hit 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs in 1987, attaining the honour of NL Most Valuable Player.[68]

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.[68] 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.[69] 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.[70] Raines was ultimately traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1990.[71]

"El Presidente, El Perfecto!" (1989–1993)[edit]

A St. Louis runner breaks from first base as the Expos pitcher throws to the plate.
The Expos, wearing their blue road uniforms, face the St. Louis Cardinals in 1992

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.[72] The team struggled to attract free agents to Montreal,[73] 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.[74] 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 start pitcher and pending free agent Mark Langston from the Seattle Mariners.[74] 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.[75] 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.[76] The Expos finished fourth in the division with an 81–81 record,[77] and Langston left Montreal as a free agent.[78]

Bronfman had grown increasingly uneasy about the reckless spending of his fellow team owners, of increased strife with the players, and of the overall direction he felt MLB was moving.[79] According to then-team president Claude Brochu, the failure of the 1989 season proved too much for Bronfman, who asked him to seek a buyer for the team.[80]

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.[81] 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.[82] 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,[83] after which he and partner Jacques Ménard convinced 11 other Montreal and Quebec businesses to buy minority stakes. The sale was completed on November 29, 1990.[84] 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.[85]

With a new ownership group in place, the Expos traded Tim Raines to the Chicago White Sox in a five-player deal.[86] 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,[87] replacing him with Tom Runnells.[88] Mark Gardner pitched nine no-hit innings in a July 26, 1991 game before losing 1–0 in the 10th inning to the Los Angeles Dodgers.[89] Two days later, also in Los Angeles, Dennis Martinez 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.[90] Dave Van Horne's iconic call of "El Presidente, El Perfecto!" following the final out became a hallmark of Expos lore.[91] 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.[92] 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.[93]

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.[94] 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,[95] and the team acquired Moises Alou in a trade with Pittsburgh.[96] 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.[97] In 1993, 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.[75][98] Nonetheless, the Expos improved on the field; they won 87 games in 1992, 95 in 1993 and finished second in the NL East both seasons.[94]

1994 and the players' strike[edit]

"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.[99]

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 National League's most dominant team, the Atlanta Braves, were shifted from the West to the East.[100] Atlanta opened the season with 13 wins in 14 games, and quickly opened up an 8 1/2 game lead on Montreal.[101] By late June, the Expos had moved to 2 1/2 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.[102] 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.[103] The Expos pulled away from the Braves after the break; between July 18 and August 11, Montreal won 20 games and lost only three.[99] For the second time in team history, five players were named all-stars: Moises Alou, Wil Cordero, Darrin Fletcher, Marquis Grissom and Ken Hill.[104]

With a record of 74–40, the Expos had the best record in baseball on the morning of August 12, when the Major League Baseball's players went on strike.[105] The season began without a collective bargaining agreement as MLB's owners could not agree on how to share revenue between teams and many refused to do so unless a salary cap was put in place, something which the Major League Baseball Players' Association (MLBPA) steadfastly refused to agree to. Unable to come to an agreement, the owners attempted to unilaterally force their system into effect, prompting the players to walk out.[106] On September 14, following a month of fruitless negotiations, the remainder of the season was cancelled.[107]

From Brochu's perspective, a salary cap was not a major concern for the Expos – they could not afford to spend to any cap the owners would have imposed anyway – but the failure to implement a strong revenue sharing in the aftermath of the strike (which ended eight months later and only a United States federal court ordered an end to the dispute) was a major blow to his organization.[108] For a team that 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),[109] the aftermath of the strike had a dramatic impact on the team's finances. The Expos already had the second-lowest payroll in MLB in 1994,[110] and in the immediate aftermath of the strike, the team endured 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. Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez and Mel Rojas soon followed.[111] 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.[112]

Decline (1995–2000)[edit]

The strike and ensuing fire sale left fans in Montreal livid.[113] The Expos finished last in the NL East in 1995, and attendance fell by nearly 26%, from 24,543 to 18,189; interest in baseball continued to decline in the years that followed.[111] 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.[114] 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.[115]

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.[116] Even with the loss of most of their best players, the Expos were competitive in 1996, achieving second place in the NE 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.[94] 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.[117] 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.[118]

Brochu attempted to convince his partners that the only long-term solution to keep the Expos in Montreal was to build a new ballpark in downtown Montreal, in the belief that Olympic Stadium – poorly located, cavernous and viewed as unsafe – was keeping fans away.[119] A proposed 35,000-seat 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. Brochu asked for $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. Additionally, Olympic Stadium still had not been paid for (the debt would not be fully retired until 2006).[120] Many members of the consortium instead favoured selling the team.[121] 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.[122] Attendance continued to fall, decreasing by 39 percent in 1998 to an average of 11,295 spectators per game.[123] It was the first of five consecutive seasons in which Montreal drew fewer than one million fans.[94]

By 1999, the partners publicly began to question Brochu's fitness to lead the organization and he was criticized by the media.[124] 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.[125] Brochu's rebuttals fell on deaf ears as fans sided with the consortium's smear campaign against Brochu.[126] He was ultimately replaced as managing partner by American art dealer Jeffrey Loria, who bought into the team as majority partner, and was initially hailed as the franchise's saviour.[127]

Relocation (2001–2004)[edit]

Close-up view of Minaya as he stands on the field.
Omar Minaya was the first Latin American-born general manager in MLB history.

Even with new ownership, the minority partners continued to consider their participation in the consortium to be a public-relations gesture, and remained unwilling to invest additional money into the team. Under the new ownership agreement, though, Loria had the right to call for cash investments in exchange for team equity. As Loria increased his own financial contribution and the the other partners failed to do likewise when called upon, Loria raised his share to 92 percent.[128][129] 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.[130]

With Loria's investments, the team payroll in 2000 rose to $33 million, nearly double the $17.9 million from the season before, but this did not translate into on-field success, as the Expos lost 95 games and interest in the team continued to decline.[131] Loria attempted to convince both MLB and Quebec's politicians on a re-designed and cheaper version of Labatt Park, but found little support from either.[132] To bolster the team's finances, Loria tried to renegotiate the Expos' media deals, which were far less valuable than that of any other team. However, 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–a pittance compared to the $200,000 it paid the Toronto 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.[133] Although the team continued its French radio coverage, the Expos were unable to reach an agreement for English radio broadcasts or for television coverage in either language. Local fans accused Loria and his stepson, David Samson, of sabotage.[134] Lacking a traditional outlet, the Expos streamed its English-language audio broadcasts over the Internet, becoming the first team to broadcast its entire schedule in this manner. 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.[135]

In 2001, the Expos drew only 642,748 fans, one of the smallest totals in MLB in decades.[94][136] 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.[137] At the same time, MLB took steps to vote on contraction and eliminating both the Expos and the Minnesota Twins.[138] On November 6, 2001, MLB's owners voted 28–2 on contraction; only the Expos and Twins opposed.[139] Both teams were saved following a legal challenge filed in Minnesota that forced MLB to honour the Twins' lease with their stadium, as well as challenges by the MLBPA.[140]

Loria left Montreal shortly after, as he 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.[129] 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.[141] Following the sale, Loria took virtually everything of value with him to Miami, including the Expos' computers and scouting reports.[142] His departure also marked the final end of the proposed Labatt Park, though any realistic chance of the park being built ended when Bouchard repeated the Quebec government's previous refusal to commit any money for the project.[143]

MLB appointed former Anaheim Angels president Tony Tavares as team president to oversee business operations and oversee a future move of the team,[144][145] and Mets assistant general manager Omar Minaya as vice-president, general manager and operating head of the franchise.[144] 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.[146] As the Expos began what many expected 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.[147]

Loria's minority partners filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Bud Selig and Jeffrey Loria, alleging that Loria and Selig conspired to undermine the franchise's future in Montreal, by issuing cash calls with the intention of depriving the partners of their share: they had gone from collectively owning 76 percent of the Expos to less than seven percent of the Marlins.[148] The partners were ultimately unsuccessful in their suit, as it was dismissed in 2005 after an arbitration panel rejected their claims.[149]

On the field, the 2002 Expos exceeded expectations and were in playoff contention. Due to their being owned by the other teams, the Expos were caught in a situation where increasing payroll in an attempt to make the post-season would have required asking their direct competitors for money.[150] Operating under the belief that the Expos were playing their last season in Montreal, Minaya completed a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians to make a final run at bringing post-season success to the city, acquiring Bartolo Colon, one of baseball's top pitchers, in exchange for several star prospects and without increasing payroll.[151] Minaya made several smaller moves, but the team was unable to maintain its early season momentum. The Expos finished with an 83–79 record – their first winning season since 1996 – but finished second in the NL East and missed the playoffs.[152]

The Expos franchise was saved by a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players forbade contraction until at least 2006, but speculation of relocation immediately returned.[153] MLB was not ready to relocate the Expos outright, but in 2003 sought to increase revenues by having the team play 22 of its 81 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[154] 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.[155] However, 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 thousand extra dollars, a small fraction of the team's $35 million payroll, to bolster the team.[156] Several players, including relief pitcher Eric Knott, were sent back to the minors due to budget constraints. The team faded again and missed the post-season.[157] Later, Minaya said that the denial of the September call-ups was "a message to the players" and "a momentum killer."[158]

The final season of the Montreal Expos came in 2004, and was again split between Montreal and San Juan.[157] On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball announced that the franchise would relocate to Washington for the 2005 season. That same night, the team played its final game in Montreal: a 9–1 loss before 31,395 fans.[159] 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.[160] The team left Montreal with an all-time record of 2,753 wins, 2,943 losses and 4 ties.[160]

A sparse crowd watches as the Expos take to the field.
Panoramic view of an Expos game at Olympic Stadium during one of the team's final seasons.

Team identity[edit]

Montreal's tri-colour logo. Elongated red and white "e" and blue "b" combine to form the letter "m"
Original version of the logo

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".[161]

In 1972, The Telemedia television network brought in Jacques Doucet and Claude Raymond to serve as the Expos' French language broadcast team. They were asked by the broadcast's title sponsor to create a French language glossary of baseball terminology; previously – particularly in the Montreal Royals days – broadcasters would use the English for concepts without 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".[162]


Youppi!, a big, bright orange furry mascot, interacts with a fan inside Montreal Olympic Stadium.
Youppi! prior to a game
Main article: Youppi!

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; Souki was once attacked by a father of children frightened by it.[163] Seeking a replacement, the Expos found a design for a mascot similar to to the Philly Phanatic in the inventory of an American mascot company that had gone bankrupt.[164] The mascot was designed by Bonnie Erickson, who created the Phanatic as well as several Muppets characters, including Miss Piggy.[163] The team named the new mascot "Youppi!", which is French for "Yippee!"[163] Unlike Souki, Youppi! was immediately popular with fans, particularly children, and the mascot became a fixture at children's hospitals during its 25 years as the Expos mascot.[164]

Youppi! made history in 1989 when he became the first mascot in Major League history to be ejected from a ballgame.[165] 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.[163] Youppi! was eventually allowed to return on the provision he remained away from the Dodgers' dugout. The game, coincidentally, was the longest in Expos history as Los Angeles won 1–0 in 22 innings.[166]

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 on October 18, 2005.[167]

Relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

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.[168] The Expos won that first game, 5–4, in front of 20,221 fans on June 29.[169] 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.[170] The teams did not meet again until 1997 with the advent of interleague play, and the first regular season meetings between the two.[171] The games boosted attendance in both Montreal and Toronto, but the two teams failed to develop a serious rivalry.[172]

A fan holds a sign that reads "BRING BACK EXPOS".
A fan calls for a return of the Expos during the Jays-Reds exhibition series at Olympic Stadium in 2015.

John McHale, then president of the Expos, was a strong proponent of adding a second Major League team in Toronto.[173] Eight years older, the Expos remained the more popular team across Canada until their early-1980s downturn coincided with the Blue Jays' improvement and first American League East pennant in 1985.[174] At the same time, the Blue Jays grew perturbed that the Expos were able to air their games in their home market of southern Ontario. 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 the most populous region in Canada 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.[175] The loss of the southern Ontario viewership 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.[176] Longtime Expos' play by play broadcaster Dave Van Horne later argued that the decision "really started a long, downward spiral" for the team.[177]

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.[178] However, and while Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey again acknowledged the Expos' role in this 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."[179] The Blue Jays' failure to stand with their fellow Canadian team offended many Expos fans.[180]

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.[181] For others, the goal was to demonstrate that Montreal had an interest in returning to Major League Baseball.[182] Former Expos player Warren Cromartie, who leads the Montreal Baseball Project, was among the organizers.[183] The series was a success: 96,350 fans, frequently chanting "Lets go Expos!" and "We want baseball!" attended the two games.[182] The Blue Jays returned for another two-game series in 2015, against the Cincinnati Reds, which was attended by 96,545 fans.[184] 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.[185] His replacement, Rob Manfred, echoed those comments in 2015.[186]


Retired numbers[edit]

Carter 8.png

1974–84 & 1992
Dawson 10.png

Staub 10.png

1969–71 & 1979
Raines 30.png

1979–90 & 2001
Jackie robinson 42 expos.png

Retired 1997

National Baseball Hall of Fame[edit]

Expos Hall of Famers
Inductee Position Tenure Inducted
Gary Carter C 1974–84, 1992 2003
Andre Dawson OF 1976–86 2010
Dick Williams MGR 1977–81 2008
Tony Pérez 1B 1977–79 2000
Randy Johnson P 1988–89 2015
Pedro Martínez P 1994–97 2015
Frank Robinson MGR 2002–2006 1982

Seven 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."[187]

Andre Dawson became the second player depicted as an Expo 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.[188] Dawson's reluctance to be enshrined as an Expo 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.[189]

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.[190] 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.[191] 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.[192] 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.[193]

Longtime broadcaster Dave Van Horne was named the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award in 2011.[194] 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" in 2010, the franchise recognized its roots in Montreal. The ring was created to honour Hall of Fame players associated with Washington baseball. Two Expos' players were named among the inaugural members: Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.[195] Frank Robinson was added to the Ring of Honor in 2015.[196]

Montreal Expos Hall of Fame[edit]

A banner hanging at Montreal's main hockey arena celebrating the Expos and the four retired numbers.
Expos banner hanging at the Bell Centre

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".[197] A total of 23 people were honoured by the club.[198]

Expos records[edit]

The players listed here represent the statistical leaders for the franchise's time in Montreal only. For the record holders of the franchise overall, see List of Washington Nationals team records.

No-hitters and cycles[edit]

Three pitchers in Expos history threw no-hitters. Bill Stoneman threw the first during the team's inaugural 1969 season.[21] He threw a second no-hitter in 1972.[27] Charlie Lea threw the third, nine years later in 1981.[41] A decade after that, on July 28, 1991, Dennis Martínez threw the 13th official perfect game in Major League Baseball history.[90] Two other pitchers threw no-hitters in shortened games which, after a 1992 rule change, were no longer recognized by MLB as official no-hitters. [202] David Palmer pitched a perfect five innings in a rain-shortened game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 22, 1984.[203] Pascual Pérez threw a five-inning no-hitter on September 24, 1988, against the Philadelphia Phillies.[204]

Six batters hit for the cycle in Montreal's history. Tim Foli was the first to do it, in 1976 and Vladimir Guerrero the last, in 2003.[205]

See also[edit]



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  • Brochu, Claude; Myles, Stephanie (2003), My Turn at Bat, ECW Press, ISBN 9781770900295 
  • Dever, John; Giroux, Monique, eds. (2004), 2004 Montreal Expos Media Guide, Montreal Expos Baseball Club 
  • Gallagher, Danny; Young, Bill (2013), Ecstasy to Agony: The 1994 Montreal Expos, Scoop Press, ISBN 978-0-9681859-5-7 
  • Humber, William (1995), Diamonds of the North, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-541039-4 
  • Keri, Jonah (2014), Up, Up & Away, Random House Canada, ISBN 978-0-307-36135-6 

External links[edit]

National League Eastern Division Champions
Preceded by:
Philadelphia Phillies
1981 Succeeded by:
St. Louis Cardinals