With the Toronto Blue Jays making a big splash in the off-season I got really excited for the upcoming baseball season, but it also had me day dreaming about the team that made many people fall in love with, but also broke many of their hearts, the Montreal Expos, nos amours. The Montreal Expos started their first season in 1969 and was a true gem in the eyes of Montrealers, Canadians and baseball fans, nevertheless with a lot of bad luck after the 94 strike the Expos left town after the 2004 season which created a hole in many of our hearts. This post however is not about how sad or angry I am about losing the Expos, it is about the happy thoughts that come to mind and about the great times I had in the cavarness Olympic Stadium with the team I loved and enjoyed going to see. Before I go down memory lane in the BIG O I need to share some history in to how and why I started to like baseball and the Spos.
It all began a long time ago when I was just a kid around the summer of 1995, funny enough, a year removed from the strike that prevented one of the best Expos teams ever to be in the playoffs and most likely win it all. Of course no thanks to that strike, they lost a lot of good players and not to mention it was a few years removed from the back to back World Series Titles in which the Jays earned. I had a neighbor whom I used to hang out with down the street and we played on his Sega Genesis when it was raining outside, the game we played the most was World Series Baseball. This was a heck of a game! You had to play a full season with no simulation and it was not an easy game to win either, but we did not care. We would take turns pitching and batting in different innings and had a blast, of course our team was the Montreal Expos! That was my first exposure to baseball that I can remember, and I loved it! We then started to play baseball outside 1 on 1 with a ghost rule, which made it just as fun and my love for the game grew. My second exposure to baseball was on television, the only problem with that was that I didn’t know where to find the Expos on it and then I stumbled upon the Toronto Blue Jays which had games televised on the CBC. However I would listen to the expos on the radio and sometimes we were lucky and they played on the channel TQS, but I still watched the Jays on CBC and instantly became a fan of the Jays and the Expos. You have to realize being a kid I was not the diehard Montreal Canadiens fan that I am today, and I was not a huge hockey fan yet either so I did not quite grasp the Montreal-Toronto rivalry just yet. I was 5 years old, how would I know? And in baseball it was not a very intense rivalry like the Habs vs. the Leafs, but I digress.
A few years went by and in 1998 I got a fantastic gift, I received VIP tickets to see the Expos vs. the Blue Jays, I was ecstatic! I could not believe that I had been given the tickets, but thanks to my parents and my uncles I got to see my two favorite teams play against each other and the fact it was my first game too, made it even more special. There was a bonus to my first game as well, it was played under the stars, because the ice storm earlier that year it tore open the roof and forced the stadium to have no roof for the whole season, the only scary part to that was having the stupid tower leaning over you. The game ended up being a 1-0 win in favor of the Blue Jays, which was won by a solo home run hit in the 4th inning. As a kid I always believed it was hit by my favorite catcher Darren Fletcher, but the magic of the Internet tells me that it was Mike Stanley who had hit the homerun, and funny enough Fletcher did not even play that game, but it does not matter because I got to see the Expos and the Blue Jays play ball. I can remember bugging my dad to get me the Expos magazine and he kept saying “yeah, yeah I will get it later” I know what you are thinking; he did not get it right? Well lucky enough that did not happen; my uncle got me the magazine, which I can proudly say I still have today, albeit it is a bit torn up. Although I cannot remember the whole game what I do remember is priceless, and I hope that I never forget it.
I was blessed throughout the years when it came to Expos games and I always got to see them every year (except 2003).The older I got the better I got jotting down things on the scorecard, although I still do not know how to do it completely, but that does not matter because I got to see a lot of cool things at the Expos games. I got to see Mark McGwire hit a home run with the St. Louis Cardinals, the funny part about that game is that I went with my dad, grandpa and his girlfriend and my dad turned right when McGwire hit it out of the park, luckily the echo of the crack of the bat made him look back, but it was funny and awesome at the same time. I got to see a few more games with my grandpa; I saw Sammy Sosa with the Chicago Cubs, Cal Ripken Jr. with the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal native Eric Gagne who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitched against his boy-hood team that was pretty cool. I got to experience a home-opener against the Florida Marlins with 30, 000 screaming fans who were loving the Expos and hating the Marlins because Jeffrey Loria had just left and screwed over our team, needless to say it was fun taunting the Marlins. I went to see a game on St. Jean Baptiste with my friends Ian and Thomas, we wore our baseball uniforms. I had the opportunity to see Vladimir Guerrero (my favorite all time player) hit his first career grand slam on Canada Day against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the game was delayed because the power went out and we received free tickets to see another game and the Expos won that game! One of my favorite weeks ever involved me seeing 4 Expos games in that one week with my friends and my grandpa and my dad. The 2nd game was against the Dodgers (which Gagne pitched in) and my whole baseball team went and my friend Ian told me if he caught a homerun he would give me the ball and I thought that was awesome. Later on in the game a homerun got hit and I got so caught up in the moment that I did not move, which was weird because I was good at tracking the ball when I played in the outfield. However, Ian did not freeze, he managed to get under the ball and he caught it! Unfortunately, the ball then bounced out of the glove and rolled away to some older guy who did not give Ian the ball, but at the time Thomas and I thought it was so cool that he was so close! My final game with my dad was the last of those 4 games against the Cubs and my last game was against the Phillies the last week they were here in Montreal. Unfortunately I did not get to go to the final game of the season, which to this day I regret. If I could go back in time I would have made sure that I would have gone to that last game.
Expos leaving still leaves a hole in my heart, it feels as though there is something missing. As I had mentioned earlier, I am a huge Habs fan and that helps because a hockey season will last almost the entire year, but when the summer comes around I still miss it. I am lucky enough to have seen the Jays in Toronto three times, and they won all of those times, but that last time I missed most of the game so it is hard to count it, although I did see Sammy Sosa one last time when he was on the Texas Rangers that year. This summer I hope to see the Jays at least once, but hopefully more than once. I miss going to see baseball games every year and the Jays look great, on paper… (There is that term again) and there is a possibility of seeing the Cubs at Wrigley field which would be a dream come true, so my fingers are crossed for seeing the Jays and the Cubs. If Montreal gets any kind of Baseball team I will support it 100% and maybe I would even try to work for them. For now there is still that feeling of something missing, but I will always have the incredible memories of the Montreal Expos win, or lose it was always fun to see them play.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and hope you are able to remember great experiences you had at an Expos game or Habs game or any sporting event. I ask you if you are willing to share your experiences to do so, I would love to read about them.