I was born and raised in Montreal and I’ve been a Montreal Expos fan my entire life. I would come to learn the hard way that being an Expos fan meant having to deal with many disappointments. The team never won a World Series and participated in the postseason only once. That was in 1981, when they lost to the LA Dodgers in the best-of-five National League Championship Series. I’ll never forget watching (on TV) Rick Monday hit a home run off Steve Rogers in the 9th inning of Game 5. It’s heartbreaking that this is one of the most memorable moments in the history of the franchise. The only other equally indelible moment was when the Expos played their final game in Montreal on September 29, 2004 before eventually moving to Washington, DC.
Despite the disappointment of 1981, the Expos had three future Hall of Famers on their roster (Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines) and things looked promising at the time. Surely the team was destined for greatness. They were, after all, dubbed the team of the 80s. I was young and naïve. How was I to know that there would be no more playoff appearances.
As a kid, I practically grew up at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. I went to countless games year after year, always hoping that “This year will be different. This year we’re going to win it all”. I went to so many games that the fans in section 111 recognized me every time my friends and I snuck down there after purchasing bleacher tickets. (We were on a student budget)
Before I was old enough to go on my own, my dad would take me to games. My mom didn’t like baseball but she did take me to one game. Back then, I was more interested in the hot dogs than the game itself. But as I got older, my focus shifted and I would live and die with every pitch. When the team would win, I was in the best mood. But when they lost, I was no fun to be around. I was usually grumpy for the next 24 hours, until the first pitch of the next game.
The first few times I went to Olympic Stadium, I thought it was the coolest place on earth. I was even lucky enough to attend the MLB All Star Game in 1982. But now that I’ve been to beautiful ballparks like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Camden Yards in Baltimore and Oracle Park in San Francisco, I realize that Olympic Stadium is a dump. But in August 1994, the Expos had the best record in baseball (74 wins, 40 losses) and were on pace to win 105 games. That summer, “the dump” was packed and it was loud and there was no better place to be. Somehow, 45,000 screaming fans transformed the cold, cavernous, concrete stadium into a warm and inviting ballpark. But of course, just as Expos fans were getting excited about a postseason berth, a labour dispute shut down the season. There would be no World Series for the first time in 90 years. A few months later, the team was stripped of its parts. Their best players were traded away or left via free agency. Yet another disappointment.
In the spring of 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays played a couple of exhibition games at Olympic Stadium and I had the opportunity to “pay back” my dad for taking me to all those games when I was a kid. We took the metro to the stadium just like we had done in the 80s. It brought back so many good memories.
I’ll be shocked if Montreal ever gets another MLB team. But if they do, you can be sure that I’ll be at the home opener.