Hewitt Commentary: Bring back the Expos
Fans wear Montreal Expos uniforms as they watch the Toronto Blue Jays in a pre-season baseball game against the New York Mets Friday, March 28, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
The Montreal Expos may be coming back in a few years and for many of us former Expo fans we couldn’t be happier.
The wheels are slowly turning for Stephen Bronfman to eventually grab some or all of the Tampa Bay Rays. Bronfman wants to bring the Expos back to Montreal complete with a new outdoor stadium.
Stephen’s dad Charles was the first Expo owner when Montreal joined major league baseball back in 1969 along with the San Diego Padres. Like the Raptors now, all of Canada followed the Expos until the Blue Jays arrived in 1977. The unique team name was a tribute to Montreal’s hosting of the 1967 World’s Fair.
Who names a baseball team after a World’s Fair?
It was truly a bizarre yet unique nickname and that’s why it worked. The word Expos is the same in both English and French which was a major advantage for both marketing and recognition.
The team played in dumpy Jarry Park until moving to the Olympic Stadium in 1977. They should never have moved. The old north end stadium was like Fenway Park in Boston without some of the history. Despite all of its inadequacies, there was a romance about the old, dark joint which disappeared with the move. Olympic Stadium was sterile with no pulse - it was never the same.
Jarry Park hot dogs were rated second best in all of MLB behind only Yankee Stadium.
The CBC broadcast the Expo TV games back then - play by play man Dave Van Horne and colour guy Duke Snider were the best baseball on the air tandem I have ever watched to this day.
My favourite player was Rusty Staub, nicknamed “Le Grande Orange” for his flaming red hair. I also liked right fielder Mack Jones - the seats in right were called “Jonesville”.
The worst infielder I ever saw was shortstop Bobby Wine. He was the first shortstop for the Expos and no matter where the ball was hit, it would always find its way, somehow, through Wine’s legs.
The Little General Gene Mauch was the Expos' first manager and was big time “old school”. Mauch was fiery with umpires and didn’t hesitate to taunt the other team from the dugout. We need some of Mauch’s colour back in today’s game.
Expo fans will never forget 1981 when Montreal defeated the Phillies to win the East Division title. The Expos were then 1 win away from the World Series when they hosted a 5th and final game against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the pennant. I can still see the stunned look on the face of Montreal ace Steve Rogers when he gave up a Rick Monday home run that sent LA to the world championship.
“Blue Monday” seems like yesterday.
The 1994 Expos had the best team in the National League before a players strike ended the season.
This team had no luck!
Montreal’s last owner Jeffrey Loria destroyed the franchise that resulted in a move to Washington in 2005.
When the franchise moved to the U.S., I adopted the Blue Jays as my favourite baseball team.
A return of the loveable losers back to Montreal would immediately move the Jays to #2.
Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1979.