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Montreal Expos History

By Wikipedia

The Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) are a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise based in Washington, D.C. The Nationals are a member of the National League's Eastern Division.

At a glance...
Franchise Facts
Established 1969
Located Washington DC (2005-)
Montreal (1969-2004)
Year by Year Results
National League (1969-present)
  East Division (1969-present)
World Series titles (0) None
NL Pennants (0) None
East Division titles (1) 1981
Wild card berths (0) None
Washington Nationals (2005-present)
Montreal Expos (1969-2004)
RFK Stadium (2005-present)
Olympic Stadium (Montreal) (1977-2004)
Hiram Bithorn Stadium (Puerto Rico) (2003-04)
Jarry Park (Montreal) (1969-1976)
Retired Numbers
8: Gary Carter
10: Andre Dawson/Rusty Staub
30: Tim Raines
42: Jackie Robinson* (huh?)
* - Hall of Famer
Note: The Washington Nationals have
decided to disrespect their own franchise
by refusing to honor the numbers retired
while the team was in Montreal.
Top Performances (through 2004)



Creation of the Franchise

In 1960, Montreal lost its International League team, the Montreal Royals (an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers). The move to get a new team for the city was led by Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau and councilman Jerry Snyder of Snowdon. They worked to create the Expos in conjunction with Montréal's 1967 World's Fair, Expo 67 (hence the team name). The first owner was Charles Bronfman of the Seagrams' whisky empire.

The Expos debuted in the Major Leagues in 1969, two years after Expo 67 - the world's fair. This marked the first time in its long history that MLB expanded outside the United States.

Social Impact of the Expos

Quebec was a deeply Catholic, agrarian society. In the 1960s, socio-economic changes under the Quiet Revolution saw massive social upheavals and improvement of the status of French Canadians. The arrival of Expo 67, the new Metro subway and the Expos allowed Montreal and Quebec to see itself as international and "major league." This search for a "Quebecois" movement later came into fruition as the separatist movement.

In 1977, Toronto received its own MLB franchise, the Blue Jays. In 1978, a national title between the Expos and the Blue Jays, called the Pearson Cup (after Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson), was created. This was meant to be Canada's "baseball cup" and a fundraiser for amateur baseball in Canada. Pearson Cup games were played from 1978 to 1986; each team won three times, and there were two ties. In 1997, MLB revived this rivalry as part of interleague play.

The Montreal Expos franchise joined the National League in 1969, along with the San Diego Padres. Their home stadium was Jarry Park. The Expos suffered through 10 straight losing seasons under their first manager, Gene Mauch (19691975) and three other managers (including a 52–110 debut season in 1969, tying the Padres for the majors' worst record that year). In 1979 they posted their first winning record with a 95–65 record, under manager Dick Williams. They would post five consecutive winning seasons, and reach their only post season in the split season of 1981. In the 1981 playoffs, the Expos defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3–2 in the divisional series, but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3–2 in the National League Championship Series. Montreal was led through these years by a core group of young players, including catcher Gary Carter, outfielders Tim Raines and Andre Dawson, third baseman Larry Parrish and pitchers Steve Rogers and Bill Gullickson. In spite of the team's talent and promise during the early 1980s, the Expos frequently did not perform up to expectations, and stalwarts such as Carter and Dawson would depart by the middle of the decade.

The Expos had several mediocre years in the mid 1980s under manager Buck Rodgers, but steadily rebuilt in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this period, Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez distinguished himself by throwing a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 28, 1991. Under manager Felipe Alou, who took the position midway through the 1992 season, Montreal finished second in the National League East in both 1992 and 1993.


Program from the first ever regular season Montreal Expos game.

The 1994 Season: Hope and Disappointment

1994 proved to be heart-breaking for the Expos. With a very talented group of players, including outfielders Larry Walker, Moisés Alou and Marquis Grissom and pitchers Ken Hill, John Wetteland and a young Pedro Martínez, the Expos had the best record in Major League Baseball, 74–40 when the players' strike forced the end of the season on August 12, 1994. They were six games ahead of the second place Braves and were on pace to win 105 games. (The New York Yankees had the second-best record in the majors, at 70–44.)

The strike hurt the team's campaigns for a new stadium, and a local conglomerate failed to invest the necessary funds making it impossible for ownership (such as Jean Coutu and Stephen Bronfman) to retain the talented players on the team. Coutu and Bronfman had the resources to buy the team outright and also build new a "retro" stadium downtown. (Mitch Melnick, CKGM Team 990 and Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette). This conglomerate unsuccessfully launched a lawsuit against Major League Baseball years later.

In 1995, led by Claude Brochu and Jacques Ménard, general manager at the time Kevin Malone was ordered to release its major stars. Many of the leading players said in retrospect that they were willing to take pay-cuts in order to return in 1995 and compete once again for the World Series. On ESPN, Larry Walker, asked rhetorically, "I was willing to take a cut to keep the team together, but I was never offered a contract. Where did the money go? We may never know." This major overhaul proved to be damaging to the franchise and its temperamental fan base.

The Final Decade

After 1994, the Expos lost most of their star players through free agency and trades, and produced poor records nearly every season, except for a second place finish in 1996 and a few respectable seasons in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the Expos were 67–95 after losing superstar Vladimir Guerrero to free agency during the previous off-season.

Montreal is often cited as an example of a small-market team, unable to compete with teams in bigger markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and therefore no longer a viable competitor. Jeffrey Loria, the last owner prior to the team's purchase by Major League Baseball, made some personnel moves, however the future of the franchise in Montreal never appeared strong. Attendance in the 2001 season was usually fewer than 10,000 people. On November 7, 2001, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that major league baseball would undergo a contraction of two teams, after a 28–2 vote by the owners. Montreal was one of the dissenting franchises.


1980 Montreal Expos program featuring Warren Cromartie.

On February 14, 2002, after a 30–0 vote, Major League Baseball formed a Delaware partnership (Expos Baseball, LP) to buy the Expos for US$120,000,000 with the intent of eliminating the franchise along with the Minnesota Twins. When legal maneuvers prevented the Twins from being shuttered, a collective bargaining agreement followed between MLB and its players association which prohibited "contraction" through 2006, so the Expos survived. Major League Baseball named Frank Robinson manager and Omar Minaya as vice-president and general manager.

In 2003, the team played 22 of its home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, despite having the highest percentage attendance increase in 2002 (from 7,935 per game to 10,025) and placing second in the National League East. Despite being a considerably smaller facility (it seats approximately 19,000) than Montréal's Olympic Stadium, San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium regularly outdrew the attendance in Montréal. Thanks in part to the San Juan games, the Expos were able to draw over a million fans at home in 2003 for the first time since 1998.

Led by Vladimir Guerrero, the 2003 Expos were part of a spirited seven-team Wild Card hunt as late as August 28. However, MLB led by Bud Selig, in what ESPN's Peter Gammons called "a conflict of interest", decided that it could not afford an extra $50,000 to call-up players from its minor leagues. The budget was some $35 million dollars. All teams have this right around the end of August. This doomed any hopes of reviving the franchise. Omar Minaya, the General Manager later said, "Baseball handed down a decree.” They would not be allowed to call up players from the minors on Sept. 1 like every other team in the game, as it was deemed too expensive. They would have to make do with what they had. The heart went out of the Expos that day. "It was a message to the players," Minaya said. "It was a momentum killer." He also stated: "They're a tough group of guys. You cannot ever forget 2003; they were as good as the Marlins, who won the World Series. But nobody knows this because nobody saw Montreal in 2003. What killed us was not getting the call-ups."

Orlando Cabrera, who had been the Expos' shortstop, cited that development as a reason he didn't want to remain with the team.

Fan attendance dropped off, and the Expos went 12–15, finishing eight games out of the Wild Card.

Relocation to Washington

The Players' Union initially rejected continuing the San Juan arrangement for the 2004 season, but later relented. Meanwhile, MLB actively looked for a relocation site. Some of the choices included Washington D.C., San Juan, Monterrey, Mexico, Portland, Oregon, Northern Virginia, and Norfolk, Virginia. In the decision-making process, Selig added Las Vegas, Nevada to the list of potential Expos homes.

On September 29, 2004, MLB officially announced that the Expos franchise would move to Washington, D.C. in 2005. Later that night, the Expos played what would be their last game in Montréal, a loss to the Florida Marlins before more than 31,000 fans. The move was approved by the owners of the other teams in a 29–1 vote on December 3 (Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos cast the sole nay vote). On November 15, 2004, a lawsuit by the former team owners against MLB and former majority owner Jeffrey Loria was struck down by arbitrators, ending legal moves to keep the Expos in Montréal.

The team is expected to move into a new ballpark, located in Southeast D.C. near the Anacostia River and with views of the Capitol building, in the spring of 2008.

The team's relocation was the first in Major League Baseball since 1972, when the Washington Senators moved to Texas, becoming the Texas Rangers. The franchise has been owned by Major League Baseball since 2002, although a new owner is expected to be selected by the end of 2005.

The move was announced despite opposition from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. From 1972 to 2004, the Orioles were the sole MLB franchise in the Baltimore-Washington metropolis. Obtaining the Orioles' cooperation was essential: the Baltimore and Washington regions had always been considered part of the same market, one which the Orioles' had had exclusive control over since 1972 (the original Washington Senators had waived their exclusivity rights to the region to allow the Orioles, then the St. Louis Browns, to move to Baltimore in 1953). On March 31, 2005, a deal was struck between Peter Angelos and Major League Baseball in order to protect the Orioles against any financial harm the Nationals might present to the Orioles' market (Washington is approximately 35 miles south of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Orioles have played their home games since 1992). Under the terms of the deal, television and radio broadcast rights to Nationals games are handled by the Orioles franchise, who formed a new network (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) to produce and distribute the games for both franchises on both local affiliates and cable/satellite systems.

The Ballpark Controversy

The team's relocation to Washington was contingent on a financing plan for the Nationals' stadium — a plan that was the subject of much debate on the D.C. City Council.

The ballpark proposal is controversial; many city residents oppose government subsidies for a multi-billion-dollar private business and would prefer the land and money to focus on schools rather than a ballpark. Three Council members who supported Mayor Anthony Williams's plan were ousted in September's Democratic party primary. An opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post found that approximately two thirds of District residents oppose the mayor's stadium plan.

Some controversy arises over the fact that the city is helping finance a $581 million dollar stadium without state or county support, despite the fact that a large portion of the team's fan base is drawn from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

During December 2004, the move to Washington itself was called into question when the D.C. City Council sought to change details of the stadium's financing. When the council voted on December 14 to require 50 percent private financing for any new stadium, MLB ceased promotional activities for the Nationals and announced that they would consider looking for a new market.

Eventually, the council passed an amended plan on December 21, 2004, that proved slightly more financially favorable to the city, while remaining acceptable to MLB. Mayor Williams signed the stadium financing package on December 30.

Viability of Washington Baseball Market

Due to the history of Washington franchises (See Washington Senators), there are doubts about whether Washington will actually be a better market for a pro baseball team than Montréal long term. Major League Baseball does not express such doubts, and proponents of the move argue that the failure of previous franchises has more to do with poor business decisions and financial management on the part of their owners than with any lack of popular support in the region itself.

Some analysts [2] have pointed out that Washington may be less suited than some other cities to support baseball because it is primarily an African-American city (59%), and that African-Americans generally support baseball less than whites. Past Washington Senators teams have blamed poor attendance partially on lack of attendance by African-Americans. Washington has larger and whiter suburbs than it did in the 60s, so some analysts believe this will be a less important factor than in the past. Still, both versions of the Senators only finished in the first half of the American League in attendance in 9 out of 71 seasons; the worst percentage of any team in Major League Baseball history that played for more than two seasons, including the Expos. The only season the Senators finished with more than one million in attendance was 1946, when baseball attendance was radically up nationwide due to the return of servicemen from World War II.

Though partially a product of the team's surprising 2005 first half showing, the Nationals' midseason attendance totals exceeded the Expos' 2004 total attendance. The final attendance for the 2005 season was 2,731,993; the 2005 total in Washington, DC exceeded the previous three seasons in Montréal combined (2002-2004) and was 11th in MLB.

Notable Firsts from the 2005 Season

  • On April 6, 2005, the Washington Nationals won their first-ever regular season game by beating the Phillies, 7-3. The win came in their second game of the season and was highlighted by Wilkerson's hit for the cycle.

Quick Facts

Founded: 1969 (Relocated from Montreal in 2005)
Stadium: RFK Stadium, Washington (capacity 46,000) 2005-Present
Uniform Colors: Red, white and blue with gold trim. Red hats and T-shirts are worn for home games, while blue hats and T-shirts are worn for road games.
Logo Design: A shield featuring "Washington" in a ribbon device over "Nationals" in a hard-block font, both superimposed over a baseball flanked by 9 stars, representing the 9 defensive players of a baseball team. The scripted "W" on the Nationals' hats is similar to that of the former Washington Senators (1961 expansion, now the Texas Rangers).
Mascot: A six-foot, two-inch (1.88 meters) tall eagle chick named "Screech", wearing a Washington Nationals cap and matching jersey. (Mascot in Montreal was named Youppi.
Playoff appearances (1): 1981

Historic Games

  • On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit a three-run home run and two-run triple that highlighted an 8–7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Expos' first home victory as a franchise at Jarry Park. Jones' blast was also the first MLB home run hit outside the United States.
  • Three days later, on April 17, in just the franchise's ninth game in existence, Bill Stoneman pitched a 7–0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.
  • On October 2, 1972, Stoneman pitched his second career no-hitter (the final score of this one was also 7–0) in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. The no-hitter was the first ever pitched outside the United States.
  • On July 13, 1982, the All-Star Game moved across the border and was played in Montréal's Olympic Stadium. It was the first Midsummer Classic ever to be held outside of the United States. The National league won 4–1 before a crowd of 59 057. Steve Rogers was the winning pitcher and Dennis Eckersley took the loss. Dave Concepcion was named MVP. Five players represented the Expos on the National League squad: Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Al Oliver.
  • On July 28, 1991, In a 2–0 victory, Dennis Martinez pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
  • On September 29, 2004, hours after the announcement of the impending move to Washington, the Expos played their final game in Montréal, a 9–1 loss to the Florida Marlins before 31,395 fans at Olympic Stadium.
  • On October 2, 2004, the Expos win their last game in franchise history, defeating the New York Mets 6–3. Brad Wilkerson hit the last home run in Expos history in the 9th inning, his 32nd of the year.
  • On October 3, 2004, the New York Mets defeated Montreal 8–1 at Shea Stadium, in the final game the franchise existed as the Montreal Expos. Jamey Carroll scored the last Expos run and Endy Chavez became the final Expo batter in history when he singled out in the top of the ninth to end the game. Ironically, it was at Shea Stadium where the Expos played their first ever game in 1969.

Retired Number Controversy

The Washington Nationals did not retain the retired numbers after the team moved in 2004, which was a terrible display of disrespect for the history of the franchise. The Nationals do not list these numbers as still being retired, and no player wore either Numbers 8 or 10 during the 2005 season. Reliever Mike Stanton did wear the number 30 during his brief stint in Washington, indicating that all numbers formerly retired by the Expos are now available for the Nationals (despite the official site of the Nats listing the Raines #30 as retired along with the others). RFK Stadium has a Washington Wall of Stars above its right-field fence, and several Washington Senators figures are honored, but, as yet, no Nationals figures. On October 18, 2005, the Montreal Canadiens honored the departed team by raising an Expos commemorative banner, which lists the retired numbers, to the rafters of the Bell Centre.

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