Going to bat for the Montreal Expos
By Wendy Frezzen
it is the worst team in baseball, its all about unconditional love!
Since the baseball strike is now imminent, it seems like my favorite baseball
team, the Montreal Expos, are dead in the water. Looks like Bud Selig
will finally have his way and lower the axe on my beloved team. I know
that just one fan cant change what will happen. I just wanted to
pay tribute to the team I have loved for the last 24 years, share some
memories, and tell you what I think.
I went to my first Expos game when I was 4. I dont remember it,
but I hear I really enjoyed it. I have been a rabid Expos fan ever since.
It certainly helps that my Grandmother and Aunt have been Rabid Expos
fans since the Expos became a team in 1969. My Mother, Aunt, Grandmother
and Grandfather have many fond memories of going to Jarry Parc
to see them play. I have only seen them play in Olympic Stadium.
The Expos moved from Jarry Parc to Olympic stadium in 1977. The Montrealers
who had to foot the bill for Olmypic Stadium when it was built for the
1976 Summer Olympics call it "The Big Owe". Those were the same
games where American Bruce Jenner won his gold medal in the Decathalon
and Nadia Comaneci won the worlds heart. Olympic Stadium was built
in a hurry, less than six months, and of course, the effects were felt
years later when the ceiling started to fall apart. Thank god there wasnt
a game being played, nobody was hurt. Though because of low attendance,
nobody would have probably been hurt anyway! The roof was never finished
in time for the Olympics and they never finished it till the late 80s.
I remember going to Expos games, looking up into open roof and seeing
the workmen working on the tower that holds the retracting mechanism for
the roof. It became a part of going to the game! Every time I went, it
just got taller and taller. It seemed strange that they finished it when
it was finally done. It was nice to have a retractable roof on the stadium,
no more rained out games and I had been to a few of them! They rarely
did "raise the roof" on the stadium, it almost was always closed.
One year, while the roof was closed, a windstorm ripped the tarp used
as the "roof" for the stadium. From then on they had to rebuild
the roof and make it stationary; Olympic Stadium had become an indoor
stadium. No matter what the stadium looked like, I still loved going there
and I have many fond memories.
I remember the days of the packed stadium, when you couldnt hear
yourself think over all of the cheering! Back when you only get seats
in the "rafters" and you had to bring your binoculars to see
anything because the players were like little ants. Sometimes they would
pack in 30,000 fans! That was back in the heyday of baseball in Montreal.
That was when they had Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub,
and even PETE ROSE! Yes! Pete Rose actually played for the Expos, but
only for like a week! I have seen Pete play against the Expos many times!
I have also seen Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire, Johnny Bench, Orel Hershiser,
Tommy Lasorda, Daryl Strawberry, Bobby Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, and the
list goes on and on. Its ironic that the baseball that made Montreal
so exciting will probably ultimately kill the Expos.
What will ultimately kill the Expos? Im not sure. You could say
it will be attendance or that Montreal is not a baseball town. I think
maybe it was the 1994 strike and some bad mismanagement. I say this kind
of tongue and cheek, but its a CONSPIRACY! Seems like every time
the Expos do well, they are currently in second place behind Atlanta in
their division and in the wild card race, Major League Baseball goes on
They were doing VERY well in 1994. It was a tight race with the Atlanta
Braves, New York Mets, and the Expos jockeying for first place. The Expos
were probably headed to the playoffs for the first time since at least
1982, but the strike happened. The strike made many fans mad and lowered
attendance figures for many of the teams around the league, including
the Expos. From then on, the Expos lost money and had to constantly lose
players because they couldnt pay them. There was Rondell White,
Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez, just to name a FEW. It
seemed like every time I would get a favorite player, they would get traded
or would sign with another team. It was so disappointing. This happened
mostly because of a man named Claude Brochu.
Claude Brochu, the primary shareholder for the Expos in the late 90s
mismanaged the team and they fell on to hard times. So many fans hated
him; some even brought "Claude the Fraud" signs to the game.
Brochu wanted a new downtown stadium so they could get more fans in because
he claimed that the stadium isnt close enough to downtown. He even
used the "The stadium was not built for baseball" argument even
AFTER they remodeled the stadium and were given new uniforms for the 1994
season so it was more "built for baseball" and more attractive
to the fans! Since the team was falling apart under Brochu, rumors were
running rampant that the team was moving to Virginia. Brochu still demanded
a new stadium or the team was going to be sold. Not too long after they
threatened the sale of the team and a model was made of the new stadium
for the press to see, and was put in the "Big O" for the fans
to see. The owners sell the team.
They sell to a guy named Jeffrey Loria, an art dealer from New York City.
He is new blood and hes really doing a great job of promoting the
team and sprucing things up around the stadium. I went to opening day
the first year that Loria owned the team. A friend of mine who lives in
the Montreal area said to me that night, "The French dont trust
this guy". I really didnt believe him, I was SO happy that
the Expos were doing great, I didnt care. I just was waiting to
see what happened! I was hoping to see shades of the "good ole
days". The Expos were doing GREAT! Attendance was up! They were kicking
BUTT. Then, things started to fall apart. Something went wrong and they
lost the downtown stadium. Rumors started to fly again. Loria announced
that he was going to sell the team also. He sold to the MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
owners, right into Bud Seligs hands. I think they were in cahoots
the whole time. That is why Jeffery Loria and Bud Selig can BITE ME!
Even if baseball is dead in Montreal, it was nice for the time it lasted.
It gave this country girl from rural upstate New York something to cheer
for and something to love. Even if it is the worst team in baseball, its
all about unconditional love! It also gave me a chance to see major stars
that I would have to travel at least five hours to see otherwise. The
Expos are in my blood and a great memory from my childhood and early adulthood
that I will cherish forever. So, Au revoir my boys, Ill certainly
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