Montrealers to toast ’94 Expos
MONTREAL—Montreal’s baseball fans will get a chance to applaud the 1994 Expos for their memorable, strike-shortened season.
Former manager Felipe Alou has confirmed to The Canadian Press that he and other members of that dominant squad will be at an exhibition game next March at Olympic Stadium.
He said the details still need to be ironed out with former Expos’ star Warren Cromartie, who is spearheading the event.
“I know he’s trying to reach other players from that team, but I don’t know who he got,” Alou said in a phone interview.
“He told me he’d be in touch after the season.”
A news conference was scheduled for today, when Cromartie’s Montreal Baseball Project also will introduce some results of a feasibility study on baseball in Montreal, commissioned by the local board of trade.
The Expos were enjoying the best season in their history in 1994—with an outfield of Larry Walker, Moises Alou, and Marquis Grissom, and a burgeoning Pedro Martinez who entered the season as the team’s No. 4 starter.
They had the best record in the major leagues—at 34 games over .500—when the season ended prematurely in mid-August.
And for a number of key regulars, that was it.
The Expos were dismantled before the next year’s Opening Day, in one of the periodic fire sales that crushed the spirits of the local fan base.
The Expos played in a mostly empty stadium before moving to Washington a decade later.
Major League Baseball will make a brief return next March as Olympic Stadium hosts two exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and N.Y. Mets.
The tickets only have been on sale for a few days, but more than 40,000 total already have been sold for the games.
That ensures a far better draw for the exhibition matches than what the Expos generally got for regular-season games in their final years.
Alou, a former National League manager-of-the-year and a three-time all star during his playing days, maintains the city should have a big-league franchise.
“I always said Montreal would be a good city for Major League Baseball,” he said.
He added that there were whispers about minor-league baseball coming to Montreal, but he didn’t buy it.
“Montreal is a big-league city,” Alou stressed. “It’s a big-league city for hockey and I think it can be a big-league city for baseball.”
There’s one glaring prerequisite, though, for making baseball work there, Alou said: a downtown ballpark.
The Olympic Stadium is located in the city’s east end—away from central transport hubs.
Its location required a lengthy night-time commute for fans who lived on the other side of the city core, or off the island.
“I don’t believe that any city that had Major League Baseball for 34 years went on without building a downtown major-league stadium,” Alou noted.
Location wasn’t the only problem, he said.
He also suggested the cavernous concrete creation from the 1976 Olympics wasn’t exactly propitious for baseball.
“We never had a stadium in Montreal,” Alou said.