A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
MONTREAL The city of Montreal had a long association with professional baseball even before it was awarded a Major League franchise in 1968. On April 18, 1946, the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the International League, secured their place in baseball history when Jackie Robinson made his professional debut and became the first African-American to play professional baseball in the 20th Century.
More than two decades later as the National League was seeking to expand by two franchises, former Montreal city councillor Gerry Snyder presented the city's formal bid during an owners' meeting in Mexico City, Mexico. Six months later on May 27, 1968, it was announced that Major League Baseball was expanding outside the United States for the first time as Montreal was awarded a National League franchise to begin play in 1969.
Despite some early concerns about the team's financing, Montreal met its initial deposit deadline and officially became a member of the National League on August 14, 1968. Charles Bronfman, a distillery magnate and an original investor, was named chairman with Paul Beaudry and Lorne Webster as vice-chairmen. John McHale was named president and chief executive officer, while Jim Fanning was appointed the team's first general manager.
On September 5, 1968, the Montreal franchise named Gene Mauch field manager. Mauch was returning to familiar ground as he played two seasons for the minor league Montreal Royals in 1943 and 1944. McHale also announced that the team would be known as the Expos, in recognition of Expos 67, an international exhibition that attracted 50 million visitors to the city in 1967.
Only five days later, pitcher Dave Hartman became the first player to sign a contract with the Expos. Hartman never actually played for the Expos or made it to the Major Leagues.
An expansion draft was conducted on October 14, 1968 and the Expos selected the following 30 players:
Manny Mota, Mack Jones, John Bateman, Gary Sutherland, John Billingham, Donn Clendenon, Jesus Alou, Mike Wegener, Skip Guinn, Bill Stoneman, Maury Wills, Larry Jackson, Bob Reynolds, Dan McGinn, Jose Herrera, Jim Williams, Angel Hermoso, Jim Grant, Jerry Robertson, Don Shaw, Ty Cline, Garry Jestadt, Carl Morton, Larry Jaster, Ernest McAnally, Jim Fairey, Jose Laboy, John Boccabella, Rob Brand and John Glass.
The first home ballpark of the Expos was Jarry Park, a converted minor league stadium. Jarry Park's initial capacity was 3,000, but that was expanded to 28,450 as the ballpark was brought to Major League standards. The complex where the park was located covered more than five million square feet and was named after former councillor Raoul Jarry in 1927.
Montreal made its National League debut on April 8, 1969 at Shea Stadium in New York against one of the National League's last expansion teams, the Mets. The Expos held off a furious ninth inning rally to claim an 11-10 victory. Pitcher Dan McGinn hit the first home run in franchise history, a solo shot off future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in the fourth inning.
Jarry Park hosted its first regular season game six days later as 29,814 fans witnessed Major League Baseball in Canada for the first time. Despite facing a St. Louis Cardinals lineup that featured names such as Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Dal Maxvill and Joe Torre, the Expos treated their fans to an 8-7 win.
One of the highlights of the inaugural season came on April 17 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. Bill Stoneman, current general manager of the Anaheim Angels, pitched the franchise's first no-hitter in defeating the Phillies, 7-0. The Expos would go on to finish the season with a 52-110 mark.
The following season saw Montreal improve by 21 games under Mauch. Twenty-six-year-old pitcher Carl Morton went 18-11 with a 3.26 ERA en route to being named 1970 National League Rookie of the Year. In 1973, the Expos made their first pennant chase as they won 79 games and were in the race for the National League East title until the last weekend of the season.
After a few disappointing seasons, the Expos in 1977 moved into Olympic Stadium, which was the main venue for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. A crowd of 57,592 fans attended the first game at Olympic Stadium as the Expos fell to the Phillies, 7-2.
Montreal begun to form the nucleus of a team that would bring home its first National League East title with players such as Ellis Valentine, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Gary Carter and Steve Rogers. The Expos won 95 games in 1979 only to fall two games shy of the title and was again in the pennant race until the final game of the season 1980.
In 1981, the Expos finally cleared the hurdle as they won the National League East's second half title in a season shortened by a players' strike. In a best-of-5 Divisional Series, Montreal defeated the first half champion Philadelphia Phillies three games to two and advanced to its first National League Championship Series.
The NLCS against Tommy Lasorda's Los Angeles Dodgers went down to the ninth inning of the fifth and deciding game. With the game tied at 1-1, Dodgers outfielder Rick Monday hit a two-out solo homer off Rogers. The Expos put two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, but could not tie the score as Los Angeles advanced to the World Series.
In 1982, Montreal hosted the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game to be held outside of the United States. The National League won its 11th consecutive Midsummer Classic on the strength of a home run by Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds. Five players represented the Expos on the National League squad: Carter, Rogers, Dawson, Tim Raines and Al Oliver.
Montreal remained competitive throughout much of the next decade, including 91 wins in 1987 by a team led by Raines, Andres Galarraga, Hubie Brooks and Tim Wallach.
Bronfman sold the franchise to team president Claude Brochu on June 14, 1991. The next season Brochu appointed long-time Montreal coach Felipe Alou as field manager. Alou guided the Expos to 87 victories and a second place finish in his first year at the helm and then improved upon that with 94 wins in 1993.
The 1994 season saw a core group of players such as Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill and John Wetteland storm out to a 74-40 mark - the best in the Major Leagues - and a six-game lead in the newly-formed National League East on August 11. However, the season was never completed. A players' strike began the following day that would wipe out the remainder of the 1994 schedule.
After the changing economics of the baseball landscape forced the Expos to trade some of those core players, the 1995 team finished in last place in the National League East. It marked only the second time since 1977 that Montreal finished a season in last place.
Two years later, Martinez continued to establish himself as one of the top starting pitchers in the Major Leagues. He posted a 17-8 record with a 1.90 ERA, 305 strikeouts and 13 complete games en route to being the first Expos' pitcher to win the National League Cy Young Award. That winter, Martinez was traded to the Boston Red Sox.
The 1998 season was marked by stellar individual performances on the field and uncertainty off the field. Twenty-two-year-old outfielder Vladimir Guerrero displayed his immense talent by setting six Montreal records, including the club single season home run mark. Also, 24-year-old closer Ugueth Urbina recorded 34 saves with a 1.30 ERA, and Alou became the franchise's most successful manager with his 521st victory on August 19.
Off the field, Brochu continued to struggle in an attempt to finalize funding for a new downtown ballpark and announced his willingness to sell his shares of the franchise. In 1999, Jeffrey Loria was officially approved as the Expos controlling person following a buy-back of Brochu's shares. In February 2002, Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Florida Marlins to Loria and the sale of the Expos to Major League Baseball and the 29 other Major League Clubs. A new Expos senior management team was announced: Tony Tavares (president), Omar Minaya (general manager) and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (field manager). Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig also announced the formation of a relocation committee to seek a permanent home for the franchise.
The 2003 and 2004 seasons saw the Expos make baseball history by playing a portion of their home schedule at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fans in Puerto Rico celebrated the return of Major League Baseball to the island country. The Expos drew nearly 530,000 fans and posted a 20-23 mark over their 43 games played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium the past two seasons.
On September 29, 2004, Commissioner Selig announced the formal approval of the relocation of the Expos franchise to the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., for the 2005 season.
Other Significant Events in Montreal Expos History
November 25, 1968 - West Palm Beach was selected as Expos Spring Training site.
November 26, 1968 - Gaetan Groleau became first native Canadian signed by Expos.
January 24, 1969 - Expos unveiled inaugural season home uniforms.
October 2, 1972 - Bill Stoneman pitched second career no-hitter and first at Montreal vs. Mets.
April 20, 1977 - Gary Carter became first Expos player to record three homers in a single game.
November, 1977 - Andre Dawson named National League Rookie of the Year.
October 1, 1978 - Ross Grimsley became first and only Expos pitcher to win at least 20 games.
September 10, 1980 - Bill Gullickson set a franchise mark with 18 strikeouts in a game vs. Cubs.
May 10, 1981 - Charlie Lea threw third no-hitter in Montreal history against Giants.
Oct. 3, 1982 - Al Oliver finished with a .331 batting average to win Montreal's first batting crown.
April 13, 1984 - Pete Rose recorded his 4,000th career hit as a member of the Expos.
July 28, 1991 - Dennis Martinez hurled the 15th perfect game in baseball history and the first by a Montreal pitcher vs. Dodgers.
September, 1991 - Montreal played its final month on the road after a concrete chunk fell from Olympic Stadium.
May 15, 1993 - Rusty Staub's uniform number 10 was retired by the Expos.
July 31, 1993 - Montreal retired Gary Carter's uniform number 8.
July 6, 1997 - Andre Dawson's uniform number 10 was also retired by the Expos.
October, 2001 - Orlando Cabrera was the first Expos shortstop to win a Rawlings Gold Glove.
July 27, 2003 - Gary Carter was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL - 29 September 2004