Photos: Kevin Raftery
Photos: Kevin Raftery
As the baseball season winds down, many are looking back at the year and charting a course for the future. 2014 has been an incredible year for baseball in Montreal, marked by the electrifying atmosphere at the Big O this spring for two pre-season baseball games, and the celebration of our 1994 Expos. For us, 2015 looks to be a year where we build on the successes of the past, and it begins with our Gala.
Each of MBP's Galas in the past has given players the opportunity to relive their favourite memories as they saw them, and for fans to take it all in firsthand. They have given us pivotal moments in redefining how we see baseball in Montreal and have lit up the path in front of us today.
Montreal Baseball Project's 2015 Gala promises to continue that tradition. It will take place on Wednesday, April 1, 7 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Montreal. We will honour five beloved members of the Expos family: Andres Galarraga, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub and Jacques Doucet. Each represents an integral part of the Expos’ legacy, with deep ties that extend off the diamond and to the city itself.
2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of Andres Galarraga’s debut as an Expo, and the start of a memorable career in which he consistently ranked among the best first basemen in baseball. He is also a man with strong links to Montreal, being the father of two daughters who were born here.
Tim Raines is regarded as one of the best leadoff hitters and baserunners in baseball history. This alone makes a strong case for him to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the last Expos player to have his number retired, and was there for many key moments, including as a member of the coaching staff for the team's last game.
Andre Dawson was the author of an illustrious career and one of the first homegrown stars of the Expos organization. His unrivalled work ethic inspired many of his teammates and helped him overcome one challenge after another, to eventually place him among the legends in Cooperstown.
Rusty Staub is synonymous with the early days of the Expos. He was a six-time All-Star and the city's first MLB superstar, a man who became a hero to legions of fans not only in Montreal, but all across Quebec and Canada.
As a journalist and broadcaster, Jacques Doucet lived through every moment in the history of the Expos and was instrumental in bringing the game to life for millions of French-speaking baseball fans over the years. His longevity and unique contribution to the game have consistently put him on the verge of entering the Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.
We can't wait to see these legends together, as we take yet another bold step towards our ultimate dream of making Montreal a Major League city again. Tickets go on sale Friday, September 12 on our events page. For more information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.We hope to see you there!
WOW. WOW, WOW, WOW. What a fantastic weekend. Where do I begin? There is so much to say and share about our incredible weekend of baseball. It was Montreal's first taste of the game in a decade, and by all accounts, Montreal baseball fans didn't miss a beat.
I'm surprised, but not that surprised by how the fans showed up. When we had the press conference in September to announce the games, I made the call out to Montrealers about how critical it was to be there, how the whole world will be watching. This would be an indication of how much we wanted baseball, and the turnout was twice what many people expected to be.
On a personal note, I wondered what the fans would be thinking when they entered the stadium. It would be different this time. They were coming to see baseball, not the Expos. But it was easy for them. It seemed like nothing had changed in the last 10 years. It was amazing to see families united again to watch a baseball game and watch new grassroots take hold, with so many young fans in the crowd who had never seen a baseball game in Montreal until last weekend.
I realized once again how baseball has this tremendous ability to transcend, to bring people together in the worst of times and in the best of times. It has a knack for calming unrest and cutting through language barriers. Baseball has a way of bringing communities, cities and nations together. What happened last weekend was monumental for the city of Montreal. I understand there is a lot happening on the political scene. But for those two baseball games, no one was thinking about that. Everyone was thinking about having a good time and being in the presence of a game the city loves. That's what baseball does. It transcends.
A sold-out MBP Gala took the weekend to another unforgettable level. Tributes to Claude Raymond and Felipe Alou brought tears to many people’s eyes, including my own. The Gala brought a sense of closure to the lost 1994 season that many of us needed. We heard memorable stories of how the players made it all happen. Larry Walker shared some hilarious stories, like how the outfielders would sometimes switch gloves during pitching changes just to make the games more interesting. John Wetteland, a World Series MVP with a franchise as prestigious as the New York Yankees, talked about how old school he used to play and his story about his feud with Chucky Carr was priceless.
The personal interactions with the players before and after the Gala led to some fascinating discussions. It was heart-warming to hear Walker return to praise the city that he left under circumstances that were perhaps not the best. Wil Cordero laughed about the times he took the Metro home in his Expos uniform, just because he could do that here.
After taking all of that in, I realized last weekend wasn’t just about Montreal reacquainting itself with baseball, but baseball rediscovering its roots in Montreal again. It brought me back to how it started, with a tribute to Gary Carter, and how his wife Sandy and daughter Kimmy waved to the crowd emotionally, just like they waved back to them. For so many who spent time here, Montreal has a special place in their hearts. Hearing the feedback from everyone after the weekend reminded me of how much the game means to Montreal and how much the city misses it.
This was a weekend to remember. We hope to continue working with evenko to make this an annual event until we get our team back. There were representatives from Major League Baseball at the game, and their words spoke volumes about how the world took notice. “I’m going to tell commissioner Bud Selig that things were better than even I expected and that I was very, very, favourably impressed. There is a fire that burns brightly here for Major League Baseball and that’s a message that I’ll be proud to carry to the commissioner,” said MLB executive John McHale Jr.
There is now no doubt Montreal is a baseball city, and I look forward to continuing this journey. We have crossed some major hurdles but we still have a ways to go. We made the right impression and a lot of noise along with it. Montreal sure knocked it out of the park.
Montreal Baseball Project’s gala to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Expos was, in one word, magical. Held on March 29, 2014 at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, fans in attendance of the sold-out affair began the evening up close and personal with the players at a VIP Cocktail. Master of Ceremonies Marc Griffin started the dinner with a rousing red carpet introduction of each of the team members in attendance. Gala attendees were treated to several video presentations, including a message from long-time Expos’ play-by-play announcer Dave Van Horne as well as a preview of filmmaker Robbie Hart’s documentary in progress, Nos Amours…The Journey Continues.
Invited speakers were Dr. Roger Tabah, Claudine Cook, Jacques Doucet, Rodger Brulotte, Matthew Ross, Elliott Price, Mitch Melnick, Jonah Keri, and Danny Gallagher. Two performances by Annakin Slayd and Melissa Blouin brought the audience to their feet. MBP President and Founder Warren Cromartie presented commemorative prints to Guests of Honour Claude Raymond and Felipe Alou. Both Raymond and Alou gave moving speeches that remarked upon their many years as members of the Expos’ organization, their memories of the 1994 season, and their hopes for the future of Major League Baseball in Montreal.
The evening wrapped up with Cromartie taking over the microphone, inviting members of the 1994 Expos to the stage to talk – “Cropah-style” – about their own memories. It was during one of these chats that Larry Walker revealed – in a demonstration of just how confident the team was – that he and fellow outfielders Moises Alou and Marquis Grissom used to exchange gloves during pitching changes and play out the rest of the inning that way. The smile on manager Alou’s face at this revelation demonstrated that not only had the statute of limitations expired on shenanigans, but that he was just as confident in his players as they were in themselves.
Photographs by Andrew Soong
By Mark Paterson
Nineteen ninety-four. For a Montreal Expos fan, there may be no more evocative term. It only takes one second to say it, two seconds to write it down, but to do either is to conjure an array of memories and emotions that last a lifetime. How can one season stand for so much? For everything that came before it, for everything that came after, and, most importantly, for what occurred on the field that year, 1994 was the Montreal Expos’ finest hour.
Not only were the 1994 Expos stacked with talent, they were stacked with young talent. Very young talent. From its solid starting rotation to its impressive bullpen to its dynamic offense, the roster’s average age was merely 26, the youngest in the Majors. The team had power, the team had speed, the team had arms – on the mound and in the field – but, perhaps even more significantly, the team was going to get even better.
This abundance of youth was balanced by the wisdom, experience, and craft of manager Felipe Alou. Alou had been at the helm of the club since May 22, 1992, when he became the Majors’ first Dominican manager after a long Major League playing career and many years as a minor league manager and a coach at various levels in the Expos’ organization. Alou’s arrival in the dugout marked the beginning of a renaissance for the Expos, both on the field and for the fans. Alou’s work with the 1994 team earned him the National League Manager of the Year Award. His body of work earned him the legendary status in the city of Montreal that lives on today.
At 74-40, the Expos’ record in 1994 – the best in all of baseball – is impressive enough on its own. But it’s the team’s record in June, July, and the portion of August that was played prior to the work stoppage that paints a more precise picture of dominance. Posting 46 wins and only 18 losses over their last 64 games – an astounding winning percentage of .718 – the young and powerful Expos had hit their stride. The team got its first taste of first place in the National League East on July 8 when, following a 14-0 win over the Padres in San Diego, they caught the Atlanta Braves in the standings. Montreal and Atlanta seesawed atop the East for close to two weeks, but on July 20, after the third victory of what ultimately became an eight-game winning streak, the Expos grabbed first place for good. Not only were they running away with the division, they were steamrolling their way into the playoffs and, with confidence and poise to go along with their talent, a trip to the World Series seemed inevitable. By the time the 1994 season came to its premature end, the Expos were 6 games up on the Braves and not looking back.
But looking back is what brings us here tonight, twenty years after the Montreal Expos’ finest hour, twenty years after Nos Amours posted the best record in the Major Leagues. For Expos fans, it was the moment we had waited so long for. We all know what happened next – we all hate what happened next – but why dwell there? Time has the power to heal, to trade bitterness for hope, and to teach us the moment we’d waited so long for is actually still there. Try it for yourself. Can you remember? We had it. We tasted it. We felt it. It didn’t last for as long as it should have, but it happened. The 1994 Montreal Expos were a very special team. The 1994 Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball. The 1994 Montreal Expos are still champions in our hearts.
And nobody can take that away from us.
One hour prior to the kickoff of Montreal Baseball Project’s gala to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Expos, the team assembled to sign memorabilia items, many of which were part of a silent auction later that night that raised $30,000 for the ALS Society of Quebec. It was yet another chance for the former teammates to catch up – and they took the time to pose for an informal and memorable team photo.
Photographs by Andrew Soong
Montreal baseball fans packed Olympic Stadium for a second day in a row on March 29, 2014 when the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets played a second of two exhibition games. The first pitch was preceded by a stirring ceremony to honour the 1994 Montreal Expos. Twenty years after posting the best record in baseball, twenty members of the team were introduced on the field before 50,299 delirious fans. With a total attendance figure of over 96,000 for the two exhibition games, Montreal left no doubt in anybody’s mind that it wants Major League Baseball back.
Photographs by Andrew Soong
On Saturday, March 29, 2014, the 1994 Montreal Expos traveled as a team from their hotel to Olympic Stadium in the morning. A press conference was held, featuring Toronto Blue Jays’ President Paul Beeston, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, Montreal Baseball Project President and Founder Warren Cromartie, Simon Arsenault of evenko, and Olympic Park President Michel Labrecque.
Photographs by Andrew Soong
Montreal’s historic baseball weekend got underway Friday, March 28, 2014 as Major League Baseball returned to Olympic Stadium for the first time in nearly a decade. The Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets played an exhibition game before 46,121 fans in the Montreal Expos’ former home. The game was preceded by a touching pre-game ceremony in honour of the late Expos great Gary Carter. The Hall of Famer’s wife Sandy Carter and daughter Kimmy Bloemers were on hand, as were Carter’s teammates Tim Raines, Steve Rogers, and Warren Cromartie. Cromartie elicited a loud and boisterous reaction from the crowd when he shouted, “Let’s bring baseball back to Montreal!” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, a great baseball fan, threw out the ceremonial first pitch dressed in an MBP jersey and Expos jacket.
Photographs by Andrew Soong
Montreal Baseball Project is filling out its lineup card. We are pleased to reveal the members of the 1994 Expos who will attend our 20th-Anniversary Gala for the "Best Team in Baseball" on March 29. This is a team that captured our city's imagination. They still remain champions in our hearts.
Montreal Baseball Project President and Founder Warren Cromartie today announced that MBP, in collaboration with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (BTMM), Ernst & Young and BCF LLP, has launched a feasibility and survey study to examine the possibility of bringing a Major League Baseball franchise back to Montreal.
“I am pleased to see that the idea of bringing Major League Baseball back to Montreal is taken seriously by a group of talented business people who are dedicated to the city's economic development,” said Cromartie. “I would like to thank the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal for mobilizing the business community,” he added.
“We want to determine if Quebec's largest city has the necessary conditions to welcome back a Major League Baseball team,” explained Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the BTMM. “Step by step, we are exploring the possibility and we expect to have the results of the feasibility study by the end of 2013.”
Mr. Cromartie and Mr. Leblanc also emphasized the work of the firms involved in the project that are generously providing their time and expertise. Ernst & Young's project team in charge of analyzing the related financial aspects will be overseen by Sylvain Vincent, Managing Partner for Eastern Canada, and led by Daniel Roth and William Jegher, Quebec leaders for Ernst & Young's Infrastructure Advisory and Transaction Real Estate practices, respectively. Richard Epstein, a business lawyer at BCF and co-leader of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions practice, will be leading a team to examine the legal and financing structures of the project and real estate matters. Polling firm Leger Marketing will evaluate the interest of the public and the business community. The BTMM, which is acting as a facilitator for the study, is providing 50% of the funding, while the other half is provided by a group of individuals in the business community.
“This is just the next stage in a journey I started on a year ago,” Cromartie said. “We have to take this one step at a time, knowing that this will take some time to accomplish. But let me make this clear: Montreal is a baseball town and it always will be a baseball town. We are looking forward to bringing a Major League franchise back.”
One question I am asked often is “Will MBP honor the 1994 Expos?” The answer, simply, is YES. Next year will mark the 20-year anniversary of the incredible season that saw the Expos finish (too early, unfortunately) with a Major League Baseball-best record of 74-40. That team deserved – and deserves – more. If you’re reading this, I hardly have to remind you how great that team was. Walker, Alou, Grissom, Hill, Martinez, Wetteland, and Rojas are just the first names that come to mind when I think of that roster. And with the wise and crafty Felipe Alou at the helm, the ’94 Expos were truly a team for the ages.
Montreal Baseball Project’s activities in 2014 will focus on the 1994 Montreal Expos. Those players, many of whom never got to return to Montreal in an Expos’ uniform after the work stoppage was over, are due a very special tribute. While we can’t make up for what should have been, we can at least say thank you to that team and congratulate them properly for being the best team in baseball and, at least in our hearts, World Series champs. Stay tuned for further updates.
The ’94 Expos are in the long-range plans, but what about the short-term for MBP? I’m happy to say that we’ll be back in the community again in 2013. Like last year, I’ll be personally spending a significant amount of time in Montreal this year. But rather than concentrate all of our efforts on one specific weekend, this year’s MBP activities will be spread out over the calendar. Our baseball clinics in 2012 were an amazing experience for both the kids who participated and us former pros who got a chance to not only impart some wisdom but to connect up close with fans, old and new. Plans are coming together for a series of clinics in 2013. I’ll be bringing up some former Expos to take part in the schools and to connect with the community. The love for baseball is alive and well in Montreal and it’s my hope that grassroots initiatives like these will boost baseball’s popularity and win many new converts to the sport.
All the details will appear here on the MBP website when the dates, times, and venues are confirmed. In the meantime, let me say thank you for visiting our new site. We’ve only been up for a short time, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s always great to hear from Montreal baseball fans, and there sure are a lot of you!