This piece appeared in the souvenir program for Montreal Baseball Project's gala dinner marking the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Expos, March 29, 2014.
What We Talk About When We Talk About 1994
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.