"[W]ho to contract? We firmly believe that the Montréal Expos should go. They stink, their logo stinks, their stadium stinks and their city, beautiful though it may be, does not enjoy baseball
they epitomized baseball at its most bland and uninteresting. Euthanizing this team is a humane gesturesort of like putting down a lame horse. No one likes to do it, but deep down inside, you know it's for the best."
Peter Schilling Jr., MudvilleMagazine.com, May 2002
"Outside of journeymen players and sentimental Québecers [sic], few are sorry to see the Expos era come to an end after 36 seasons."
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, November 13, 2004
"[Minneapolis] is not a baseball town."
John Bonnes, Twins Geek, April 6, 2004
I've never been to Montréal. Obviously, I've never been to Stade Olympique, either, nor have I ever seen the Expos play at any other National League park or any interleague game. Oddly enough, I've never even seen the Expos on television. Up until the writing of this article, I've never met, spoken to, emailed, written, or read the writing of an Expos fan. For all I knew, they didn't exist, or (in my lazy imagination) were a small band of Canadian sports freaks who simply turned to hockey come October. Because of my ignorance, it was easy for me to rely on the clichés that I'd read in numerous articles, to claim the Expos dull, and damn the team to contraction. Expos fans were no one I'd worry about.
Why would I even bother with the Expos? Two years ago, when I wrote the article quoted at the top, contraction threatened the Minnesota Twins. Local fans were indignant about the decision, making us hate Carl Pohlad and Bud Selig even more than we already did, and worry about the future of the club. I was scared for myself and scared for the people around me.
Luckily, I found a scapegoat: the Montréal Expos. It was a great relief to find a club whose fortunes were worse than my own beloved teams: the Tigers could lose 119 games, the Twins could play in their ugly dome, but at least we weren't the Expos. Boy, that Olympic Stadium, that's one ugly place. Worse than the Metrodome, right? Look at that logo, probably the only one that hasn't changed since the '60s. It seemed obvious to me and everyone else that the fans in my state (Minnesota and Michigan) loved the sport but those crazy, French-speaking Québecois didn't "get" baseball. Concerned that the Twins might hit the chopping block, I railed on the powers that be, taking what I thought was a novel approach and agreeing with the need to kill two teams, as long as one of them wasn't the Twins. I laid out my reasons, suggesting that we eliminate the two teams without new stadiums who haven't won a World Series. At the time that meant the Expos and the Angels. Of course, now it only means the Expos.
If you go trolling the internet, you will find many, many columnists who will tell you in many, many different ways that moving is the best thing for that franchise, the best thing for Washington, D.C., and the best thing for baseball in general. Montréal, they argue, never really cared for the sport, while the Nation's Capital has ached for a club since the Senators left. Washington has already sold over 10,000 season tickets: in the last eight years the Expos never had an average draw better than 12,000; last year they did not crack 10,000 fan average. In fact, when we ran our "You Own the Expos Contest", of the nearly hundred entries we received, only two suggested keeping the team in Montréal. So how can you argue with the fact that the team was hemorrhaging money (even if they never gave us proof)? How can you debate the fact that they would never field a contender in this situation? Everyone knows that Stade Olympique was a disaster and Montréal just isn't a baseball town. Baseball is a business. People with a better understanding of this business seem pretty much in agreement that the Montréal Expos needed to move or get contracted; far be it from me to argue with them. As Phil Rogers stated above, "few are sorry to see the Expos go," and I can't argue with that. Though he's from Chicago, clearly he knows better than I do. After all this time, the Expos are gone, and it seems as if all but a tiny handful of souls are blissfully happy.
But just as every bum has a family, every baseball team has its passionate fans and loyal rooters who suffer with the vicissitudes of their chosen club each and every season. Allan Mansell is one of those fans, and he will be very sorry to see them go. "We're going to regret it," he said. "Now it's not too bad, but next spring
that's when we'll feel it. It's sad." There is no question that Allan is the most popular Expos fan there is: widely known as "Mr. Expo", he's been seen in every single Expos television broadcast for the last four years, donning his tri-colored Expos cowboy hat in the bleachers. When I first heard of Mr. Mansell, I wanted desperately to speak to him: I was hungry to find a fanatic, a man who might burst into tears during our conversation, or who might rail on the shabby treatment Major League Baseball has given people like him. But Allan is a modest man, a model of courtesyfor instance, he always sat in the back row so that his cowboy hat wouldn't get in anyone's way. In spite of everything, Allan never once seemed anything less than grateful for his experiences.
"I've been a fan since 1969," he told me, cheerfully. "Saw maybe 30 to 40 games a year. Since '99, I missed but four games, three to a broken hip. When the Expos came to town, I loved them right away, especially at Jarry Park, which was smaller. But I've enjoyed my time at Stade Olympique, too. I just love the game. Hockey and all that
I lost interest a long time ago. Although some people don't go if the Expos were losing, I didn't take baseball that way. Every game I had a great time with all my friendsthe fans and the staffand the game. I knew everybody."
Mr. Mansell is a pensioned bus driver who lives in a small apartment outside of Montréal. He speaks with the type of accent they made fun of in "Fargo", and calls me "my friend" numerous times. By his own admission, his place is chock full of Expos memorabilia, his shelves are bulging with bobblehead dolls, autographed baseballs, dozens of hats, including his autographed cowboy hat which he never wears outdoors. He loved the game and it seemed to love him.
"My friend," he said, "every game I would get there early so that I could go out on the field and talk to the players during batting practice and warm-ups, and get autographs"
"You could walk out on the field?" I interrupted.
"Absolutely. Even ten minutes before the game you could talk to the Expos and then go across the field and talk to the opposing team. Oh, we were spoiled with autographs, I'll tell you. The whole set of guys used to be very good for us. After the game they would even stop and sign from their cars or when we saw them on the Metro."
Allen speaks of the Expos in the same way aged Brooklynites recall their Dodgers. Where you used to hear the tales of taking the subway with Duke Snyder and Johnny Podres, today Allan and others would recall taking the Metro home with the players, chat with them on the field, nod a hello on the street. When Allan broke his hip, outfielder Michael Barrett would point to his own hip and ask how Allan was doing. Each and every day. It seems unbelievable to think of being able to get to the Metrodome early and wander on the turf chatting it up with Torii Hunter or talk to Joe Mauer on the bus. That just doesn't happen herebut I wish it did.
Of course, Allan Mansell is but one fan. And one fan doesn't make for a profitable team. You could probably plop this club down in Oklahoma City and there'd be someone like him. But Jonah Keri, a regular contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and an Expos fan his whole life, believes that there was not a lack of general fan interest in Montréal.
"There's a long historical trend of indifference due to circumstances beyond their control," he told me. "There was the strike. Ownership badmouthing its team. Selig and local owners both badmouthing the stadium. Montréal is a fabulous city, with lots of international flair, so why would you go to see Olympic Stadium when it's being derided? With this internal effort to sabotage yourself, the leadership of baseball coming out to do the same thing, stadium plans falling through, and local business remaining away due to all this, you've got a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's an untenable situation."
As Keri wrote in an earlier Prospectus article: "Montréal didn't let the Expos downMLB did. As in any city, fans came out to support a winner, then dwindled in number when the team lost. As one terrible ownership group transitioned to another, Expos fans endured endless assaults on the viability of their team, their stadium, their players, their city and themselves, from Major League Baseball and their team's owners. As word spread of a possible move, fans staged rallies, voiced their opinions, showed up to cheer their team. Eventuallylong past the point at which most rational people would have thrown in the towelMontréal baseball fans decided they'd had enough of being toyed with and laughed at."
This breaks from the image I had of the fans as being comically passivea notion that I developed from numerous articles in USA Today Baseball Weekly, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Jonaha man who's seen baseball games in nearly every city in Americafinds this ridiculous. "They are the loudest fans per capita in all of baseball. Six thousand fans can sound like twenty thousand. Olympic Stadium contributes to this; the acoustics lend themselves, things echo, hard plastic seats can be banged. You can create a lot of ambient atmosphere. If anything's going on, the fans get loud. It is a madhouse on opening day and the last games. Relative to a 50,000 person Dodger game? Maybe not, but they're passionate and knowledgeable.
Unlike most Twins fans, he was quick to defend the local dome. "Of course, it lacks the old-timey ambience of Camden Yards, Jacobs Field. It has Astroturf. It's a dome that looks like a spaceship. But the thing that I come back to is that it's where you grew up. It's a hole, but you associate it with the team. I've always enjoyed Olympic Stadium because I enjoyed the game."
Pundits might remind us that Mr. Keri does not live in Montréal anymore. He followed the Expos from a distance, seeing them whenever they came to play the Dodgers (he lives in the Los Angeles area now). Guys like him won't add to the tiny numbers of fans that people Stade Olympique. I can relate to this: I didn't grow up near Detroit, but a good three hours away. Listening to Ernie Harwell was my ticket to Tiger Stadium, which I visited in person maybe once a year as a kid. But I was a Michigander, and proud of it, so when the Tigers won, little Mt. Pleasant, Michigan won, too. Tigers represented the state as much as they did Detroit.
However, the Expos and the Blue Jays enjoy (or enjoyed) a following that, unlike American clubs, is spread out over the entire country. Colby Cosh is a writer and historian living in Western Canada, and a fan of the Expos who has never visited Montréal. "In a baseball context, Canada is the region," he explains. "Being an Expos fan is a generational thing. I'm 33, and I was ten in 1981, during the split-season strike year, when the Expos won that first round, quarter-final playoff against the Phillies and almost won the championship series against the Dodgers. At the time, the Expos had history, while the Blue Jays were flogging around in the muck. So, when I was a kid, the Expos were the team and they were on television. They were my folk heroes growing up."
More than that, however, the success of the Expos in the early 80s came to reflect a rise in Canadian pride. "The Expos were representing a national cause," Colby explains. "A unification of the bilingual aspect of our country. When they hit the top in '81, that was the year we patriated the Constitution. Canada didn't declare independence all at once as part of a revolutionary struggle, as the Americans did. The colonies of what was then called British North America were basically given 'home rule', and united by an act of the British Parliament in 1867. Over the next 114 years we acquired the appurtenances of an independent country gradually, taking control of our own military and foreign policy. But until 1981 our Constitution was still an act of British Parliament and had to be ratified in Westminster, which was widely deemed anomalous and somewhat embarrassing. So bringing the document back and revising it was the final step toward the adulthood of the country, so to speak.
"The Expos' success happened to be paired with that inspirational moment. Although it wasn't so inspirational within Québec (which didn't sign the new Constitution and largely felt cheated by the process) patriation roused tremendous nationalistic feelings in English Canada. The early history of the Expos, from the Montréal World's Fair (for which they're named) to 1981, corresponds to a particular period of optimism and ambition for the country. To me that Expos logo connotes a particular mood and a vision of Canada as a distinctive, bilingual, bicultural member of the family of nations. The loss of the Expos may even be more painful for us diehards outside Québec because of this."
Colby also dismisses the argument that Montréal could not support a baseball team. "One thing you notice about the whole debate is the suggestion that this is a third-class market," he continues. "Montréalers have always been the kind of people who dig their heels in and reject the whole notion that they have to build a stadium for the team. But Montréal has a great baseball tradition. Plus, the whole country is shot through with expatriate Montréalers, who left due to French Canadian separatism. They are Expos fans."
Here in the states, there have been many instances in which the success of a baseball team either mirrored some great moment in our history, or helped to assuage the pain of some local or national tragedy. Detroiters love to recall how the '68 Tigers helped to heal a city that had been torn apart by rioting a year before. Jackie Robinson's ordeal was a prelude to the successful Civil Rights movement (and was a career that began in Montréal). There are dozens of other examples. Like American baseball teams, the Expos meant something to their city, their province, and to Canada in general. Talk to each fan, casual or otherwise (and there are lots of them), and they will remember their favorite stories involving their favorite players: Gary Carter, Tim Raines, the '81 and '94 teams, or my personal favorite, of deaf ballplayer Curtis Pride hitting a 12th inning, game-winning single against the Phillies. There was such cheering that he could feel the rumbling in his feet as it resonated through the turf. As with all teams, there's heartbreak as well: losing the '81 playoffs to a Rick Monday homer, or, worst of all, watching arguably the best team in baseball vanish in the '94 strike year and vanish in the fire sale in '95.
Still, it seems to be a commonly held notion that the Expos were a team in decline, a team that could not succeed in the modern market. They were caught in a vicious circle: they had an awful stadium that would not generate enough income for its team to be successful, which brings in fans, and subsequently the money to make a team competitive. It is better to ignore the uglier truth, such as the fact that their ownership has had numerous marketing blunders, like failing to provide French-speaking television broadcasts for a number of years, that sponsors were not courted, that Bud Selig and company derided the city and the park until no one wanted to go. Moving to D.C. will certainly bring an improvement in the ownership's concern for the club: now they'll bring up prospects if the Nats contend (which they didn't do two years ago when the Expos were in wild-card contention). Now they're signing players instead of letting go of the best. The Expos will be much better off in Washington, D.C., just like everyone says.
2006 is only a year away. In 2006 the current agreement comes to an end and contraction may rear its ugly head. The difference this time is that Montréal will no longer be an option, not with D.C. footing the bill for a budget-breaking new stadium. By my estimation, the only teams anyone would try to eliminate would be Tampa Bay, Florida, Oakland, Toronto or, most obviously, Minnesota. I don't know which teams, if any, might get the axe, but the easiest choice would be the Twins. We have an owner who'd be happy to permanently lock the doors for the right price. If you check out the attendance statistics, you'll see that numbers at the Twins games are not that impressivein the down years we're only a little bit better than the Expos, and, despite their recent successes, including a third division title and a Cy Young award winner, the Twins attendance actually declined last year. Even local sportswriters claim that Minnesotans aren't supportive. I can't help but wonder if the arguments in favor of moving the Expos will begin to sound familiar in a few years. Once the public gets it into its head that we're not a baseball town, it's hard to change that impression. I would be the first to argue that the fan decline is due to a number of factors, from Selig's continual din about the inability of small market teams to compete (and the A.L. Central Division in particular), to local bellyaching about the Dome, to a general malaise stemming from the strike year and the contraction argument. But who would believe me outside the Twin Cities?
Allan Mansell saw the final Major League Baseball game to be played in Montréal. "On that last day, in the fifth inning, I got up and said good-bye to a lot of my friends. I went over to quite a few people and I wouldn't even have to talk to them, I just touched them on the shoulder, and they'd cry and we'd hug one another. It was just too much. Usually I'd say 'see you next year', but this time I didn't say anything. It was a very sad day."
As I sit at my desk, watching the snow descend outside my window, I hope that someday I won't have to tell some distant reporter over the phone my experiences on the last baseball game in my hometown. I'm hoping that over coffee I never have to read some schmuck from another city claim that me and my friends epitomize the worst fans in the sport, that there are only a few of us who will miss the Twins if they go. Hopefully we'll all be spared the jokes, and we won't have to watch jealously as another city does cartwheels over a team that used to be ours. Having seen the callousness with which Major League Baseballand baseball fans in generalhave had toward Montréal, I worry that the future of the Twins might be similar to that of the Expos. And I'm hoping that I never have to endure a long, harsh winter without the promise of a baseball game in the damp of April. Like they'll have to do in Montréal next spring.
Allan Mansell knows that he will never see a big league game in Montréal in his lifetime. He takes his loss much more philosophically than I would: "I had all my good years, and I went to all those wonderful games. I have my memories and now life goes on. Now we have to take care of our health." He laughs. "Every year we used to lose a lot of players. This year, we lost all of them."
Peter Schilling Jr.
THE SOBER ERUDITION OF SPORT
"Sports Illustrated, in an era when you couldn't see all the highlights every night, was read for news; Sport was for reflection." So eulogized The Wall Street Journal, four years ago, when Sport produced its final cruise, forty-six years after its christening (with Joe DiMaggio and son on the cover). This schooner of reflection was choked in a harbour of schpritzing speedboats, but Sport had stayed mostly on course, reflection its self-appointed mission, steadily navigated, flagging rarely and almost never diluted.
It never lacked for fluff and puff, of course ("Sport Visits," writer and lensman at sports star's home; "Dressed For Sport," sports stars' fashion shorts; frequent enough essays by era writers short on vision and long enough on worship), as craved enough by a nation wearied of war and flush enough of pelf. But Sport's fluff and puff was mere nose candy telegraphing the full meal. With entrees the like of Jack Sher, Gordon Cobbledick, Bill Rives, Jimmy Cannon, Emmett Watson, Furman Bisher, Al Silverman, Dick Schaap, Al Stump, Ed Linn, Will Grimsley, Myron Cope, Leonard Shecter, Milton Gross, Jerry Izenberg, Dick Young, Roger Kahn, Arnold Hano, and Jimmy Breslin, Sport was as close to scallopine a la Marsala as that era's sports periodical might get.
The foregoing roll, in fact, is the precise menu of The Best of Sport (Toronto: Sport Classic Books; 316 pages, $23.95). If you remember Sport in peak season, you will get from this book less nostalgia than a fix of time transcended, not surrendered to. If you know Sport in peak season by reputation alone, you will take a fix of rhythmic prose lyricism augmenting your game joys.
Say what you will of Bob Ryan, the Boston Globe columnist with a contemporary penchant for infuriating the politically correct, but he has done the Lord's work in editing this volume, keeping it free from rhetorical and other revisionism. Particular phrases may veer between the arcane and the profane (at least, in terms of what we might define as profane in politically correct today), but left unmolested they resurrect their own days without the encumbrance of our biases. We are allowed the courtesy of seeing the thing and the persons subject and writer alike as they were.
Or, as in the case of Jack Sher examining Jackie Robinson, following two seasons' baptism, as we might not have known or remembered, necessarily. Sher tells a pair of incidents, perhaps barely known when recalling and celebrating Robinson's early voyage, with disarming sobriety. In one, Robinson visited a badly-burned boy in hospital with neither press nor most hospital staff aware. The Dodgers, to whom the boy's caretakers petitioned for the visit, kept the visit secret. "We were determined," a club executive told Sher, "that the public's judgment of Robinson would be decided by what he did on the baseball diamond and in no other way." In another, one of the Philadelphia Phillies whose racial abuse of Robinson, led by then-manager Ben Chapman, has lived in infamy reached first base on a day Robinson played the position. "I don't feel good with these guys today," the unidentified Phillie is cited as telling Robinson. "Some others don't, either. I just want you to know that I haven't been yellin' anything. Now don't let 'em get you down." That, Sher wrote, "went into Jackie more sharply than any of the insults. They were hoarsely muttered, but they were beautiful, strength-giving words." Very much like the October 1948 essay Sher composed that leads off The Best of Sport.
There were those who believed Satchel Paige, not Jackie Robinson, should have had the honour of breaking baseball's colour line first, the much-established veteran of fact and mythology above the younger, fresher gladiator. Paige followed Larry Doby, who had beaten him to integrating the American League a year earlier, and it may have been the only time he stood a follower anywhere. Bill Veeck brought him to the Tribe, the showman reaching for the showman. Gordon Cobbledick admonished gracefully enough, in the December 1948 Sport, that this was as much showtime as show for the World Series winners:
For Paige, nine innings is the approximate equivalent of five for an average contemporary because he wastes few pitches. With characteristic modesty, he declares he can throw a baseball into a hat all day without ever missing. When he is right, indeed, his control is phenomenal. But he has his off days
his wild days. Wild for him, that is. For many pitchers, in this unprecedented base-on-balls era, they would represent the acme of control. Satch is ashamed of a game in which he issues more than two passes. Nevertheless, his few failures since he joined the Indians can be traced to his inability to put the ball where he wanted it. In no game has he been assaulted with any sequence of solid, thumping base hits. The nearest thing to a big inning recorded against him was a three run uprising by the Boston Red Sox in their own ballpark in August.
Jimmy Cannon, for September 1956, weighed in with a kind of lyrical ballad as a hard-boiled beat writer might imagine one to be, the subject his longtime friend Joe DiMaggio. Actually, Cannon composed it with no small help from vignettes he raided from previous entries among his New York Post columns, but for tempering hagiography with sobriety, and hint enough of the heart of darkness (about DiMaggio's between-marriages life: "It was as though he were on a road trip no matter where he was. He lived in hotels and his life seemed to blend with the impersonal décor of the rooms they assigned him"), this is as good as Cannon got. (Cannon is overdue for an anthology introducing him to today's remnant.)
Leonard Shecter was a New York sportswriting iconoclast long enough before he edited Jim Bouton into literary infamy. Sport invited him to beard Leo Durocher in the Lip's new den, after his first year of managing the Chicago Cubs. "Leo Durocher talking," wrote Shecter for November 1966, "is still a jet plane passing overhead. His laugh remains a sonic boom and his snarl the trumpeting of a frightened elephant
Leo Durocher is as he's always been, a one-man noise factory." In the same month as that issue was marked, a man about as noisy as a library said goodbye to the pitcher's mound while young and two thousand light years above his peak. Milton Gross's affectionate farewell to Sandy Koufax ("much too good to be true and
too true to have been so good") took only a little sting out of spring training 1967, when it appeared in that March's Sport.
Those are some of the baseball entries mulcted for The Best of Sport, which fills out with features about other players, in other games, examined with equivalent power. "Sport was erudite, dignified, and sober," Ryan writes in his foreword, "but it was never, ever highfalutin', which is a difficult balance to strike." Actually, there were times when Sport was a little too proud of being lower-falutin'. Ed Fitzgerald, the editor when Sports Illustrated was hatched, "spent more time laughing at SI in the fifties," Ryan writes, "than worrying about it." The problem is that Fitzgerald was laughing at the wrong thing. "I'll tell you the difference between Sport and Sports Illustrated. One year we each dispatched a special writer to cover the Kentucky Derby. We sent (legendary jockey) Conn McCreary. They sent William Faulkner." Oh, the shame of it. What would those fools think of next? Sending Robert Frost to cover the All-Star Game? (As a matter of fact, that is precisely what SI did, in 1956.)
Which proves only the point that Sport so often sent home, at its best, with unpretentious lyricism: that nobody, and nothing, is perfect. Not in our games, not even in the nation's first and most imperative sports monthly. But you get close enough to perfect in this book that you are nothing but grateful to our games, and to the prose poetry they provoke the best of their examiners to write.
YOUR MONTREAL EXPOS... [SIC]
Our "You Own the Expos" contest turned out to be more popular than we had expected, with nearly TWICE the submissions of our "You Are the Commissioner" Contest the year before. But what was even more surprising was the number of emails requesting that we publish more than just the winning entry. Although we only printed the winner, it was not due to a lack of quality writing: many were funny, many were intriguing, some were sad, some were plain awful, others were insane and, therefore, probably the best for all of us in the most quixotic sense. Most of the entries suggested moving the team to Washington, D.C., and we did not choose to run those here. Sadly, only two of them suggested remaining in Montreal. Of course, we didn't award them squat
let no one claim our emotions get the better of us.
From moving the team to Cuba, landing them in New Jersey, to a suggestion of suicidal depression, here are the best of the near-winnering entries for Mudville's "You Own the Expos Contest!"
SECOND PLACE WINNER: PAUL HIRSCH
Baseball has a rare opportunity.
It has full control of one of its thirty franchises. It can do whatever it wants, almost. It can correct an historic wrong. It can restore a franchise to its rightful place. It can get God back on its side. And, perhaps most importantly, it can poke George Steinbrenner in the eye.
It can send the Expos to Los Angeles.
The infrastructure is in place. A recently refurbished stadium with lots of luxury boxes, premium seating behind home plate, centrally located, huge parking lot, and access from half-a-dozen freeways. Plus, the Expos could play in a major media market energized by a new team it can name, love and adopt as its own. As a bonus, Frank Robinson has a home near there and can continue as manager, plus Omar Minaya could easily become the darling of the Latin community.
Of course, there is an obvious problem, what to do with the existing LA franchise, which has an obvious solution that is equal parts diabolical and just....move the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.
There's no question the New York metro area can support three major league baseball teams; it supports three NHL teams, for crying out loud. The publicity for baseball would be fabulous, the Dodgers' could just expand the ballpark that currently houses the Cyclones, its own current owner would be closer to home, and the karma surrounding this move would keep the gods smiling upon baseball for decades.
Of course, the Yankees and Mets might have to learn to share a bit, and the media pie would have to be split a bit, and some sponsors might gravitate towards the hot new thing, all of which would serve to temper the Yankees dominance and force the Mets to have to work for a living. Perfection is a beautiful thing, ain't it?
THIRD PLACE WINNER: BOB COMPFORT
I think that the obvious choice is Czechoslovakia (if it still exists, otherwise The Czech Republic, Bosnia or some other country near there). Why? Highest consumption of beer per capita. I like baseball but when I have a few, I really like baseball. (Kind of like when the lights go down low at 2:00 A.M and the girl
.; well, you know the feeling). The answer to making baseball more popular is not more exposure, earlier starting times for the Series, expanded playoffs, contraction, aluminum bats, outdoor stadiums, fan friendly parks, interleague play, designated hitters, naked mascots or the myriad of other thoughts. The answer is to drink more and how is the best way to accomplish that? Put the team where the drinkers are. How do you think that the NFL became so popular?
Imagine a whole nation of drinkers exposed to the game; some of whom might emigrate to the US and become drinkers (I mean fans) of some of the teams here. If this catches on, I can see teams in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Denmark. (You got it the next highest consumption based on a 1999 study (see Czechoslovakia). I know that you are thinking that travel expenses would skyrocket but I see it differently. Teams would just play split-squad games against each other. No one would care.
I truly believe that if Montreal had considered free beer in the park (also underage drinking), the team would be one of the most profitable in all sports (until Disney bought it).
Correspondent with this, I would sell shares of the team to 50,000 of my closest friends for $2,000 each bringing me a cool $100,000,000.00. For their ownership interest, they would receive free beer whenever they attend a game in Prague.
THE REST OF THE REST
First things first: tear down Olympic Stadium, and move the team back to Jarry Park. We may have to rebuild it, but do so to 1969 standards, sans luxury boxes, mega scoreboards (Expo-vision is allowed, for reasons noted below), and rotating advertisements. Market it as a real baseball experience. In a nod to the locale, get agreement from the players' union to play one game each April in a snowstorm.
Hire Le Grand Orange, Rusty Staub, as manager, with Gary Carter as pitching coach, Coco Laboy as hitting coach, and Warren Cromartie and Ellis Valentine as base coaches. Make sure they all have French nicknames as well (Le Kid? Le Coco?).
Work out a deal with a Canadian brewery for low-priced beer night at least once a week, preferably when the team is home. Intermingle these with French wine-tasting nights.
If possible, never play a home game when Montreal is hosting an NHL playoff game. If not possible, offer free admission to anyone with a ticket from the previous home playoff game. Show the game on Expo-vision between innings, and possibly when the visitors are at bat.
Develop an innovative marketing schedule, featuring Vive La France night, Quebec separatist day, I hate [Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, the Yukon Territory, the United States, South Park, England] day. Give away a vacation in Paris each home game.
Spend lots of money on player development, and trade for Eric Gagne.
"... through the power of your limited imagination, the Montreal Expos fall into your lap.... You send us, by email, an essay describing what you would do if you had just purchased the Expos..." :
For openers... yes they would have had to have fallen into my lap, this most unfortunate, traditionless of teams in a tradition-rich sport (okay, maybe they do beat out the Cleveland Spiders). Anyway the point is... that if I'd actually had to pay money and purchased this team, said transaction would need to have included some kind of additional throw-in. Let's forget about a useful, albeit mundane throw-in like a beer-vendor-to-be-named-later (oh wait, they speak French up there... a Bordeaux-vendor-to-be-named-later); no
I would demanda Time Machine.
That's right, a time machine. Let's relocate the team to Kansas City, teleport back in time to the mid-to-late 1960's, give 'em all some roller-skates and throw 'em all onto the roster of the fabulous Kansas City Bombers of roller-derby lore. Jammers and blockers and points, oh my!!
This is the rightful destiny of any baseball team that has had to endure the indignity of trying to appeal to the brown-shoe bourgeois, would-be elitists who are so proud of Les Ever-So-Elegante Canadiens. Not that I'm really soooo against hockey as a sport, mind you... I guess I just think there IS a place in the world for front teeth.
But think about the possibilities this confluence of cultures and talent could produce.
The idea of the intermission shows alone boggle the mind. Imagine what would you'd get cross-matrixing the fertile imaginations of displaced post-millennium, clothing-malfunctioning, MTV-gen nozzle-heads with the mindset that was prevalent back in the pre-Woodstock Days of Bobby Wine and Roses.
That reminds me
the athletes? Yeah, that's where this all started, isn't it? Just what would we do with the Maicer Izturis's of the world. Ain't quite sure, but then again, that hasn't been the point in baseball Montreal these last ten years anyway. But we could have a heck of an old-timers day, though; 'could even bring Dave Winfield back to try to kill a seagull with an errant toss. Oh wait
that was in Toronto wasn't it? Well, hell
they just might be the next ones to be moving.
In the meantime, let's find a real job for Frank Robinson. And let's transform and transport the present-day Montreal X-Men; let's have 'em go back to a happier, simpler time and placeto be the once and future Kings of the Rink, (not to mention, vehicle for a Raquel Welch movie), the Kansas City Bombers.
Can't modern science make this happen? We've made Palm Pilots, Chia Pets
even Milli Vanilli records. How far away from a time machine can we really be? Just where are H.G. Wells and Robert Taylor (and Coco Laboy) when you really need them?
It's about time we had major league baseball in Latin America. Havana's out, since no one there except European tourists (and some Canadians, who can't be bothered to come to Expos games anywhere) has enough money to afford even bleacher seats. Puerto Rico is a possibility, but attendance has been disappointing. The Dominican economy is so bad that the winter league won't be hiring American umpires this coming season. That leaves Venezuela, where the political situation is unstable and has caused one recent season to be suspended, and Mexico.
Mexico City would seem to be a good choice since it's the economic, political, and social capital of the nation. But playing in its smog laden atmosphere would be oppressive, and travel would be expensive and time consuming. This leaves the northern tier as a home for the Expos. Going from west to east, there are the following possibilities:
1) Tijuana. Their new entry to the Mexican League this year drew several sell outs, and the refurbished stadium can be augmented to accommodate big league crowds. Just across the border from San Diego, the city presents no travel difficulties. Its image does.
2) Mexicali. The funky Nido de los Aguilas, home of the local team in the fall-winter Mexican Pacific League, would need a major overhaul, but the city itself--capital of the state of Baja Californiais dynamic and, although not prosperous, has a middle class that could supporta team. Mexicali is in easy reach for tourists from eastern California and western Arizona. It's less than a hundred miles from San Diego. Day games would not be advisable.
3) Monterrey. This is another state capital with the economic base to support a major league team. It has a long standing successful franchise in the Mexican League. Major league baseball has drawn well in the regular season games played there. I'm not familiar with its stadium, but I assume it would need enlarging. Travel would be a problem. As with Tijuana, locating the Expos here would cause dislocation in the Mexican League.
My choice? Mexicali. It has the least negatives, and in addition to the assets I've already listed, has a large Asian population, which adds another ethnic group to the fan base of a team on the US-Mexican border.
I would bring the Expos to Detroit. Good old historic Tiger Stadium would be their home field. Thus we could have a home town rivalry with the Tigers (who would be just a mile or two down the road).
I would continue paying the players in Canadian money as their contracts warrant. And I would have the ticket prices, food, etc. all under Canadian monetary prices. And every weekend would have some kind of promotion (hat day, autograph day, bring a Canadian to the game day, etc.). This should help build a good fan base and really heat up the rivalry against the Tigers (then maybe our beloved Tigers would finally put a quality team on the field and lower some of their prices).
I would change the name of the team to the Detroit Bears. Then when people think of Detroit sports, they would think Lions, Tigers, and Bears (oh my).
I would also appoint myself as a coach on the team. And the biggest promotion would be for every home game. In the 3rd inning of each game having a drawing to see which fan in the stadium would be allowed to play for our team in the 6th inning. All legal contracts with MLB and the players union would be in place so this could happen. 82 Joe Nobodies getting a chance to play one inning of pro ball. Every game would be a sellout.
Well, I have to go now, I think I'm starting to wake up.
Here we are, on a crisp April evening, at Weaver Park, in the West End of downtown Greenville, SC, awaiting the home opener of the Greenville Weavers.
The team's trio of mascots, Loomie, Cotton, and Ray-Onwho pay homage to the region's long-time connection with the textile industryare frolicking behind home plate. Locals remind us that hometown hero Shoeless Joe Jackson got his start playing for several of the area's mill teams.
What an exhilarating six months it's been! The city was heartbroken by the Braves affiliate moving to Mississippi. Once the former Montreal Expos franchise was awarded to the Weavers Management Group, their wildest dreams were realized. WMG solicited the SABR membership for financial support, as well as a national IPO, and federal bonds to construct Weaver Park. The new stadium draws heavily on the Philip Bess treatise City Baseball Magic for urban stadium design, but also bears an uncanny resemblance to one Shibe Park, with the usual conventional upgrades: nine luxury boxes spreading out down each baseline. In fact, the number nine figures into every part of the park, nine seats per row, eighteen rows per section, eighteen luxury boxes, seventy two bathrooms, with nine stalls each. Even the stadium capacity of 36,000 fits the pattern!
WMG took a novel approach to front office and field staff hiring. Experts from the fantasy baseball world have been lured away from their journalistic duties to put their theories into action. Gary Huckabay (Baseball Prospectus) was named GM, with Keith Law coming from the Blue Jays to serve as assistant GM. Mike Hargrove was selected as Manager. Ron Shandler (Baseball HQ) was hired as Bench coach. Chris Chambliss will be hitting coach. Rany Jazayerli (also from BP) will handle the pitching staff. Base coaches are Rickey Henderson at first, with Carlton Fisk giving the signs at third.
Winter Meeting activity included inking Carlos Beltran to a 4-year deal, and luring Pedro away from Boston for 3 years, likely closing out a historic career in Weaver Green.
No mention of the Weavers is complete without addressing their uniforms. Citing a color scheme last used by the 1940s Oakland Oaks in the PCL, the teams colors are Green, Red, and Cream.
Steve DiSalvo, long-time Greenville Braves GM, becomes Promotions Director. He has promised an impressive slate of ideas for Weavers home games. Three times a week, the first 50 fans receive a free haircut from the quintet of barbers stationed at the top of the field level seating behind home plate.
Thursdays will be Ladies Night, with 2-for-1 specials on tickets and all concessions. Nearly all the promotional giveaways will involve some sort of linen: Blanket Night, Beach Towel Day, Homer Hankie Night, Pennant Day, Cap Night, T-Shirt Day, and Sock Nights, to name a few.
So, the fairy tale commences for a franchise that Tommy Lasorda never called "the best-run franchise in MLB".
As the painfully slow sobering up process continues, reality gradually sinks in that I now own the Expos! Prior to that, my happy thoughts had been that Bud Selig and the owners sure knew how to throw a great party. Knew that I considered demonstrating that I had more money than brains previously, by checking on the availability of several teams. However, whenever the Expos were the subject, would look at Bud, and ask "Would you buy a used baseball team from this man?" The obvious answer had kept me away from ownership. Guess that the booze blurred my vision awful bad.
Being the owner, realize that I have to quickly make decisions on three decisions - baseball men to run the franchise, playing talent, and the team location for next season and beyond. Hopefully, the management part will be easy, by offering Omar Minaya a long term contract, letting Frank Robinson name how long he wants to manage, and retaining all the scouting and development personnel. Hopefully, this will be done rapidly for long term.
As for players, believe there are several currently in place, though some should be getting more seasoning at AAA. Will be offering contracts for next year and beyond, to stop the long term exodus of talent. Then, this winter, look out George Steinbrenner and Arte Moreno - there's a new wallet in town for free agents, and several good ones out there. This is a message that I'm sure Scott Boras will relish. Also, to eliminate the recent stigma of the Expo name, plan to rename the team the Hawks - a reason that may appear more sensible later.
With the two easy steps set in my mind, the prime decision becomes the location for 2005 and beyond. My prime goal is to place the team in a location that has not had the experience of major league baseball recently. Knowing that Montreal has supported baseball in the past has led to thoughts of staying put if Olympic Stadium can be blown up and replaced. Since this would require negotiating in French, the next option opened up. Having an aversion to large concentrations of politicians eliminated Washington/Northern Virginia, and will make Peter Angelos my new best friend and ally. Had already been told that the schedule for next year precluded any Pacific time zone relocation, so goodbye to Portland, Vegas, and Sacramento. Buffalo as a contender brought thoughts of April/May and playoff blizzards - gone. Nashville was a serious thought until stadium issues caused another city to bite the dust.
With my choices rapidly narrowing, inspiration finally struck, as I thought of a modern stadium that has not had a home major league team - Miller Park. Deep pockets will assure playing dates in Milwaukee, and the city has demonstrated that it can rapidly adapt to embracing a new team. The current six month notice is an eternity compared to the spring training theft of the Pilots/Brewers engineered by Bud. This decision may make Bud squirm, but since he has been very casual about contracting or relocating other teams, feel certain that he will apply the same principles to his own. Maybe next time he'll get drunk.
It's simple, really:
1) Move the Expos to Las Vegas
2) Hire Pete Rose as manager
3) Put slot machines throughout the stadium ( all with baseball-related themes )
4) Change the name of the club to the Gamblers - The Las Vegas Gamblers - simple & accurate
5) Their logo would be the almighty dollar sign ( $$ )
6) Have Celine Dion sing the National Anthem on Opening Day
7) Get the casinos to buy blocks of tickets and plush boxes for their customers
8) Spend big bucks to buy one hell of a team
9) Hire Donald Trump to be General Manager
10) Goal: World Series champs in year one - a new dynasty !!
I'd move the team to my home of Olney, Maryland, invite all the neighborhood kids over, and have the players teach the kids how to play baseball. Hopefully the kids would sit and learn, and eventually grow up and be great ballplayers, but more important, be good and smart business people who would understand the lunacy of MLB owners owing one team and then the part of another.
If suddenly the Montreal Expos fell into my lap, I would contemplate suicide. Death is better than bad baseball.
If I bought the Montreal Expos, it would be a no-brainer where to put them. Assuming baseball is a business, and making money is the objective, I would plop them down in the largest demographic available- the New York metro area, i.e. New Jersey. I say New Jersey because the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, neither of which has a major league team, have no room for a stadium.
The New York metro area has 22 to 25 million people. There isn't a city without a team that can match one sixth of that demographic much less the one third that would be split between the three baseball teams in the New York area.
The stadium could be located near Newark, or perhaps where the Meadowlands is now. Both are near interstates, for easy access. With a little foresight, it could be located near a train station. Currently the Newark Bears play four blocks from Newark's Penn station, a terminal that serves NYC and all the commuter lines from various cities and towns in New Jersey. You could even take a train from Philadelphia or Baltimore to that spot. Just outside the stadium, is one of the New Jersey transit lines that serves a portion of the state's commuter traffic. Expanding that stadium as well as creating enough parking would be problematic, but not insurmountable.
Another option would be building the stadium east of Newark, and building a path train station next to it. Anyone who has taken the path train from Newark to New York will tell you there's a large expanse of industrial complexes, many of them that are currently unused. Those areas would be easily accessible from the NJ Turnpike and possibly even interstate 78. With a train stop fed by Penn Station (both Newark and NY's Penn stations), half the fans could reach the stadium by train.
I realize I'm not being zany. I don't consider my idea to be particularly creative, hence the term "no-brainer." The NYC metro area has more people than all but about six states, and unlike those states, they are all crowded into a radius that makes traveling to see the new Expos a simple one hour or less trip. The area could easily support a third team; the question should be can it support a fourth? What other area could you say that about?
As a business decision, the NY metro area has by far, the best odds of succeeding.
Make Castro National League President and put the Expos in Havana!
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. My Name is Travis M. Nelson, and I own the Expos. I know because an online magazine gave them to me.
I expect you're wondering why I've called you here for this press conference. Things are going to start changing around here, starting today.
First of all, we're canning Frank Robinson. We did some research and discovered that our most successful manager was Jim Fanning. He has the highest winning percentage in Montreal of any manager in history and he led this team to our only playoff appearance, in 1981. True, he only managed for parts of three seasons, hasn't managed anything in 20 years and is older than dirt, but heck, it worked for the Marlins!
Secondly, it will come as no surprise to you all that we're not staying in Montreal. Quebec has gotten a bad rap as a place that doesn't appreciate baseball, but it should be noted that this team was appreciated greatly in its heyday. Unfortunately, I think that day was sometime in 1983. But after what will soon become seven consecutive seasons of bringing up the real in NL attendance, we're gone, man. Outta here. The honeymoon, and for that matter, the marriage, is over.
We're moving to Hawaii. The place is really pretty, and unless you're dumb enough to build a baseball stadium atop a volcano, it won't ever snow. Montreal, mangez your heart out. The weather will be beautiful year-round, and the occasional volcanic eruption will help save the franchise money on "Fireworks Night."
There's already a 50,000-seat stadium in which to play, which should require only minor alterations to make it "baseball ready". Mostly I think they just need to get all the coconuts off the field. If the weather and the appeal of "Major League Baseball" don't attract enough fans, we'll just build a new stadium and pay for it with revenue sharing deductions, just like the Yankees plan to!
We're renaming the team the Oahu "U-Know-Who's", because it rhymes, sorta, and let's face it: No matter what we name the team, people are still going to think of us as the Expos for entirely too long.
Hawaii's population is about 1.25 million people, which isn't much smaller than Milwaukee, Kansas City or Cincinnati. Granted, there was a minor league team that was forced to move to Colorado Springs in the 1980's but of course now everybody's moving to Colorado Springs. They were just anticipating the trend. Also, if we can stick around long enough, the islands will eventually grow together as the volcanoes continue erupt and create additional land. We anticipate that by the spring of the year 1,502,006, the entire state will be connected, making every game accessible by car to every Hawaiian, and for that matter, most of California, which will have split away from North America and drifted our way several hundred thousand years earlier. Ted Williams is scheduled to throw out the opening pitch.
Travis M. Nelson
Baseball needs no more new ideas. In fact, the national pastime needs an old idea. The question here, though, is what to do with the Montreal Expos? The current Expos hold no secrets for world peace or defeating AIDS in Africa, but they can be restructured as a viable baseball entity a barnstorming team. Not the Bustin' or Larrupin' variety. No, not the Field of Dreamers.
The Expos would be, well, just The Expos. The ugly uniform Expos. Except this team would be composed of former major leaguers one-year out of the game. The rosters would be flexible and unlimited. Uh, and let's just go ahead and make this a nonunion team just to hack off current players. You think the team would be composed of a bunch of washed up players? Consider the fact that Roger Clemens thought he was done when he shed his pinstripes. Well, he evidently was not. Pitchers may not have a full season in the tank. They may have a couple of innings per outing. As for hitting, the team would likely be more of a small ball team, but who knows? Fred McGriff would be welcome to have a few hefty swings. A few years ago, Jose Canseco might have landed on this team. Now he simply has too many facial twitches.
Now this team needs to be marketed, so All-Star game appearances and outstanding season stats would figure into determining who is eligible for the roster. That's right, we would need and get star power, butts-in-the-seats star power. This is a team that would need no overhead associated with a hometown. A manager would put together this crew from a national pool of players. National sponsors and a share of the gate would be all that's needed to cash flow this bunch. Players would receive minimums plus a share of the visiting team's portion.
The barnstorming Expos could generate revenue from its own off-season Expos Series, where teams from the North, South, East and West would play each other in venues throughout the country. Sort of like Little League, but with big leaguers. Cities would bid on playing host to a three-game series. Make no mistake about it, these Expos would not be akin to the Indianapolis Clowns. Neither would it be an old timers game. This would have to be a legitimate, competitive team. It would schedule 162 games. It would play in Major League venues or an agreed on neutral site. These Expos would never win a World Series, but then never will the Montreal Expos.
Anyone fearful of whether this team would detract from the integrity of the game should only look at the standings annually and peruse the cellar dwelling teams. The barnstorming Expos would do no worse and bring someone's heroes back on the field for a curtain call. What's the worst they could do? Oh, yeah. Win.
As the new owner of the Montreal Expos, I must begin by immediately allaying all fears that the team will move. I mean it will move to catch a flyball but it will remain Montreal's team forever; however long that is. We will play in a different ballpark, an outdoors facility with standing room for many and very few seats, all costing $7.Hotdogs will be served for $2 each by beautiful ladies wearing tiny bikinis. All my players will get a salary of $1.25 million and all profits go to the players based on their performance. There are no season tickets for sale. There are no games on the radio nor television.
Any move of the Expos to America (known as "The U. S.") will bring opposition from Canadians. Lets move it To Hamilton. They already have a Canadian League Football team. The Tiger-Cats draw over 20,000 per game. That's better than Expo games. Games are fun. Pre game activities, free curb parking, every one giving the Oski Wee Wee chant. There has been talk of a new stadium. While I like Ivor Wayne, a new stadium could include baseball. There's no need to worry that hockey will detract from baseball.
Toronto has always refused an NHL team inside their area. Out of town fans from Buffalo, Windsor and London will find it easy to reach. There will be a good rivalry with Toronto. Inter league play with the Blue Jays could pay well for both. The name Expos would have to go. We could go back into Hamilton history for Flying Wild Cats or Alerts. Considering some of the real proposals this makes at least as much sense. OSKI WEE WEE, OSKI WAA WAA, HOLEY MACKENAW, TIGER-CATS, EAT 'EM RAW
From (AP) reports:
The former Montreal Expos have been relocated to Tokyo of all places. After investors in nearly every North American city failed to woo the beleaguered franchise, a group of Sony executives decided that they were tired of all their best players being signed by American teams, and instead decided to sign an entire team as a response. The team will play in a restructured Tokyo Dome, and has traded for Ichiro, Hee Sop Choi and Shinjo. Tom Selleck has been signed as manager, with locals responding negatively (He is big dumb American, he know nothing of Japanese baseball. It is like he not even baseball player.) Team management states that Mr. Selleck is a fine player, and an American movie was even made about him.
Teams are already dreading the jetlag as they prepare for those 3 game roadtrips of 8000 miles, and in response to the influx of American ballplayers in the area, 5 Starbucks have opened in the area of the stadium. Major League Baseball is so ecstatic about being released from its ownership of this squad that they have allowed the team to play in a 2000 seat Japanese high school facility until the Tokyo Dome can be renovated to a 120000 seat modern baseball wonder with 4 decks. This new park will have 1000 skybox seats, which will cost about 100000 American dollars a game. The new investors expect to sell out every game as the Japanese flock to see American greats like Barry Bonds and that guy who sells underwear on Japanese TV ads.
Flash forward 5 years
From (AP) reports:
Major League Baseball has announced that the Tokyo American Dragons have been taken over by the league, as the team is failing to draw enough fan support. The reason cited by the league is that the Japanese fans won't come out to see American teams when the common practice of allowing star players to take the Tokyo roadtrips off has reached proportions so high that teams are calling up AAA players so they can play the games. The team will be moved to Montreal, and Frank Robinson will be hired as new manager, replacing the wildly popular Tom Selleck and his 205-605 career record. There are currently no plans to play any games in San Juan.