If someone would have had the foresight to blow up Olympic Stadium in Montreal’s east end about 20 years ago, I might be settling in on this quiet Sunday to watch my Expos take on the Cubbies or Mets or Cards or Dodgers, and as usual I’d be concentrating on every pitch, getting wrapped up in my favourite ball team and favourite summer sport.
If Olympic Stadium hadn’t been such a huge echo chamber void of soul and any baseball atmosphere whatsoever, more people might have paid their fifteen bucks to go out and watch the marvelous team housed there. But they stayed away because the place was horrible, with a big orange roof hovering above that sometimes ripped, and seats with such a gradual incline that one could sit just ten rows above the dugout and feel like it was a mile away.
If Montreal politicians would have built a smaller, baseball-friendly park in the downtown area, maybe young Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg might be taking to the mound today in Expos colours and we move closer to our TV’s to watch, or see him in living colour.
If Steve Rogers wasn’t brought in to pitch to the Dodgers’ Rick Monday in 1981 and hadn’t given up the home run that blew the Expos chance to win the pennant and play in the World Series, maybe with magical success such as what could have been, the Expos might still be around.
I mourn the Expos often. Maybe it’s because of all that went with it. My kids were young, I was young, and we were a happy little family in a nice little house in Ottawa. Life was a lovely thing indeed. Now, that lovely little wife I had back then is no longer my wife, and my son and I are having some problems. On the bright side, my daughter, who was so little when Tim Raines was stealing bases and Tim Wallach was picking off liners at third base, has given me three beautiful little rugrats. And these little beauties replace sadness with immense joy.
I miss that team which was so good and so exciting and I think I know how Brooklyn fans must have felt when their Dodgers left for the west coast. And I understand how hearts were broken in Quebec and Winnipeg when their beloved hockey teams left.
Sometimes, in life and in sports, we have to turn a very thick page.
I miss the Expos.
I miss Warren Cromartie and Tim Raines and Tim Wallach and Steve Rogers.
During the 198o’s, I almost followed every pitch. The Expos were one of baseball’s best teams, and for a nice stretch during these times, they were always in the thick of it come September.
I listened to Dave Van Horne and Duke Snider on my truck radio as I drove here and there out of Ottawa. And I watched as Rick Monday’s home run spoiled the Expos chances of advancing to the World Series that September of 1981 which became known as Blue Monday.
There was Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Chris Speier, Scott Sanderson. And of course a great catcher and a man who loved the limelight, Gary Carter.
I miss Rodney Scott, Larry Parrish, Dick Williams, Woody Fryman, Bill (Spaceman) Lee.
But the Expos are now the Washington Nationals, and I pay absolutely no attention to them at all. The Expos are gone. End of story.
And or me, the real reason the Expos aren’t in Montreal anymore is because the Big O was a ghastly place, a giant orange cave that echoed and swallowed you up. The seats were set in on a gradual slope, so even though you might be only 20 rows up, it seemed like you were a mile away.
The track that was used in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal surrounded the playing field, so it created not only a lousy un-baseball-like atmosphere, but also made it that many more feet from the stands, even, I think, from the dugouts.
So no one went. Most games were far from sellouts because the atmosphere wasn’t worth the hassle of driving there and parking. Attendance was dismal in Montreal, and Expos owners lobbied the city to build a nice baseball stadium downtown, (Olympic Stadium was way out in the east end), but were denied, and the next thing you know, they were gone.
I suppose Montreal will never see another major league team because usually, once you lose it, your chances are gone.
But we had them for awhile, and they sure were good.