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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Olbermann: Jonah Keri on Baseball in Montreal

And Up, Up & Away we go!

Repoz Posted: April 10, 2014 at 05:38 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: expos, history

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   1. Flynn Posted: April 10, 2014 at 06:28 AM (#4683613)
I got the book last week and finished it in less than 24 hours. It's a tremendous read. Lots of passion, lots of information. The only bad thing I could say is that it wasn't longer.

One of the things I took out of the book was how cursed the franchise was by bad luck and bad judgement. There were a million opportunities where, if somebody made another choice, the franchise might still be in Montreal today, both on field and off.

A better stadium (or a commitment to bringing Jarry Park to permanent MLB standards) and they're likely still there. Better on-field moves (like patching some holes via trades instead of standing pat for most of the late 70s and 80s) and they're still there. More enlightened TV judgement by Bowie Kuhn and they're still there.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 10, 2014 at 09:51 AM (#4683685)
Weren't they also quite lucky to be in Montreal in the first place. I seem to remember an excellent piece at Hardball Times about how shaky the ownership group was in '69 and how the club nearly moved to Buffalo before ever playing a game.

It say something about baseball that just one franchise has moved in 40 years. Sorry it had to be the Expos, but despite all the threats of relocation and contraction we've had a lot of stability in MLB, especially in contrast with other leagues.
   3. Flynn Posted: April 10, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4683693)
They were certainly lucky to get the team, in that if it wasn't for Walter O'Malley and his experiences with the Royals, Buffalo or somewhere else likely gets a club. They were getting jerked around by the city quite a bit - Jean Drapeau (the Mayor Daley of Montreal) was clearly preparing a bid for the Olympics, but didn't want to tell anybody, so it was impossible to pin him down on the specifics for a new stadium - or even a temporary one.

This caused Jean-Louis Levesque and several other partners to bail from the ownership group, so Charles Bronfman ended up being THE money man for the new team rather than one of many partners (Bronfman did have a few guys along with him, but they were distinctly minority owners).

Bronfman, perhaps because he was the richest man in Quebec by a country mile, was surprisingly patient with Drapeau until the NL got so concerned they told Bronfman and Drapeau that they had 24 hours to find an MLB-suitable venue for the team or the deal was off. Drapeau had the city planning department pull an all-nighter to draw up suitable plans for Jarry Park, and Bronfman and Drapeau were showing Warren Giles around essentially a rec baseball field the next day, telling him how they'd tack 25,000 seats to a 3,000 seat grandstand in the next six months. Perhaps relieved at finally being shown something, Giles said OK, and that's how Jarry Park was born. Jim Fanning and I think even Bronfman himself were laying out folding chairs for box seats an hour before the gates opened for the very first Expos home game.
   4. Rants Mulliniks Posted: April 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4683728)
Great story Flynn, thanks. I hope Montreal gets a team again someday.
   5. winnipegwhip Posted: April 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4683838)
Similar to the Expos beginning was the sudden surprise a year later that Winnipeg had AAA baseball when the Buffalo Bisons were suddenly moved in mid-season. Bronfman moved the AAA team to a province which the Bronfman's still had ties. The Bisons played some games at Jarry Park but the Winnipeg Whips soon came into existence.

The situation was so bad in Buffalo that it wasn't just financial. Player security was a concern. There was even a game where the player's possession were stolen from the clubhouse while they were playing a game.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 10, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4683928)
Player security was a concern. There was even a game where the player's possession were stolen from the clubhouse while they were playing a game.

Psh, that could happen in Yankee Stadium.

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