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2004: Baseball's Expos say goodbye to Montreal

Play ball! From the impromptu games of "town ball" in the 1800s, through Jackie Robinson's Montreal Royals to the Expos and Blue Jays, Canadians have always been infatuated with baseball. But getting big league teams to come to Canada proved harder than hitting a grand slam. It took decades of persuading, promoting, wheeling and dealing, but eventually America's favourite pastime found a home in the great white north.

For 36 seasons, Montrealers have called them Nos Amours -- our loves. But the affair has ended and the Expos are moving out, to Washington, D.C. Still, tonight is full of tears and fond memories for more than 31,000 fans drawn to Olympic Stadium for the final home game. On the field, attempts to rekindle the team's glory years fail as the Expos lose 9-1.
• A total of 31,395 fans went to the final home game, against the Florida Marlins.

• Montreal's The Gazette reported that "by angry crowd standards, it was as mildly Canadian as could be." The game was temporarily halted after some fans tossed golf balls on the field. Signs proclaiming "Bud sucks" -- referring to league commissioner Bud Selig -- came fluttering down from the upper decks. But order was restored and the game ended with a standing ovation.

• A few days after this clip aired, on Oct. 3, 2004, the team played its final game as the Montreal Expos, losing to the New York Mets 8-1 at Shea Stadium in New York. The team began the 2005 season as the Washington Nationals.

• The Expos ended where they began -- the team had played its first game at Shea Stadium on April 8, 1969, winning 11-10.

• The first Expos home game -- an 8-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals -- was played April 14, 1969 at Jarry Park, the team's home before it moved into Olympic Stadium in 1977.

• The Expos final record was 2,753 wins, 2,941 losses and four ties.

• Attendance at Expos games in the 2004 season averaged only 9,356 in a stadium able to seat 46,500.

• A radio station put up for internet auction the last hot dog sold at the final Expos home game. The $3.75 frankfurter was bought for $2,605 by Guy Laliberté, the billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil. "He's a fan of everything that is Montreal. He wanted it," Laliberté's spokesman told reporters. The money went to a Trois-Rivières charity to buy Christmas gifts for needy children.

• A treasure trove of Expos memorabilia was split between the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the Panthéon des Sports du Québec, Cinémathèque Québécoise and Montreal's McCord Museum.

• The items included bronze busts of the Expos Hall of Famers, the yellow seat that marked the landing place of Willie Stargell's mammoth 163-metre homerun and the golf cart used by the Expos mascot Youppi!

• The top three Expos memories from superfan Anthony Buccongello:
-- The 1981 Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a best-of-five series to advance to the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
-- The 1981 Expos just miss going to the World Series when Rick Monday of the Dodgers hits a two-out, ninth inning homerun later dubbed "Blue Monday".
-- The 1994 Expos lead the league with a 74-40 record before a strike scuttles the pennant race and the season.

• Washington, the city that benefited from Montreal's loss, has itself lost big-league baseball teams twice before. The Washington Senators (at times called the Nationals) left in 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins. The new Washington Senators lasted from 1961 to 1971 but then became the Texas Rangers.

• A dispute in late 2004 over the financing of a new stadium for the Nationals appeared to jeopardize the team's move to the Washington. However, differences between the league and Washington city council were smoothed over and the Nationals had a home opener in April 2005.

• U.S. President George W. Bush, a former part owner of the Texas Rangers, threw out the first pitch.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Sept. 29, 2004
Guest(s): Josh Freed, Albert Saragossi, Tony Tavares, Anthony Williams
Host: Mark Kelly
Reporter: Michel Godbout
Duration: 3:30

Last updated: April 18, 2012

Page consulted on January 20, 2014

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