Top 10 Expos moments
- Les Expos' uncertain debut
- Pitcher Bill Stoneman stones 'em
- Grimsley cleans up in win department
- Pennant fever catches on in 1980
- Blue Monday: Expos' sad postseason debut
- El Perfecto for Dennis Martinez
- The Big O crumbles
- League-leading Expos strike out
- Young Pedro's almost perfect
- Vlad Guerrero flirts with 40-40 club
1. Les Expos' uncertain
Montreal's inaugural season got off to a flying start, beginning with a victory on the road on Apr. 8, 1969 against the New York Mets. The team followed up six days later with an 8-7 home win at the freshly renovated Jarry Park before almost 30,000 baseball-crazed fans.
They celebrated a lineup that shouted expansion: Mack Jones, who patrolled the outfield to the delight of fans in the nearby stands dubbed Jonesville; Coco Laboy, the team's best hitter that season and Sporting News NL rookie of the year; and Rusty Staub, the first god in the Expos pantheon.
But most fans in the park that spring day weren't aware how close Montreal came to losing the expansion franchise they'd been awarded less than a year earlier.
Missed deadlines, jittery investors, and the uncertainty of just what park the team would call home almost led to Major League Baseball cancelling its Montreal expansion plans. Only 11th-hour deal-making and the inspired choice of Jarry Park saved the day. How close was the deadline? According to team president John McHale, "Montreal came within a half-hour of losing the franchise."
2. Stoneman stones 'em
Selected by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft, pitcher Bill Stoneman wasted little time making an impression on his new club.
The Expos' inaugural season was less than a month old when Stoneman carved out a place for himself in baseball's history book by tossing the franchise's first no-hitter.
In only his fifth major-league start, Stoneman blanked the Philadelphia Phillies 7-0. It was the first major league no-hitter pitched outside the United States.
Stoneman would toss a second no-hitter for the Expos three seasons later (Oct. 2, 1972), 7-0 win over the New York Mets at Jarry Park in Montreal.
Later when asked about the no-hitters Stoneman said: "They weren't my best games. Neither one was."
3. Grimsley cleans up in win department
Sporadic bathing probably isn't the best way to impress friends, but it's not a bad recipe for winning 20 games. It apparently worked for former Montreal Expos pitcher Ross Grimsley.
In 1978, Grimsley became the only hurler in franchise history to reach the 20-victory mark. The 6-foot-3 left-hander reportedly made a habit of not bathing on game days.
He finished with a 20-11 record, 3.05 earned-run average and whopping 19 complete games during his first season with the Expos. He also represented Montreal at the 1978 All-Star Game.
Grimsley was never able to duplicate this success in the years to come. He posted a 10-9 mark the following season with Montreal and was 2-4 in 1980 before a mid-season trade to the Cleveland Indians.
He struggled in Cleveland before ending his 11-year playing career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1982.
4. Pennant fever
The city of Montreal caught pennant fever in 1980. More than 2.2 million fans turned out to support the Expos as they challenged for their first-ever playoff spot into the dog days of summer.
"Back in the early 80s, this place was jumping, it was the place to be. People knew all the Expos by faces and batting stances, around town people knew them," recalls Michael Farber, a writer for Sports Illustrated magazine and former columnist for The Montreal Gazette.
Managed by the aggressive Dick Williams and led on the field by emerging superstar Andre Dawson and pitcher Steve Rogers, the Expos finished the season with 90-72 record.
But, despite their impressive campaign, the Expos' playoff push fell short on the final day of the season. Montreal finished one game back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the National League East title. The Phillies would go on to win the World Series.
5. Blue Monday
To Expos' baseball fans, Oct. 19, 1981 will always be known as "Blue Monday."
Led by stars like pitcher Steve Rogers, catcher Gary Carter and outfielder Andre Dawson, Montreal made its first, and only, appearance in baseball's post-season in 1981. They got there by winning the second half of a strike-interrupted season and beating the Philadelphia Phillies in a playoff to take the division.
Montreal faced off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five series with the winner going to the World Series.
The Expos won the matchup's first two games, leaving them three chances on their home turf at Olympic Stadium to wrap up the series.
But instead of folding, the Dodgers rallied to even the series at two games apiece. The decisive game was tied 1-1 in the ninth inning when Expos manager Jim Fanning went to the bullpen and asked Rogers, his ace starter, to pitch in relief on short rest. It was a decision Expos fans would regret.
With two outs, Dodgers journeyman outfielder Rick Monday launched a Rogers pitch over the wall for a game-winning homer.
The Dodgers would end up winning the World Series. The Expos never made the post-season again.
6. El Perfecto
Dennis Martinez's baseball career was marked by plenty of fantastic moments, but on July 28, 1991 in Los Angeles he was absolutely perfect. The Nicaraguan fireball pitcher set down 27 straight Dodger hitters to toss the 13th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball.
"We couldn't touch the guy," recalled Dodgers hitter Juan Samuel, who flouted baseball etiquette by laying down a bunt during the game. "He was pitching great."
When Martinez recorded the final out he was mobbed by his Expos teammates while Dodger fans cheered appreciatively. The game, which has been dubbed by the media as El Perfecto, is the only perfect game in Expos history.
7. The Big O crumbles
Long before the Puerto Rico crazy talk began, the Expos played a whack of home games on the road. But don't blame Bud Selig. Blame the Big O designers and contractors.
On Sept. 8, 1991, several support beams in the stadium snapped, forcing a 55-ton slab of concrete to tumble onto a walkway below. While nobody was injured, the damage to the reputation of the team and, especially, the much-maligned stadium, was lasting.
Aside from the indignity of the Expos having to play their final 13 home games on the road, the accident provided endless fodder for journalists and long-time critics of the Big O, the poster child for titanic excess of the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
8. Expos strike out
The baseball's slow death in Montreal began with a body blow in 1994.
Led by superstars like Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker and Moises Alou,
the Expos dominated baseball that season. Montreal was coasting with
a major league-leading 74-40 record and was favoured to win its first
World Series championship when the baseball season was brought to
a halt by a player walkout.
The work stoppage forced the unprecedented cancellation of the World Series, dashing the Expos' playoff hopes.
"A lot of people felt like it was the best team in baseball that year and maybe one of the best to come along in a long time," says Kevin Malone, the Expos general manager in 1994. "It's a little frustrating to think back on a team that had that much talent and ability but didn't get a chance to complete its mission."
The lockout also took a heavy toll on baseball fans. Few were more disappointed -- and resentful -- than those in Montreal. When baseball returned the following season fan interest had waned and attendance dropped.
"That was the start of the end," says Ken Singleton, a former Expo broadcaster. "I think the fans really felt that the rug was pulled out from under them and they didn't go back after that."
9. Almost perfect
On June 3, 1995, a young Pedro Martinez gave the baseball world a glimpse of the pitching form that would dominate batters for the next decade.
That day in San Diego Martinez's blazing power and sublime control was on full display. The lithe right-hander baffled the Padre hitters retiring every batter he faced for nine innings.
However, the Expos' hitters couldn't muster a run for Martinez and the contest went into the 10th inning tied 0-0. Martinez was only second pitcher to carry a perfect game into extra innings.
The Expos took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 10th and Martinez was sent back to the hill to close out the contest. Bip Roberts - the Padres' 28th batter - led off the bottom of the inning with a double to quash Martinez' bid for perfection. Expos relief pitcher Mel Rojas replaced Martinez, earning a save and locking up the win for Martinez.
10. Guerrero flirts with 40-40 club
Many prolific hitters have worn the Montreal Expos jersey over 36 seasons, but no player ever demonstrated the pure batting skills of Vladimir Guerrero.
The soft-spoken Dominican outfielder was Montreal's top offensive threat in the late 1990s and early 2000s, shattering single-season and career records in multiple individual hitting statistics over his eight seasons -- six as a full-time starter -- with the Expos.
Guerrero was unique type of slugger, one equally comfortable swinging at eye-level curveballs as he was swatting at a belt-high fastball down the middle.
Unlike a lot of mashers, Guerrero also flashed his wheels on the basepaths. In 2002, Guerrero fell just one home run shy of joining the exclusive 40-40 club of 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season.
Only three players in Major League Baseball history -- Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez -- count themselves members of the 40-40 club.