Hall of Fame nod for Tim Raines keeps Montreal in 'consciousness of Major League Baseball'
Fans hope recognition of beloved speedster drums up support for return of team
Montreal Expos fans are celebrating one of their heroes, Tim Raines, being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And some, including Warren Cromartie, a former teammate of Raines and founder of the Montreal Baseball Project, are hopeful the honour will stir up more interest in bringing the Expos back.
"He definitely was the kind of person who changed the game," Cromartie said.
Raines spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, which left to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who has also pushed to bring back a team, was thrilled after hearing Raines was elected in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
"I'm thrilled. I'm freaking out," he said.
"It's great for baseball. It's great for sports. It's great for Montreal."
The baseball analytics community played a key role in changing the perception of Raines, underscoring his career record of 808 stolen bases, 1,571 runs scored and .385 on-base percentage.
Stats aside, former Expos colour commentator and current TVA sport analyst Rodger Brulotte said he was amazing to watch.
"Out in the field, his speed was unbelievable. Every time he was on base it was a double."
Expos Nation, another group hoping to bring back Major League Baseball, was also among those not-so-subtly nudging votes in favour of Tim Raines.
"Tim Raines was essentially Mr. Expo. His career spans from Rusty Staub in 1979 to playing with Vladimir Guerrero in 2001," said the group's president, Matthew Ross.
With Raines in the Hall of Fame, and Guerrero pulling high numbers in his first year on the ballot, Ross said it's going to be hard to ignore the call to bring big league baseball back to Montreal.
"It continues to keep Montreal in the consciousness of Major League Baseball," he said.
"It's just a great overall boost to the efforts."
with files from CBC's Sarah Leavitt and Douglas Gelevan