Major League Baseball Park #28 out of 39
Sunday, July 30, 2000
Cincinnati Reds 7, Montreal 4
W– Rob Bell
L – Dustin Hermanson
Attendance – 14,495
Monday, July 31, 2000
St. Louis Cardinals 4, Montreal 0
W– Darryl Kile
L – Mike Thurman
Attendance – 9,558
"Let me give you a warning. If you go to Paris, France...'Chapeau' means 'hat.' 'Oeuf' means 'egg.' It's like those French have a different word for everything!"
-- Steve Martin (1978)
In 1969, baseball expanded to add four teams and a League Championship Series.
No more going straight to the World Series when the division was won.
Montreal was one of those four teams (along with the Padres, Pilots and Royals), but the baseball gods never really gave them a fair shot. They made one LCS appearance in 1981, finished three games behind NL champ Philadelphia in 1993, and fielded a virtual all-star team on the way to the best record in baseball on August 10, 1994.
Unfortunately, a players' strike began on August 11th and the Expos' ownership was forced to sell off most of those good players. For those of you who are fans of teams that don't win very often -- if at all -- imagine one team with Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Rondell White, Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero, Pedro Martinez, Kirk Rueter, and John Wetteland -- and a sizable number of useful role players and bench guys and then try to visualize never finding out what that team could've done in the playoffs. By 1998, only Rondell White remained after another second-place finish in 1996.
At that time, the Expos front office probably felt a lot like the streaker that raced among the Dutch dancers during Summer Olympic ceremonies in 1976.
The Summer Olympics helped build Olympic Stadium and baseball's lopsided financial structure helped shut it down (for major-league baseball, anyway) in September of 2004. The Expos ended that season 28 games under .500 and 29 games out of first. Because it was a foregone conclusion for quite some time that the 2004 season would be the last one in Montreal, attendance fluctuated from 3,609 (May 5th) to 30,112 (April 23rd) in a building that seated over 43,000 for baseball. The franchise moved to Washington, DC, and became the Nationals in 2005.
On our way to Montreal from New York City, we misjudged how long it would take us to get to the next gas station and after an exhilarating ride on fumes through the back roads of upstate New York (something not unlike that "Seinfeld" episode with Kramer and the car salesman seeing how empty the gas tank could get before their car couldn't go any more), we stopped in a small town (whose name I've since forgotten) and called AAA. About 30 minutes later, a guy who lived just a few miles away showed up with a gas can and helped us out. From that moment on, we decided we do better research on gas stations.
We finally rolled into a sleepy little town named Plattsburgh (approximately 20 miles south of the Canadian border) around 3:30 AM. Fortunately, our hotel reservation was at a place with a 24-hour office. When we arrived, we were told that our room was the last one available and there had been several people trying to get the hotel clerk to give the room to them, but the clerk told us he had a feeling we would show up. As soon as I can find the receipt from that place, I'll post it here because that guy deserves all the reservations he can handle.
Montreal, as a city and tourist destination, is a very attractive place. Sure, the drivers are lunatics (worse than Boston), but all of the brownstones with circular wrought-iron exterior suitcases along streets lined with trees almost make you think twice about cursing the guy who just cut you off.
We saw two games in Montreal -- the last game of a series with the Reds and the first game of a series with the Cardinals. Before each game, we took advantage of a wonderful foreign-currency exchange rate and visited the Biodome, the Insectarium, and the tower above the baseball stadium.
Because of the team's fortunes at the time (and, basically, their fortunes during any season except 1981 and 1994), we had no trouble getting tickets right before the games started. Like most other baseball parks, the Expos had a "Diamond Club" area. In Olympic Stadium, that area was the first ten rows behind and between the dugouts and tickets cost about $22 each (in US dollars at the time). Figuring we would most likely never again sit so close for so little, we snapped up a pair behind the Reds' dugout for game one.
A few months earlier, the Reds had traded for Ken Griffey, Jr. and, of course, given his Seattle history, we were looking forward to seeing him in person again. Dawn tried, on several occasions, to get his attention by waving at him whenever he walked off the field, but no luck. Junior was batting .244 at the time, so he probably wasn't having much fun.
Now, we'd already been to Vancouver and we were going to be in Toronto a few days later, but Montreal -- being a city in Quebec -- is very proud of its French heritage and there was no escaping that during the two games. Banners outside the stadium proudly proclaimed "Incontournable!", though we had no idea what that meant. Inside the stadium, fans were treated to movie trailers between innings -- alternating between French and English. Several baseball terms on the scoreboard were shown in both languages. Who'd have thought one could learn so much non-baseball information at a baseball game? I don't know if I can use every term I read at the park in a sentence, but here goes nothing...
In the third inning (manche) of the first game, Expos' left-fielder Peter Bergeron picked up a stolen base (but vole). Due up (Prochains frappeurs) in the top of the fourth inning was Reds' left-fielder Dante Bichette. Reds' starter Rob Bell threw a wild pitch (mauvais lancer) in the second inning. Expos' starter Dustin Hermanson entered the game with a 5.08 ERA (MPM). Expos' pinch-hitter Andy Tracy hit a HR (CC) estimated at 388 feet (poids). I forgot to write down who the Fan of the Game (Partisan du Match) was and, oh...there were...um...clowns on the field leading the sparse crowd of 14,495 in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game".
Below are ten photos of the Montreal area. The aerial shot was from the tower overlooking the stadium. The downtown photo was taken from the balcony outside our hotel room. The Jackie Robinson plaque was just outside the stadium to honor Jackie's tenure with the Montreal Royals.
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