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Baseball Makes Wildly Successful Return to Montreal

Over a decade since the Expos departed town, nearly 100,000 fans packed Olympic Stadium for two exhibition games between the Reds and the Blue Jays

Fans of struggling Major League Baseball franchises beware for a sleeping giant has been awakened in Montreal and it may be ready to pounce. After several years of building momentum, it is now clear that baseball fans are alive and well in Montreal as they turned out in droves this weekend for two exhibition games between the Cincinnati Reds and the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium.

Since 2004, fans and purists alike have been trying to right the wrong that was caused when baseball pulled up stakes and left Montreal for Washington D.C. Yes there was a major decline in attendance in Montreal, and yes Major League Baseball had to take over control of the team in order to keep it in operation during its waning years up North, but much of that was actually caused by Major League Baseball and their inability to avoid the players’ strike of 1994.

The 1994 Expos looked poised to make their first trip to the World Series in franchise history. They were firmly atop the NL East and the city of Montreal was buzzing with baseball pride. When play stopped, so did any hope for the Expos franchise, as ownership blew up the team and the fans simply couldn’t bear to watch the shell of a franchise that was left when it was over. During the final seasons in Olympic Stadium, the Expos drew crowds as low as 2,134 fans and each of the crowds for this weekend’s exhibition games, including an announced crowd of 50,231 on Saturday was larger than any single-game attendance over the final 404 games played by the Expos at home.

While baseball currently shows no intention of creating an expansion team in Montreal, there are a number of teams including the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s who are dissatisfied with their current stadium deals and could be interested in entertaining offers from other cities, including Montreal. One this is certain though, and that is Olympic Stadium is not suited for Major League Baseball and no team would be likely to move there unless a new facility was built for them. Whether or not the city of Montreal is willing to revisit an idea that they rejected when the Expos were still in town could be the deal breaker between getting a franchise interested in relocating to Montreal or elsewhere.


Robert Gonzalez

Cleveland Indians Correspondent