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14 Years Ago Today, My Heart Was Ripped Out…

12 August 2008

…by the start of the 1994 baseball strike. That labor stoppage would ultimately wipe out the rest of the regular season, as well as the entire playoffs.

For a Montreal Expos fan like me, it was especially painful. When the strike started, the Expos owned the best record in baseball (74-40) and were well on their way to an NL East title, having built a six-game lead on the Atlanta Braves while peaking in the summer months.

Those were heady times for any Expos fan, but for me especially. I spent most of that summer in California, staying with my then-girlfriend, an amazing girl I’d met a few months earlier who’d become my amazing wife a few years later (anniversary #11 is just around the corner). We went to a bunch of West Coast games that summer, most of them in San Diego.

Watching the Expos destroy the Padres in the final series before the All-Star break remains one of my fondest baseball memories. Nos Amours swept the four-game series in San Diego, outscoring the Pads 34-3 in the process. When the ‘Spos completed the sweep on that final first-half Sunday by winning 8-2 (thanks to two homers from Moises Alou and a grand slam by Wil Cordero that caused me to have an out-of-body experience), they moved into sole possession of first place. At that moment, I knew in my heart that this team was headed to the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, and their first World Series title.

Just look at the roster the Expos trotted out that season. Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou and John Wetteland in their primes. Superprospects Cliff Floyd and Rondell White getting their first tastes of the big leagues. A killer bullpen stuffed with power righties. A well-built, potent bench. A lights-out starting rotation led by veterans Jeff Fassero and Ken Hill…and a young, string-bean righty named Pedro Martinez. There is no way this team would have lost, to anyone. I know this to be true.

Today, ESPN.com’s Page 2 (via ESPN The Mag) has a tribute to the ’94 Expos, complete with a gallery of great links and clips that tells the tale of that team, and of the franchise as a whole. Click here to check it out.

I encourage everyone to flip through these gems. If you’re an Expos fan like me, you’ll get a welcome jolt of nostalgia. If you’re a fan of baseball history, these blasts from the past will resonate. If you’re a fan of baseball in general, you’ll appreciate the contributions of the Greatest Team That Never Got A Chance.

And if you’re not a baseball fan, just coming by this blog occasionally to check out random scratchings, you’ll gain a great deal of insight into my roots.

I am a Montrealer. I am a Montreal Expos fan. Always and forever.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. djbelc01 permalink
    12 August 2008 4:52 pm

    It’s heartbreaking to lose your team, almost like losing a family member or close friend. I’ve never lost “my team” (I didn’t seriously get into hockey until our Louisville Riverfrogs/Louisville Panthers left town, so I didn’t feel much emotional attachment to them). I have, however, lost my favorite auto racing series.

    I started to get into auto racing when I was 11 or 12 years old, right after the IndyCar World Series was split into the rival CART World Series and Indy Racing League. I was not aware of the split at the time, but had started following CART and really got into it after catching it on TV a few times. I researched the history and the split and decided that Tony George, the head of the IRL, was the devil and should not have split off. I followed CART and despised the IRL — I spent years of my life supporting CART and its great racing, interesting personalities, and beautiful, lightning quick cars racing on mostly road courses with a few ovals spread throughout. The IRL by contract had slow, ungainly cars racing on mostly ovals with drivers who couldn’t get a good ride in any other major series.

    Despite a superior product in many ways, CART was very poorly managed and had trouble competing for sponsor and manufacturer support with the IRL since the IRL had the crown jewel Indianapolis 500 event. After teams and engine makers left CART to go run in the IRL to be at the Indy 500, CART went bankrupt, was bought out by former team owners and renamed Champ Car World Series. Just a couple years thereafter it was “merged” into the evil Indy Racing League, placing the evil Tony George in complete control and resorting to using the terrible IRL rules package and terrible IRL cars on a weak schedule of tracks.

    Today’s IndyCar is a sad, sad shell of its former glory, and it infuriates me at one moment, but leaves me with a “Oh well, I just don’t give a damn anymore” attitude the next. It’s the closest I’ve come to losing “my team,” and I hope I never experience anything like this again. At least I still have old races I can watch, and a top-quality mod for the racing game rFactor came out this week simulating the 1995 IndyCar season so I can relive it virtually.

  2. Jonah permalink*
    12 August 2008 5:35 pm

    Thanks for that, Dan. I’m not much of an auto racing guy, but I agree, the sense of loss can be a powerful one, even in sports.

  3. 13 August 2008 2:21 am

    I had no interest in sports before Jonah became my amazing boyfriend (in fact, I actively disliked sports and the jerks who played and watched them — surprise! you’ve fallen in love with the biggest sports fan ever!). Since then, I’ve developed mild interests in a few (it would be quite miserable to be married to a sportswriter if I couldn’t put up attending a game here and there), but I have stayed away from allegiances for the most part. Seeing what Jonah went through with his Expos, in 1994 with the strike and then soonafter for the next almost-decade until they were finally gone, it just didn’t seem worth it. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost? Not as an observer watching the world’s biggest Expos fan get his heart ripped out, over and over and over. Year after year, we attended what we thought was the last Expos game that Jonah would ever attend, and he said a solemn goodbye, and then they hung around for “one more season.” Over and over and over.

    I didn’t develop any sports allegiances until I went to grad school and a mediocre team became two-time national champions with three Heismans during the time it took me to get my PhD. And then when I was almost done with my PhD, they lost the third national championship to Texas, and it was almost as awful as Ashlee Simpson’s halftime show.

    Since the ’spos never made it all the way, I have never seen Jonah as thrilled (screaming his head off, face about to burst, sympathetic nervous system off the charts, leaping up and down) as the moment when we were at the Rose Bowl and we saw Mike Williams pass to Matt Leinart for a touchdown. Maybe it is worth it to love a team after all.

  4. djbelc01 permalink
    13 August 2008 7:57 am

    Angèle, it sounds like you’ve figured it out that truly “‘Tis better to have loved and lost…” It’s so very true for the sports world just as much as the real world. After all, Howard Cosell did once say “sports is human life in microcosm.”

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