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NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: The Definitive History of the Montreal Expos

22 June 2011

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve agreed to terms with Random House Canada to write my next book: The Definitive History of the Montreal Expos. The book is tentatively slated for release in the spring of 2014 — the 10-year anniversary of the Expos’ move to Washington, D.C., and the 20-year anniversary of the strike that wiped out the team’s last, and maybe best shot at a World Series.

This isn’t simply the story of a Canadian baseball club that shipped out of town seven years ago. This is a tale of auspicious beginnings, as a city worked to land a professional sports franchise on the strength of a world’s fair (remember those?). It’s a story of linguistic strife, as the rift between French and English Quebec fostered tragic consequences, mellowed, then led to a sovereignty movement and corporate headquarters exodus that helped fuel the team’s eventual downfall. It’s about the cultural ingredients that made Montreal a wonderful and unique market for baseball, but also made it a foreign entity that the league never fully appreciated. This is a business story, one that examines the links between public and private sectors, promises made and broken, and what happens when self-interested individuals get to decide the fate of a franchise, and its carcass.

And yes, it’s a story about how baseball can shape a life. I’ve written at length about the team of my childhood, how growing up with baseball affected my worldview, determined my career path, even led me to meet my future wife. We haven’t yet decided how autobiographical this book will be — I tend to think Gary Carter is far more interesting than I am. But there will be pieces of me in there, in one form or another.

As with The Extra 2%, interviews will form the backbone of the book. Charles Bronfman and Pierre Bourque, Tim Raines and Dave Van Horne. Bill Stoneman and Dan Duquette, Pedro Martinez and Rodger Brulotte. Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson, Felipe Alou and Vladimir Guerrero. I’m anxious to talk to all the principals who made the Expos the Expos for 35 years. As a journalist, I’m consumed by a desire to learn more about the life and death of the franchise. As a die-hard Expos fan, I just think it will be really cool to break bread with Casey Candaele.

The Definitive History of the Montreal Expos isn’t the book’s official title (we’ll come up with one in time), but it does embody the spirit of the project. You will learn about the history of a franchise and a city, and how the people behind the curtain decide what will become of your favorite team.

One quick story for you (my apologies to those of you who’ve already heard this story): Four years ago, I got an email from a gentleman named Paul Taunton. The gist of the email went something like this: “You don’t know me, but I used to post on the old Expos forum at BaseballBoards.com back in the late 90s. I liked what you had to say about baseball. Now I’m an editor at Random House. We should do a book together.” After making sure this wasn’t some weird joke, I thanked Paul, and suggested we stay in touch. A year later, he (and ESPN Books honcho Steve Wulf) approached me with the idea of doing a book about the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s how The Extra 2% was born: one dude on the Internet digging what another dude on the Internet had to say a decade earlier about the Montreal Freaking Expos. Seriously.

As fun and gratifying as it was to work on The Extra 2%, Paul and I held a dream project in the back of our minds: a book that would tell the real story of the Montreal Expos, from beginning to end, with all the heartbreak and glory (there was some glory, really!), the way we wanted it to be told.

Well, we got it. As with The Extra 2%, Paul will be my editor, Rob Neyer will provide additional guidance and counsel, and all of you will be my support system when I’ve been up for 21 hours, staring at a deadline, still writing as the sun rises.

This is a career highlight, and a dream come true.

I can’t wait to get started.

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 June 2011 11:35 am

    I’ll be counting down the days until this comes out. I can’t wait to read it.

    (By the way, on a side note, I am Ronnie’s cousin)

  2. 22 June 2011 11:53 am

    Fabulous news, Jonah! How soon can I pre-order on Amazon?

  3. 22 June 2011 12:43 pm

    Great news! Hopefully you will be able to interview Fern Lapierre about the music he brought to Expos home games.

  4. 22 June 2011 12:53 pm

    If you need to hear the voice of an additional very loyal Expos fan as part of your background research, let me know.

  5. John C. Baker permalink
    22 June 2011 1:11 pm

    Look forward to it. While I enjoyed Gallagher’s book, it wasn’t definitive. While I twice went through Brochu’s book, it obviously was biased. Luchuk’s tome only focused on one season and didn’t involve any primary sources. I’d love to get the views of the limited partners that were obviously missing from Brochu’s incomplete manuscript, I’d also like to see some fan input from organizations like Encore Baseball Montréal.

  6. mrokjazztokyo permalink
    22 June 2011 8:35 pm

    Yeahhhhhh!!!!! “Omedeto Gozaimasu!” as they say over here! Can’t wait! Full color Youppi photos too please!

  7. 23 June 2011 7:34 pm

    Congrats Jonah. I know you are going to do a great job! As others have volunteered, I was there as a fan with a good deal of memory for the club till 1993. I dealt with the Politics, the exodus and pretty much everything about the team from 1977 to Curtis Pride, hearing the vibrations on a Saturday evening in Sept 1993 against the Phillies, literally in tears because our Expos and fans were HOT! If you need help (I have a great deal of memory with the weather, including how mild it was before the Rick Monday Monday day game (it stopped raining and was +12!) I am here to help

    Eric Bernstein
    Ex of Montreal

  8. 24 June 2011 9:03 am

    What would be really great is if Tim Raines is in the HOF in time for you to include it in your book.

  9. 24 June 2011 7:25 pm

    Fantastic. Congratulations. Can’t wait.

    • 24 June 2011 7:41 pm

      Congratulations right back at ya! Loving your book.

  10. 27 June 2011 6:29 pm

    This is fantastic. 2014 sure seems a long way down the road now!

  11. 28 June 2011 2:42 pm

    I cant wait for the book. To this day when I am asked which baseball team I root for I respond, the quizzical looks, “the Expos”. Hopefully, the book will teach me some things I didn’t know and remind of some things I forgot. BTW, I noticed that in the list of names of people interviewed, Gary Carter’s name was missing. I’d love to hear some of his thoughts as he along with Rusty Staub really were the faces of the organization during their respective eras. Some other names that might be interesting to hear from: Bill Lee, Dennis Martinez, Larry Walker, Oil Can Boyd and Randy Johnson.

    • 28 June 2011 2:45 pm

      Dean, I will be sending interview requests to every single relevant player, coach, fan, politician, businessman or front office person who was ever affiliated with the Expos, not to worry.

  12. 28 June 2011 5:52 pm

    As a diehard follower of another team that relocated (Hartford Whalers), I can’t wait to read your book to see how other fans have reacted to this kind of news. Congratulations.

  13. 21 July 2011 12:45 pm

    Jonah, may I suggest ‘Up, Up, and Away!” as a potential book title?

    I’m pretty sure you know where I got that from :)

    • 11 July 2013 4:22 pm

      You got your wish!

      • 18 January 2014 9:26 am

        Wonderful! I heard you on Bob Mccowans show last week mentioning the title (while I as driving to Montreal) no less. I got SO excited. Very much looking forward to reading the book!!

  14. 22 July 2011 11:49 am

    Very excited librarian in Milwaukee about this book.
    I remember writing to you back in 2004 after the team’s move to DC was announced (you were with BP at the time.) You asked readers to send their favorite Expos memories, and I told you about my then-recent trip to Montreal to see them. You were kind enough to respond to me personally. I’ve enjoyed your writing over the years and look forward to your treatment of this story. Best of luck in this endeavor.

  15. 26 July 2011 3:43 pm

    As someone who goes all the way back to the Expos usenet newsgroups and has been reading and enjoying the hell out of your work along the way, let me add to those who are saying that they CAN’T WAIT for this book. Even apart from cracking it open and reading it through, it will be excellent to have something to point people to when they blurt out commonly held misperceptions of the Expos’ story. Congrats jonseyjones – you’re the perfect guy for this job.

  16. 26 July 2011 6:02 pm

    This sounds like a book that is, sadly, long overdue. Sadly, because I’d rather still have the team in Montréal and no need for the book. If you need a slightly off-kilter Western Canadian perspective.

    I watched/listened to Expos games in French with Claude Raymond, Camille Dubé, Jacques Doucet, etc. on Radio Canada because I was in a French immersion program that was part of Trudeau’s response to Québec separatism, and grew to despise the Blue Jays because of the Toronto media bias that would barely acknowledge when the Expos’ were having some surprising success in the Buck Rodgers and Moises Alou years.

    The 1994 rip-off was particularly tough to take. Not only did the Jays winning it all in the previous year up the ante, but as an Expos fan in Vancouver, so did having B.C.’s own Larry Walker in right field. It was pretty much assumed that it would take a World Series win to keep the future MVP and promising goalie in hockey-mad Montréal when his contract was up at the end of the season. He stated his desire to stay an Expo if he could, even attempted to learn French in order to connect better with the community. But with the work stoppage and uncertainty over resuming the season, Walker (and the rest of the team) didn’t even get a proper send-off.

    I miss the (sometimes brief) resurgences of MLB careers, usually pitchers e.g.Denny Martinez, Pascual Perez, and Oil Can Boyd, and the always underdog character of the team, leading to this favorite memory:

    Bill Murray, filling in for the ill Harry Caray on WGN, announcing the lineups for a 1987 Cubs-Expos game (from http://bit.ly/nmyWPi):

    ————————————————-
    The game got off to an inauspicious start – somehow all of the umpires’ equipment had been lost in transit so the Cubs supplied them with what they needed – much of it with the Cubs logo on it. This was comedic fodder for Murray who besides making fun of the umpires’ wardrobe malfunction opined on the Expos’ line-up – “Casey Candaele – he’s no good. Vance Law – he’s over-rated. Tom Foley shouldn’t even be playing. Hermann Winningham – What you’re going to be afraid of a guy named Herman?”

    Next he poked fun at the Canadian National Anthem – “They’ve only got five words in the song and they just keep singing them over and over again.”
    ————————————————-

    The underdog franchise if there ever was one, sadly.

  17. 29 August 2011 12:59 am

    Great news as I grew up an Expos fan but don’t call the book “The Definite History of the Expos” even if it is. As a subtitle, that’s cool but marketing-wise it has to be something cool or catchy like the Expos Nos Amours videos.

  18. 7 September 2011 9:37 pm

    onah, Great to hear this is on the front burner. If you need a FAN INTERVIEW I’m your man. Born in 1967 (Expo ’67) in Cincinnati. Watched my favorite Red TONY PEREZ get traded to Montreal after 1976 and FELL IN LOVE WITH THE EXPOS. Dragged my Dad to all the games when they came to Cincy and traveled all over the MidWest to catch ‘em when I got my drivers license and some money of my own. I’m ExpoJim! Cro knows me. Moises knows me and my Youppi! orange hair (its natural) and my wife from all the games we attended when I moved to the West Coast. Luis Pujols became a good friend (After seeing me at all the games and sitting next to his first base coaching box in L.A.) and got me tickets all over America and when my wife and I visited Montreal in what was supposed to be a Victory Tour after the 1994 Season. I proposed to my Wife at Dodger Stadium in 1993 the Sunday Night that Larry Walker gave the ball to a kid with 2 outs and then retrieved it. I WAS IN SAN DIEGO FOR PEDRO’S NINE INNING PERFECTO! I’m definitely your FAN INTERVIEW if you want to truly make a Definitive History of the Montreal Expos.

    • John C. Baker permalink
      8 September 2011 12:26 am

      Joey, I was also at that game in LA when Walker gave the kid the ball. Funniest damn moment I’ve ever seen in a live baseball game. I hope Larry gave him another ball later!

  19. 8 September 2011 4:36 pm

    John Baker, Larry Walker came out the next inning and gave the kid a ball. Do you remember that the guy who was on first tagged-up (I think it was Jose Offerman) and went to third and Walker (after retrieving the ball) threw an AWESOME one-hop throw to the plate? Pedro was pitching and got the next out to put everything right. EXPOS FOREVER! Mark Wohlers getting a save against the Expos…..NEVER!!!

  20. 26 March 2012 9:21 pm

    Great news! It seemed like that the Expos were forgotten. Besides this book it would be nice to see a DVD documentary history of the team and the return of the Expos back in Montreal.

  21. 23 April 2012 11:29 pm

    Good luck with the book Jonah. I saw a game in Montreal in 2004, and I’ve recently taken an interest in what happened to the Expos and I must confess I too thought Montreal was a bad market for baseball. Turns out I was wrong. I’m very much looking forward to the book. If I can think of a title I’ll suggest one.

  22. 19 June 2012 11:44 am

    Discovered this through links via Grantland.
    Can’t wait for the book. Saw my first Expos game in ’79. Was at the All-Star game in ’82, Even had tickets to game 5 in ’81, but after the rainout on Sunday (since there was no roof yet), I had to go to school on Monday. Blue Monday indeed. And saw my last Expos game at their home finale, planning where to meet up with friends in case things got ugly after the umps pulled everyone off the field.

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