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“Up, Up, and Away” in the Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, and at NPR

22 March 2014

I talked (at length) to John Allemang of the Globe and Mail and Ian McGillis of the Montreal Gazette about Up, Up, and Away, the history of the Montreal Expos, and what the team meant to those of us who grew up with them.

The Globe and Mail ran the first excerpt of Up, Up, and Away, focusing on Dennis Martinez’s unforgettable perfect game in 1991.

Finally, I was a guest on NPR’s “Only A Game” with Bill Littlefield, featuring a mini-book review by Littlefield.

Stay tuned for a much longer (and extremely colorful) excerpt at Grantland on Sunday, and lots more good stuff to come. Hope to see you next week in Montreal, or on another book tour stop elsewhere–more dates to be added soon.

Oh and hey, you can buy the book too! At,, Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and many other fine retailers, including your favorite indie booksellers. It’s also available in iBook form; and it is already on shelves at many Canadian bookstores. Up, Up, and Away will be available everywhere as of the official publication date, Tuesday, March 25.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael P permalink
    22 March 2014 8:10 am

    Mazel Tov on your latest release.


  2. 8 January 2015 5:28 pm

    Hi Jonah,

    This is Joel Kirstein, the world’s most angriest and bitter Expos fan. I loved your book. Thanks you for delivering the definitive history of the Montreal Expos. I bought it first day and even though I knew the sad ending having lived through every minute of the Expos from the day they won the franchise in 1968 until the day the team was carpetbagged out of Montreal, I feel that your book has been very instrumental in helping to revive support to bring the Expos back to Montreal. Your book also serves a great blueprint for the future owner of the Expos on how not to run an MLB franchise!

    I’m sorry I missed your visit to Dallas last year. I’ve seen your tv appearances on YouTube and you’re the best brand ambassador the Expos have. I’m cautiously optimistic that once Bud Selig is gone from baseball (don’t even get me started on that!), there are more MLB spring training and regular season MLB games in Montreal, coupled with the deteriorating stadium situation for the Tampa Bay Rays, these incremental steps will very slowly create more momentum to putting a team back on the field in Montreal in the next ten years.

    I’m very realistic about the huge obstacles that currently exist that resemble pushing water uphill: the culture of bias against Montreal at MLB. The need to build a new downtown stadium prior to getting any type of serious consideration from MLB. Stable ownership that is committed to a new Expos franchise for the long term. A new Expos franchise not relying on provincial or municipal government involvement… Remember the OIB? Keep any and all governments out of the equation.

    Plus there are other cities that are willing to fork over $1 billion USD to get an MLB franchise via expansion or relocation such as Charlotte, NC, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, New Orleans and San Antonio cities that would definitely be ahead of Montreal in the minds of the decision makers at MLB. Additionally the Marlins have not been packing them into their new ballpark and I have no doubt that former Expos’ owner Jeffrey Loria is keeping his lawyers busy 24/7 looking for any imaginable loop hole or escape clause to bail out on Miami and find a sucker in any of the above-mentioned cities. I have no doubt he’ll do to the Marlins and Miami what he did to the Expos and Montreal. You heard it here first!

    The 1999 new Expos stadium proposal that was put forward is worth revisiting as a starting point to improve upon given 15 years has passed since then. The weather issues that the negative types keep kvetching about hasn’t stopped new outdoor stadiums from being built in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis in recent years where early season weather is cold. I spent many Expos’ opening days freezing in the bleachers of Jarry Park paying 50¢ with my Bank of Montreal Young Expos card to get in. Froze my ass off at The Big Owe even with the roof on and I would pay $500 for a seat to see the next opening day in Montreal in an outdoor ballpark. The Big Owe helped kill baseball in Montreal and indoor ballparks almost killed baseball in Seattle and Minneapolis. Two cities not know for their abundance of warm weather and sunny days who got outdoor ballparks and saw fan support flourish as a result.

    Early season weather cancellations are nothing new in baseball and aren’t a killer the way the media blows it out of proportion. I’ve always believed that a good idea for the Expos would be to start the first three weeks of the season on the road. By late April the worst weather is over, Plus having technology that can be used to keep the field, the seats and stands warm during cold weather is not a stretch today. A downtown stadium with a similar capacity to the Twins’ or Pirates’ ballparks is the way to go. Small, compact, with great scenic views of downtown will deliver a great proprietary baseball experience in Montreal. I also reject the theory that no one in Montreal paid attention to Expos baseball until after the Canadiens were knocked out of the playoffs or won the Stanley Cup. Balancing your interest in both teams simultaneously during seasonal overlap was not an effort that required keen multitasking abilities.

    Though there are corporations in Montreal that would make a good ownership team such as Provigo and Molson, ideally having an owner that is on the Fortune 100 and loves baseball would be the way to go. I know that Mexican Telecom Billionaire Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world is a huge baseball fan and has the very deep pockets it requires to ride out the early years before the team makes money. Additionally, Mark Cuban who tried to buy the Chicago Cubs a few years ago, has the deep pockets to field a winner and has done a great job turning the Dallas Maverick’s in a winner on the court and on the ledger too. The notoriety they both have for loyalty to their commitments is important and not be trivialized.

    This is the direction that any organizing group intent on bringing the Expos back to Montreal should seriously consider. Many sports franchises that are both stable and financially successful have out of town ownership. The biggest detriment to Expos from day one was the lack of will to commit to the long term success of the Expos and the patented cheapness and corner cutting at every turn. You’ll never be big league if you act and behave like you belong in the bush leagues.

    The Montreal Canadiens continue to be in the gold standard for successful pro sports franchises and would serve well as an example for a new Expos team to emulate. Having a 100+ year legacy of unrivaled championship success goes a long way to cementing your brand DNA into the hearts, minds and souls of Montrealers. The Habs haven’t won a Cup since 1993 and are the only big four pro sport franchise in Montreal, yet despite this drought of almost 22 years without a championship, the Habs built a new arena that seat 5,000 more people than the old Forum, have seen their franchise value top over $1 billion in value, are regarded as equals in the pantheon of sports champions like the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics and Pittsburgh Steelers, and recognized as a global brand. Even in years when the Habs miss the playoffs or underachieve, fan support doesn’t evaporate. Like other venerable pro sports teams that are languishing through tough times, it’s not only about winning, its all about the experience of being a part of something fun, exciting that delivers.

    I’m encouraged by the prospectus put forward by former Expo Warren Cromartie’s Montreal Baseball Project. It’s well thought out and good beginning organizing principle. I do like the idea of putting a new Expos franchise in the American League East to leverage the natural rivalry with the Toronto Blue Jays and having a healthy slate of games in Montreal with the Yankees and Red Sox coming to town will only be a good thing at the box office. A desirable ball park and the renewed novelty of baseball’s return to Montreal will drive attendance in the first few years until the team is competitive. But I recognize that only a winner will keep them coming back for more long term until enough emotional brand equity is accrued. That is a fact in any sport.

    Two of the biggest issues I had as a lifelong diehard Expos fan was the constant, rampant negativity of the local media, specifically The Gazette was amongst the worst culprits in poisoning the minds of Montrealers towards the Expos. I was disgusted how they would incessantly focus only on the negative even when the Expos won the NL East in 1981 or when an Expos pitcher threw a no-hitter. Michael Farber’s column about Dennis Martinez’s perfect game vs LA in August, 1991 was sickening.

    Legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully called the game that day and stated that Martinez’s perfect game stacked up against any perfect game that the great Sandy Koufax threw. Montreal’s media did everything they could to throw the Expos under the bus every chance they got. The blood is also on the media’s hands too in regards to killing the Expos. The venomous bile they spewed at fans making them feel like they were stupid for supporting the team was beyond the pale. Jack Todd’s column’s relished and delighted in the demise of the Expos in their last ten years.

    I worked at The Montreal Daily News from 1987 – 1990 as creative director. We kept a journalistic integrity as a newspaper in reporting the good and the bad about the Expos, but without being biased homers, we succeeded in creating excitement around the team and were supportive the way other hometown newspapers are of their teams, Do you recall in the summer of 1989 seeing people in Montreal wearing t-shirts with a Montreal Daily News front page saying “EXPOS WIN WORLD SERIES”? I’m proud to say that I designed that promotional swag and probably still have a few t-shirts stashed away somewhere.

    The second issue I have is specific to marketing the team. I’ve been in advertising for almost 35 years so from a perspective as an expert in this field and in licensing, the Expos never did a good job to market the team even in the early days or at the best of times. If you’ve see what the Blue Jays do to blanket Toronto with their brand every year despite having no real success since 1993, that’s the least a new Expos franchise has to be committed to in marketing if they want to build healthy fan support, grow a season ticket subscription base and cultivate the Expos brand as an integral part of the fabric of Montreal’s appeal such as the comedy festival and alike.

    The deceitful and disingenuous dealings of past Expos owners such as Claude Brochu, Jeffrey Loria and finally MLB under Bud Selig that colluded and connived to exacerbate existing bad circumstances like a deficient Canadian dollar, a horrible home venue in the form of The Big Owe, to deliberately set the Expos up to fail is criminal in it’s proportion. In the real world, people go to jail for bankruptcy fraud. In the anti-trust exempt cartel we know to be MLB, you’re rewarded for driving a team into the ground. Yet despite the best efforts of MLB after the conspiracy of 1994, the Expos posted winning records and or were in the hunt for the post season until very late in the season in 1996, 2002 and 2003.

    I can’t stress enough the crucial importance to secure national tv broadcast rights and a local radio network to maintain a viable presence. Past ownerships’ record on this front is an indictment of their commitment and their lack of will to aggressively promote the Expos borders on embarrassing and unprofessional. Every city I’ve lived in or visited often for business and pleasure, I attended an MLB game and I’ve come to respect franchises that are small market teams with low payrolls and routinely don’t make the postseason for many years at a time and sometimes for decades, but still manage to make a compelling case for fans to attend games and create excitement about going to a game.

    Since I moved out of Montreal 25 years ago, everywhere I’ve lived: Pittsburgh, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Providence, RI and now in Dallas, any baseball fans or media people I meet, their affinity for the Montreal Expos is undeniable. Their knowledge of the players, Expos history, and their compassion for what should’ve been is remarkable and vindicating to me. The one constant I’m asked about the Expos all the time is “what happened?” When I recount to people the long and disastrous road of events that plunged the Expos into the abyss, everyone nets out in the same place that I’ve been living in since that last sad game in Montreal in September, 2004.

    The Expos live on today in the form of two more former Expos Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson being inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week. I expect Tim Raines, then my favorite Expo of all time Vlad Guerrero and eventually Larry Walker to get the call too from Cooperstown. Andre Dawson, the late great Gary Carter and Dave Van Horne will be there waiting to welcome them all into the those hallowed halls.

    The Expos live on today in the form of small market teams like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Baltimore, Kansas City and Oakland all turned around their fortunes and developed talent while rebuilding. They used the Expos’ business model for winning through building their farm systems while maintaining very modest payrolls and not relying only on signing free agents. With the exception of the modern day farm system created by Dodger GM Branch Rickey, the Expos were without peer in their time for mining prospects and turning them into diamond gems.

    The Expos live on today in the form of branded licensed apparel. Prior to 2004, I never saw any sporting good stores, Lids or retailers carry anything with a Montreal Expos logo on it. Now everywhere I travel, all of those retailers carry various Montreal Expos caps and especially the old school trip-colored ball cap that became de rigueur in the rap world and bleeding edge cool in the past ten years.

    The Expos live on today in the form of huge online community. The amount of Expos related web site continue to proliferate. Not too shabby for a team that played in the Siberia of baseball. Though I continue to have to explain the design of the Expos logo to people (being a graphic designer the concept is very clear to me) it’s quite impressive that it still resonates almost 50 years after the initial sketch was scribbled on a cocktail napkin in 1968!

    The Expos live on today in the form of a few current players that got their start in the Expos organization that are still on MLB rosters in 2015: Endy Chavez, Scott Downs, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and the player they were all traded for in 2002, Bartolo Colon. Look around MLB and count how many former Expos are now either coaches or managing MLB teams: Terry Francona and Ned Yost. Current coaches: Tim Wallach, Dan Warthen, Dave Martinez, Tom Foley, Sal Butera, Luis Rivera, Mike Aldrete, Mike Maddux, Pete Mackanin, Tony Tarasco, Tom Runnells, Alonzo Powell, Mark Gardner, Hensley Meulens, and Roberto Kelly.

    Plus many former MLB managers were once Expos: Jerry Manual, Pete Mackanin, Felippe Alou, Mike Jorgensen, Larry Parrish, Ken Macha, Ozzie Guillen, Joe Kerrigan, Dave Bristol, Bobby Wine, Russ Nixon, Tony Perez, Jeff Torborg, Manny Acta, Charlie Fox, Pete Rose, Kevin Kennedy, Don Zimmer, Joe Kerrigan, Hal McRae, Larry Doby, Brad Mills, Tom Lawless, Norm Sherry, Bobby Winkles, Maury Wills, Gene Mauch, Buck Rodgers, Dick Williams, and Jackie Moore.

    I look forward to reading and watching more of your chronicling of our Montreal Expos!

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