The return of Major League Baseball to Montreal in the form of Blue Jays/Mets exhibitions should be an emotional one this weekend, with the late Gary Carter -- who starred for both the Expos and the Mets -- to be honored.
About 75,000 tickets have been sold for the two weekend exhibitions games. (Organizers are getting to the point where they might put obstructed-view tickets on sale.) Now, whether or not MLB returns to Montreal doesn't really hinge on whether or not this series sells out; games like this might have mattered 50 years ago, but not today.
Still, the games should give a little bit of momentum to Warren Cromartie's efforts to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal. The late Gary Carter -- who already has a small ballpark named for him in Montreal -- will be honored before the game, and plenty of his former teammates and family, including Cromartie, Tim Raines, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez and Steve Rogers, will be on hand for the festivities. The former Expos seem to have taken up the cause of bringing MLB back to Montreal (including the likes of Ellis Valentine), and they'll be sure to be leading all the newscasts this weekend in Montreal. From The New York Times:
To complete the reunion, the organizers have hired several former Expos employees, including the groundskeeper and the public-address announcer. Batting cages, bands and family zones should help create a festival atmosphere, and some of the proceeds from the games will be donated to a local baseball federation. “The games will not only be baseball games but a celebration of baseball,” [said Evenko's Simon] Arsenault.
That celebration includes memories — of when fans dressed up in three-piece suits and fur coats to see the Expos play; of when Canadian movie stars such as Donald Sutherland were in the stands; of when the team regularly attracted more than two million fans a year and, for a few seasons, outdrew the Yankees.
“I was right in the middle when we were pulling 35,000 in nightly, and it was fun to play in front of those crowds,” said Rogers, a pitcher who played his entire 13-year career with Montreal.
Of course, it doesn't take a team of former Expos to bring baseball back to Montreal: it takes a single rich person who will spend the billion dollars or so it will take to get a new ballpark built and acquire a team. It won't be easy, as MLB has no thoughts of expansion (but they should, for a variety of reasons) and there are two teams at the most who might be available for a move if their current ballpark efforts fail.
Top photo of Olympic Stadium by Michael Wu via flickr.com. Bottom photo of Olympic Stadium during final Montreal Expos homestand.
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