In section 240 of the Rogers Centre’s bleachers last Sunday, fans sent up an enthusiastic chant that could be heard on radio and TV broadcasts—but it wasn’t for the Jays. A chorus of “Let’s go, Expos!” rang through the stadium, and while some fans may have found it puzzling, it made Montreal sports journalist Matthew Ross smile.
Ross, a devoted fan of Montreal’s former MLB team (which moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005) co-organized an outing of 150 fans to Sunday’s Jays game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Some came from as far as California and North Carolina; all were there to bring attention to their goal of resurrecting the Expos. Former Montreal sports commentator Jonah Keri and hip-hop artist Annakin Slayd were in attendance, too, as well as former Expos general manager Jim Fanning, who posed for photos with appreciative fans.
A Conference Board of Canada report last month suggested Montreal could support a new baseball team (with the caveat that said team would need “deep-pocketed ownership”). And as former Expos have been honoured by the Baseball Hall of Fame, there’s been a revival of interest in the team. Keri is writing a book on its history, and argues the appreciation comes from a mix of extraordinarily dedicated fans and what he calls a “nostalgia generation.” He said, “There’s a longing [for baseball in Montreal].”
“It’s fantastic,” said Fanning, who managed the team in its sole playoff appearance in 1981. “Meeting everybody…it’s been a really nice time so far.”
The Jays game was a dud—they fell behind 7–0 after two innings, ultimately losing 9–4—but the Expos fans, unsurprisingly, weren’t too bothered. There were looks of recognition among old fans and friends, as people wore jerseys of Expos heroes Gary Carter, Tim Raines, and Andre Dawson, and clutched a stuffed animal of the team’s beloved mascot, Youppi.
Late in the game, a concession salesperson came down to offer free pizza for Expos fans. Better still, the news was announced from a script in French—albeit of the halting high-school variety. It wasn’t quite the real thing, but section 240 cheered anyhow.