September 29 is usually a special day for me. The steady stream of phone calls, e-mails and visits I receive from friends and family have always been an enjoyable part of my birthday. But September 29, 2004 was very different. It was the last game the Expos would play in Montreal. I briefly thought about coming to Montreal for the game, but I could not stand to be there. I felt sick just thinking about it. The final score or who did what on the field didn't matter. There was nothing that could make that game better, and what I've heard from many of you who were there confirm that.
I thought of the story that marked the beginning of baseball in Montreal for many of us. When Jackie Robinson was sent to Montreal to play for the Royals in 1946, it was part of a plan to chip away at the colour barrier in baseball. If he was going to continue to be kicked off flights and openly discriminated against, it would be away from the spotlight of Major League Baseball. But in a different country where people spoke another language and looked nothing like him, the opposite happened. Montrealers opened their doors to Jackie, helped his pregnant wife with her groceries, and when the Royals won the International League championship, they chased him through the streets out of love, not hate. They chose to be positive and uplifting, when it was so easy to give in to the negativity.
It goes to the heart of everything the Montreal Baseball Project is doing: changing the tone of negativity surrounding baseball by giving fans and players the chance to reshape how we see the past. We knew the 1994 Expos team was good, but we didn't know how good until this year's Gala. Larry Walker's story of how the outfielders used to switch gloves and hold staring contests during games was both shocking and amusing to those who was there to hear it first.It is why we decided to honour Expos legends Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub, Tim Raines, and Andres Galarraga, as well as long-time broadcaster Jacques Doucet at our Expos All-Star Gala on April 1, 2015. There are some interesting coincidences with these four. Both Staub and Dawson had memorable careers while wearing number 10 with the Expos. Tim Raines was the last Expos player to have his jersey retired, the number 30, while the Gala will mark the 30th anniversary since Andres Galarraga began his career in Montreal. Having these icons share experiences together and shed new light on moments we all remember will mark another shift in how we understand the story of the Expos that is a part of all of us.
Monday September 29, 2014 is another opportunity for us to redefine history and counter the negativity behind every doubt about what we are doing. Let’s all wear our Expos colours with pride that day. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, share it with the hashtag #MONTRÉALBASEBALL. Whether you’re getting a friendly game going on your local baseball diamond or simply taking a stroll in your neighbourhood, let’s create a wave of Expos gear for all to see. Let it be known that baseball is as alive as ever in the city, and if there is someone who should question their understanding of the past or what Montreal is capable of, it isn’t us.
Montreal Baseball Project Update
It has a been a busy few weeks for MBP, which included several key meetings to plan for the months ahead. We are pleased to announce that we are in the process of putting together a detailed plan for Major League Baseball, according to their established standards. This includes details about financing, operations and the rendering of a facility. We hope to make another statement about our progress in March, as the beginning of the baseball season is the ideal time for us to be sure we are in the spotlight and remain there. We must continue to be patient and do what we can behind the scenes to ensure Montreal is at the forefront when a decision about a franchise relocation or expansion is to be made.