The commissioner added he was impressed the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets drew 96,350 for a pair of spring training games in March at Olympic Stadium.
That weekend undoubtedly brought back memories for baseball fans in Montreal who witnessed the Expos’ final game on Sept. 29, 2004 before the team moved to Washington to become the Nationals.
But it paled in comparison to years of unforgettable Expos moments, including the 13th perfect game in major-league history that was thrown by “El Presidente,” right-hander Dennis Martinez, on July 28, 1991 in a 2-0 win over the hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It is a shame that Montreal Expos they’re not there no more,” Martinez told the Gazette newspaper in Montreal last July. “The city needs it … it was a great place to play for me and I think it would be great for baseball also to bring back a team in Montreal. I think the people deserve it.”
Twenty three years ago, Expos fans were treated to a nine-inning gem by Martinez, who needed only 95 pitches to set down all 27 men the Dodgers sent to the plate before a sold-out crowd of 45,560 on a picture-perfect afternoon.
“I was looking for somebody, anybody, to come up beside me and talk to me,” said Martinez, who pitched in Montreal from 1986 to 1993. For those who don’t know, you don’t talk to a pitcher about a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game, while it’s in progress.
There were some calls along the way.
In the fourth inning, Eddie Murray drilled a hard, bouncing ball toward first base in the direction of Maple Ridge, B.C.’s Larry Walker, who was playing in place of Gold Glove winner Andres Galarraga. Walker blocked the ball with his right forearm, recovered and threw the ball to Martinez at first for the out.
Martinez helped his own cause in the seventh when speedy Dodgers second baseman Juan Samuel attempted to bunt his way on base. Martinez raced off the mound to his left and tossed the ball to Walker as he sprawled on the ground in the process.
“He [Martinez] told me it was the toughest play of the game,” Samuel later told reporters. “What can you say? They call him ElPresidente, don’t they?”
In the ninth and final inning, Martinez retired catcher Mike Scioscia on a fly ball to left field and struck out pinch-hitter Stan Javier before getting Chris Gwynn, another pinch-hitter, to fly out to Expos centre fielder Marquis Grissom to end the game.
It signalled the most famous call in Expos history by play-by-play man Dave Van Horne: "ElPresidente, ElPerfecto!"
Earlier, Gwynn had ripped a 1-1 fastball down the left-field line that was foul by less than a foot.
There were also some fears that Martinez’s bid for a perfect game would end in the fourth inning when he pointed to his right side after throwing a pitch to Murray. But Martinez was able to stay in the game after throwing some practice pitches and make baseball history.
Did you watch Martinez’s perfect game on television? If so, where were you?
And where does this feat rank among the memorable moments in Expos history?
Share your thoughts in the comment section below.