Hip, hip, Youppi! The Montreal Expos are World Series champions!
That’s the sentence you would’ve read today if the Montreal Expos hadn’t packed up and moved to Washington, D.C., nearly 15 years ago for the 2005 MLB season.
Instead, you’ll have to hear about the Washington Nationals, a team that looks and sounds so American, it might as well be called the stars and stripes. The Nats won their first championship in franchise history on Wednesday night, providing a bittersweet moment for baseball fans north of the border.
Believe it or not, this was once Canada’s team. Sure, we have the Toronto Blue Jays, but before them, there was only one Major League Baseball team to support in Canada, and that was the Montreal Expos.
Somehow, we survived that way for nearly a decade between 1968 and 1977.
For 36 seasons, the Expos played in Montreal, during which time they never won a World Series. Historians would argue they probably would’ve won it in 1994 if there hadn’t been a lengthy strike, which interrupted the team’s best season in history. There would be no world champions crowned that year.
The strike happened, fans revolted and the franchise floundered in Montreal before eventually making its way to Washington, where it would keep the red, blue and white colours while dropping the iconic Expos nickname.
The organization would also hold onto its team records, which are sprinkled with names known to Montrealers. From Tim Wallach to Gary Carter and Tim Raines to Andre Dawson, the franchise is littered with baseball greats. We didn’t even mention Randy Johnson, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Bartolo Colon and Vladimir Guerrero.
Old memories die hard, as nostalgic Expos fans showed on Twitter after the Nats completed the comeback against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Clearly, there are some mixed feelings about the Nationals winning it all. On one hand, it would’ve been nice for Montrealers to revel in that magical celebration, just like Torontonians did when the Raptors won the NBA title in June. On the other hand, this is still the Expos franchise, and a win for Washington can be viewed as a win for Montreal, especially if you’re into sharing.
So you’ll have to excuse the rest of Canada if they don’t feel too bad for Montreal. This is a city that has been spoiled with 24 Stanley Cup victories, more than any other team in the National Hockey League. They’re the only city in the country that gets to host the Canadian Grand Prix when the Formula 1 rolls into town each year. And they also have the best bagels, poutines and smoked meat sandwiches in the country.
Congrats to the Nationals, or the Expos, or whatever you want to call them. And congrats to Youppi!, the legendary longtime Expos mascot who was left homeless when the franchise moved to D.C. before he was mercifully adopted by the Montreal Canadiens. We know the last 15 years have been especially hard on the orange mascot who’s name is spelled with an exclamation mark.
But there’s one thing for certain: Montrealers must be feeling a lot better than Bryce Harper right now. The former Nats star, who turned down an enormous 10-year, $300 million contract extension with Washington to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for a record-breaking 13 years and $330 million, has been ruthlessly tormented online for leaving the team just months before they won it all.
At his introductory news conference with his new team earlier this year, Harper said this: “We want to bring a title back to D.C.” A slip of the tongue? Perhaps, but one Nats fans would never let him live down.
So if Montrealers are feeling a little left out today, they’re not alone. It could always be worse!