Vive Les Expos

August 14, 2008 – 2:45 pm by Hickey

This week marked the 14th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in North American history — the baseball strike that wiped out the end of the 1994 season and World Series. To this day, it is still difficult to fathom that there was — or even could be — a year without a World Series.

As hard as it is to process such a thing happening, I’ll still never forget that fateful date, August 12. Every year, I treat it the same way that most normal people might remember the death anniversary of a loved one. Well, maybe the same way they treat the death anniversary of someone they sort of liked.

But still, such a reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering that I was a Cubs fan and had nothing to look forward to that season once Tuffy Rhodes fell off his Opening Day pace of 486 home runs for the season. (Harry Caray actually did point out this was his pace after his third homer of the day).

And by the time August rolled around, I was already looking forward to the upcoming Notre Dame season and the first of Ron Powlus’ four Heisman trophies. Yet something about the strike will always make me cringe when I hear people use the term “Bud Selig is the greatest commissioner in baseball history” in a serious manner: its responsibility for the death of the Montreal Expos.

There’s no guarantee the Expos would have become the third-straight Canadian team to win the World Series, or even gotten there. But with a 74-40 record and a six-game division lead at the time the season was canceled, it is pretty certain that they would have reached the playoffs. And it would have been a major upset if they fell short of the National League pennant.

Had the season played out, there’s still a strong chance the ‘Spos would have served as the precursor to the ’97 and ’03 Marlins and blown the team up anyway. But had there been a World Series in ’94 that included the Expos, you have to believe that the fans would eventually return as soon as a competitive product was put back on the field. After all, in ’94 Montreal was able to out-draw the Mets despite a slight disparity in market size. (I think the franchise is actually comparable to the Blackhawks in Chicago — a mere change in management can be all the difference between moribund and thriving. The passion was always there, it just had to be unlocked).

As a Cub fan, I am not sure how long it would take for me to return to the ballpark if the current season was stopped. Certainly, I could foresee being filled with enough bitterness to never come back.

Anyhow, the thing that prompted this entire post was a nice collection of Expos-related links that ESPN put up to mark the anniversary of baseball’s darkest day. I would highly advise that you check it out.

And because ESPN’s list wasn’t quite comprehensive, here are a couple more good ones:

– An awesome interview with Bill “Spaceman” Lee after a 1979 game.

– Andre Dawson gets his number re-retired… by the Canadiens. Hey Cubs, think you might want to follow suit there sometime?

– The official website of Youppi.

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