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Sports Then and Now



20 Years Ago: Baseball’s Darkest Chapter 4

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Dean Hybl
The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

It is hard to believe that 20 years have now passed since money and greed in sports reached a startling climax with what ultimately became the cancellation of the final two months and postseason of the 1994 Major League Baseball season.

In the coming months retiring baseball commissioner Bud Selig will receive many accolades for all he has done to support the resurgence of the game of baseball, but as acting commissioner in 1994 he oversaw the destruction of the game and while it may have recovered financially and in overall popularity, in certain pockets, things have never been the same.

On August 12, 1994 the team with the best record in baseball was the Montreal Expos with a mark of 74-40. Now if you are under the age of 25, you may not even remember that there was ever a baseball team in Montreal and for that you can thank Selig and the others who failed to save the 1994 campaign.

The Expos, who had entered the league in 1969 and went an entire decade before posting a winning season, had developed into a solid franchise having posted .500 or better records 12 times since 1979. However, ironically, their only previous postseason appearance had come during the strike shortened 1981 campaign when they lost the National League Championship Series in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was very clear that after all the close calls in previous seasons, 1994 was going to be the year for the Expos.  Despite losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 on August 11th to end a six game winning streak, the Expos were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and clearly looked positioned to capture their first-ever division crown and potentially reach the World Series for the first time.

With a young nucleus that included future stars Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom, Rondell White and Moises Alou along with several other solid major leaguers, the Expos were clearly poised for success.

It was also clear that the city of Montreal was excited and supportive of their 1994 team. Some historians will say that Montreal never really supported the Expos and that a move was inevitable. Others will tell you that the fan base in Montreal during that time was quite solid and had they been able to experience World Series joy, as had happened in Toronto in the previous two seasons, the Expos would have eventually received a new stadium and would still be there today.

It is hard to predict “what might have been”, but one thing is clear, in the weeks prior to the baseball shutdown fans in Montreal were becoming extremely excited about the prospects for their team.

Though the Expos ranked 11th of 14 teams in the National League in overall attendance at the time of the strike, that total was a little deceiving as the Expos had played only 52 home games (compared to 62 on the road) and had been averaging an extremely respectable crowd of more than 24,000 fans per game. In fact, they had drawn more than 30,000 fans (including more than 39,000 for the final game) per night for a four game mid-week (Monday-Thursday) series against the St. Louis Cardinals from August 1-4.

With 30 home games remaining as they drove toward a possible pennant, it is likely that the Expos would have continued to draw large crowds through the remainder of the 1994 season.

Of course, we will never know, as both the baseball players and owners dug in and ultimately the two sides would not settle their differences until the remainder of the 1994 season was gone and the start of the 1995 season was delayed. The end result was a 232 day work stoppage and the cancellation of more than 900 games, including the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1904.

While it is very easy to vilify Selig and the owners for their role in the strike and some of the aftermath, you also have to give much of the “credit” to Donald Fehr and the players. Read the rest of this entry →

Gary Carter Helped Make the Montreal Expos Into a Winner 11

Posted on February 18, 2012 by Dean Hybl
Gary Carter spent the first 11 years of his career with the Montreal Expos.

Gary Carter spent the first 11 years of his career with the Montreal Expos.

It was sad news out of the baseball world this week with the passing of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter at the age of 57 following a battle with cancer. While many best identify Carter with helping the New York Mets win the 1986 World Series, it was during his initial 11 years as a member of the Montreal Expos that Carter became one of the elite catchers of his era.

Selected by the Expos in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft, it took Carter just two years before he made his Major League debut as a September call-up in 1974.

Carter hit .407 with a home run and six RBI during nine games in 1974 and the next season finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting and made his first All-Star appearance while hitting .270 with 17 home runs and 68 RBI. Though he struggled the next year with a .219 average, by 1977 it was obvious that he would be one of the key lynch-pins of future success for the Expos.

In 1978 Carter blasted 31 home runs and drove home 84 runs while hitting .284. Two years later, Carter began a string of 10 straight All-Star appearances as the Expos posted the first winning season in team history while winning what still remains a franchise record 95 games. Unfortunately, in an era before the wild card, the Expos were unable to earn a postseason bid as they finished two games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Carter finished second in the National League MVP race in 1980 as he hit 29 home runs with 101 RBI. The Expos nearly won the NL East, but dropped two of three games to the Philadelphia Phillies on the final weekend of the season. Read the rest of this entry →

Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages 3

Posted on July 31, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Rusty Staub

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager. Read the rest of this entry →

What Could Have Been? The Story of the 1994 Montreal Expos 33

Posted on September 03, 2009 by Dean Hybl
What Could Have Been? The 1994 Montreal Expos had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike.

What Could Have Been? The 1994 Montreal Expos had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike.

Had Major League Baseball and the Baseball Players Association made some different choices 15 years ago, September 2009 might have been a great time to be a fan of the Montreal Expos. If I close my eyes, I can almost picture it.

The City of Montreal is a buzz for baseball with record crowds filling the new state-of-the-art downtown stadium to watch the Expos battle for another National League Eastern Division crown.

Fans are also excited to relive the memories from 15 years ago when the 1994 Montreal Expos forever solidified a place for baseball in Montreal with a thrilling run to a World Series title.

Indeed what a run it was.

Read the rest of this entry →

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      Sudden Sam McDowell

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

      Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.

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