Washington Nationals: Birth Of A Franchise

Aug 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals mascot "Screech" waves a flag on the field after the Nationals
Aug 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals mascot "Screech" waves a flag on the field after the Nationals /
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Given a National League expansion franchise for the 1969 season, the national pastime became international with the Montreal Expos.

Playing at intimate Jarry Parc, the Expos captured the hearts and minds of the country. A big baseball town during their minor-league years, Montreal entered MLB with a wealth of knowledgeable and caring fans.

In 1977, the team moved into the brand new 60,000 Olympic Stadium. Success followed in the late 1970s on the field. Close calls in 1979 and 1980 led to their first and only playoff berth in 1981. After beating the Philadelphia Phillies in the first National League Divisional Series, the Expos forced the Los Angeles Dodgers to a decisive Game 5 of the NL Championship Series.

A best-of-five affair then, Rick Monday’s homer in the ninth beat Montreal. The team never recovered.

A contender for most of the 1980s, the team never returned to the playoffs. In time, the big stadium turned into a white elephant, costing millions in public money with a failed roof and dwindling attendance.

With a series of penny pinching owners, a Canadian Dollar unstable, threats of Quebec leaving Canada and other factors that could be a book onto itself, the Expos fell into disrepair. Before the strike of 1994 cancelled the postseason, Montreal was on the verge of a division title and the best record in baseball.

The strike killed interest in the Expos. A plan for a baseball-only stadium downtown never got beyond the talking stage. Attendance, never great to begin with, plummeted. Games were no longer carried on the radio in English or on television in any language.

The long road to failure, started when Olympic Stadium opened, came to a head around the turn of the century. MLB tried to contract two teams in 2001—the Minnesota Twins thought to be the other team—with Montreal on the list. The Players Association said no and the Expos barely survived.

Another ownership group failed, headed by Jeffrey Loria, and MLB took over the running of the club.

By 2004, Montreal shared home games with San Juan, PR. The team was doomed.