The Montreal Expos have been a hot topic in the news over the past week, including yesterday’s Nationals/Expos 50th Anniversary Announcement.
The Washington Nationals will honor their predecessors by wearing the uniforms of the 1969 Expos to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Expos/Nationals franchise on July 6th against the Kansas City Royals. This will be the first time since the Nationals relocated to Washington DC in 2005 that they have donned the classic Expos uniforms.
Why are the Nationals now honoring the franchise they succeeded? Why after 15 seasons are they paying homage to a team and history from which they have long tried to distance themselves? While it would be hard not to cash in on the Montreal Expos brand and merchandise at this time with all the talk of baseball returning to Montreal that has occurred the last few years, the Nationals have established their niche in the 15 years since they left.
In 2005, MLB relocated the Expos to Washington to prevent contraction and within one season had reissued Tim Raines‘ number 30 (Mike Stanton), Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson’s number 10 (Royce Clayton) and Gary Carter’s number eight (Marlon Anderson) all of which had been retired in Montreal. In some cases, the No. 8 is more commonly linked to Danny Espinosa than Carter by Nationals fans as he wore the number during his seven seasons with the team.
Furthermore, since moving to D.C. in 2005, the Nationals have worn throwbacks of the “original” Senators franchise once in 2012 and the Negro League Homestead Grays on four occasions.
The Lerner’s for their part have acknowledged the induction of Raines into Cooperstown by putting him in the Nationals Ring of Honor in 2017 alongside Carter and Dawson whom both went in 2010. They had also inducted Frank Robinson in 2015, but that was more to do with him being the Nationals first manager and less to do with him being the Expos last Manager.
The franchise has been somewhat reluctant to mention their previous incarnation unless it’s when a current National approaches a franchise record as was the case when Ryan Zimmerman became the franchise leader in home runs in 2017 surpassing Vladimir Guerrero.
The organization had gone to great lengths to shy away from the Expos lineage even going as far as noting on merchandise and record books that the team was established in 1905 as opposed to 1969 when the Expos franchise was started. That would line the current Nationals up with the “original” Senators franchise and not Montreal.
The Nationals should be proud to maintain their “link” with the previous Washington franchises and even more so because the Twins and Rangers are quick to ignore their Washington Senators roots it makes sense that the latest Washington baseball team embrace their Washington heritage and return all mentions and records of the Expos to Montreal.
MLB is adamant of bringing baseball back to Montreal, whether it’s through an expansion group run by Stephen Bronfman whose father, Charles Bronfman, was the original owner of the Expos, or whether it’s by the “sister-city” idea that was proposed last week where the Tampa Bay Rays play half their games in Montreal. It is only a matter of time before MLB returns to Montreal, and thus they should have the Expos history to go with it.
For 15 years, the Washington Nationals have for the most part steered away from mention of their history in Montreal, carving their own identity and legacy its time to remove that link that is almost non-existent anyway.