The Montreal Expos were a dying franchise — pitiful payroll, low attendance, middling results on the field.
But in 1994, a long period of “rebuilding” finally yielded results. The Expos led the National League East, six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves (a team that spent twice as much on player salaries).
‘Everything baseball fans have a right to expect’
“These guys are everything baseball fans have a right to expect,” said CBC reporter Neil Macdonald in the report above.
Attendance was up, and many thought the Expos were a lock for the World Series. Then a labour dispute brought it all to a screeching halt on Aug. 12, 1994.
Macdonald caught up with some players as they were cleaning out their lockers.
“I would have loved to keep going out there and … win 20 games,” said star pitcher Ken Hill. “But I’m with the union and we’re doing what we feel is right for us.”
‘They just want more money’
But it didn’t feel right for the fans.
“They get paid even if there’s a strike, but I don’t think they really care,” said one Montrealer at a batting cage. “They just want more money, and that’s a shame.”
The 1994 Expos are widely regarded as the best team the franchise ever fielded. Heading into the strike they had a league-best record of 74-40, giving them a six-game lead in their division (the Blue Jays were third in theirs, with a 55-60 record).
Core Expos players included Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, Marquis Grissom, future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill, Jeff Shaw, John Wetteland, Wil Cordero and Darrin Fletcher — all in their twenties. Five of them made that year’s all-star game.
The 1994 strike was the eighth and most serious work stoppage in baseball history. It lasted from Aug. 12, 1994, to March 31, 1995, ending the 1994 season and delaying the start of the 1995 season. A total of 938 games were cancelled.
The following season the Expos finished fifth in their division. Most of the team’s core players were traded to other teams in the three years following the strike.
The team’s financial woes dragged on for another decade. Attendance continued to decline. By 2004, the team attracted an average of just 9,356 fans to a home stadium with a capacity of 46,500.
On Oct. 3, 2004, the team played its final game as the Montreal Expos, losing to the New York Mets 8-1 at Shea Stadium in New York.
The team began the 2005 season as the Washington Nationals.