"This place was the loudest park in baseball," said Tim Raines, a star player for the Expos in the 1980s and now a coach. "The fans turned out, and they cheered hard."
But fan backlash was swift in Montreal after the strike, exacerbated by the team's inability to keep its own players. The 1997 season marked the last time the team drew 1 million fans to Montreal.
_____ Baseball Returns to D.C. _____ • Bud Selig announces that the troubled Montreal Expos will move to Washington, returning baseball to the nation's capital for the 2005 season.
• While the Expos aren't very good now, they have loads of potential.
• News Graphic: Time to settle down
• Q&A on the new team
• Graphic: Meet your Expos (PDF).
• Survey: What should we call D.C.'s new team? | Discuss.
• After having RFK to itself for eight years, D.C. United will share.
• Details sketchy on how regional sports network would operate.
• There was a time when the Expos were the envy of all of baseball.
• News Graphic: Coming full circle.
• D.C. region has suffered through an endless number of close calls.
• City officials, led by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, gleefully celebrate the end of a generation of frustration.
• District's offer described as very generous.
• News Graphic: Stadium strategy
• A majority of the D.C. Council supports the mayor's stadium plan.
• When the hoopla dies down, will D.C. still have baseball fever?
• In Virginia, some blame Gov. Warner for failure to lure Expos.
• More than 50 years ago, it was Baltimore that needed D.C.'s help.
• Orioles management had little to say Wednesday about the news.
• Expos final home game is marred by unruly fan behavior.
_____ Post Columnists _____ • Thomas Boswell: We are finally getting exactly what we wished for.
• Sally Jenkins: D.C. is getting a bad team and a potential financial mess.
• Michael Wilbon: There are only four choices for the name of the new club.
• Mike Wise: Talk to the old Nats, you realize baseball never left.
• George Solomon: Finally, Shirley Povich is looking down and smiling.
• Marc Fisher: Baseball's challenge is to connect with the black kids.
_____ Multimedia _____ • Video: D.C. residents have mixed feelings about the relocation.
• Video: D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams makes the announcement.
• Video: In 2003, a D.C. official details improvements to RFK.
• Video: The Post's Garcia-Ruiz on what still needs to be done at RFK.
• Audio: Ex-Senators announcer Ron Menchine on the proposed move.
• Audio: Ex-announcer Bob Wolf says D.C. team, Orioles can thrive.
_____ Live Online _____ • Post's Tom Heath was online Thursday. Read the transcript.
• The Post's J.J. McCoy took questions before Wednesday's announcement. Read the transcript.
_____ On Our Site _____ • The District has been without major league baseball for more than 30 years. Look back at a visual history of the Washington Senators.
• Eighty years ago, the Senators won their only world championship.
• What's your opinion?
For years, a new stadium was supposed to save baseball in Montreal. Built for the 1976 Summer Games, Olympic Stadium was a futuristic structure of steel and concrete on the outskirts of town that never seemed right for baseball. Its retractable roof was meant to allow for enjoyment of Montreal's gorgeous summers, but it never worked properly and has been permanently sealed for years, creating a drab and dreary atmosphere for baseball.
"If they could have gotten a stadium built, [Montreal] would have been like Seattle, or Cleveland," said former Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera, naming two cities where new stadiums led to years of franchise prosperity. "There is tons of money [in Montreal]. But the fever of baseball was not there anymore, because the people have been hurt so much. But with a new stadium, baseball would have worked there."
In 1997, Brochu and the Expos unveiled plans for a $250 million downtown stadium that would be partially subsidized by tax money, but there was never much support from local politicians. Frustrated, Brochu eventually sold the franchise to Loria, a New York art dealer, in 1999.
Loria, too, began looking for a way out once his own attempts at procuring a new stadium failed. In 2001, Selig engineered a complex deal in which Loria shifted his ownership from the Expos to the Florida Marlins, while baseball's other 29 teams took over the ownership and operation of the Expos, with the intention of contracting -- or folding -- the franchise at the end of the season.
From there, it was a short trip -- conceptually speaking -- to the disappearance of the Expos from Montreal's sports scene. But in reality, it was a three-year journey that ended Wednesday -- not with elimination, but with relocation and a new start in Washington.
As for the proposed stadium, which was to have been called Labatt Park, the chosen plot of land is now built high with condominiums.