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Expos Will Always Remember Blue Monday

Brian Schneider is one of the NL's best defensive catchers, and Wilkerson can return to the outfield next year as long as first baseman Nick Johnson is healthy.

As Washington looks forward to the return of baseball, Montreal is coming to terms with saying farewell.

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"Unfortunate," is the word Expos great Tim Raines chose to sum up the team's legacy in Montreal. The runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1981 on a team led by Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, Raines never imagined the Expos would fail to come close to an NL title again.

"That was a young team with a lot of good players. I thought we'd be fighting for the pennant for the next 10 years," said Raines, an Expos coach for their final game, an 8-1 loss to the Mets on Sunday at Shea Stadium.

Los Angeles went on to beat the New York Yankees in the 1981 World Series. Montrealers were left to ruminate - then, now and forever - about the memory of what might have been.

The wound from Monday's ninth-inning homer is so deep that he remains public enemy No. 1 in Montreal to this day. While in town as a Dodgers broadcaster last year, he went to Old Montreal with his wife and stepdaughter, who had been advised that Monday wasn't always well received by people there.

"We had just finished discussing this story about 30 seconds before we went into this restaurant to have lunch," Monday said. "We open the front door, walk in, and here comes this lady, saying, `You can't come in! You can't come in!' And I turned to Ashley and said, `See? They don't like me at all.'

"As it turned out, that wasn't the reason - they had a power failure, so they didn't have any electricity in the kitchen. But you never know, going up there with the Dodgers, how you're going to be received."

The Expos joined the National League along with San Diego in 1969 as baseball added four expansion teams.

There were many memorable events in the team's rich and colorful history. The 1982 All-Star game at Olympic Stadium featured five Expos - four of them starters - and manager Jim Fanning. They were introduced to the thunderous cheers of a sold-out crowd.

Wearing the Expos' powder-blue road uniform and one of their red, white and blue beanie-style caps, Dennis Martinez pitched a perfect game - the last of the team's four no-hitters - on July 28, 1991, at Dodger Stadium.

Another moment that season was downright scary - a 55-ton concrete beam fell from Olympic Stadium, forcing the Expos to play the rest of their home games on the road.

Sadly though, too many memories revolve around disappointment.

Once original owner Charles Bronfman sold the team in 1991, money became the overriding concern about the Expos' viability in the modern system.

The cash-strapped team let Walker leave as a free agent and traded stars Ken Hill, Marquis Grissom and John Wetteland for prospects, beginning a trend that culminated in Martinez's trade to Boston after he won Montreal's only Cy Young Award in 1997.

Attendance plunged from 1.5 million to 914,717 the following season. The Expos had drawn over 2 million four times from 1979 to a peak of 2,320,651 in 1983.

In the end, their disenfranchised fans stayed home despite the emergence of new stars such as Vidro and Vladimir Guerrero.

The Expos drew more than 1,000,000 fans only once in their last seven seasons, in 2003 as major league baseball shifted 22 home games to Puerto Rico to raise revenue.

That move was repeated this season, a final insult to punctuate the end of a love affair between baseball and the city.


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© 2004 The Associated Press