D.C. baseball fans have mixed feelings about their team’s Montreal legacy. Some say the Expos should be embraced, with former players honored, old records respected, and Montreal jerseys cherished. Some instead argue that the Expos have nothing to do with the Nats, that this city’s baseball heritage revolves around Walter Johnson and Frank Howard, that the throwback cap should be have a Senators logo, not an Expos.
Dave Van Horne isn’t a Nats fan, of course, but the legendary broadcaster has an opinion on this matter: he thinks the Nats franchise does and should remain connected to its Montreal past.
“Just as the Dodgers certainly felt they were linked to Brooklyn, and the San Francisco team to New York, and the A’s to Kansas City and Philadelphia,” said Van Horne, who spent 32 years as the television and radio voice of the Expos before joining the Marlins’ radio team more than a decade ago. “No matter where they have wound up over the years, there’s this bloodline that follows them from the time the franchise was awarded. It runs through all those years.
“So I’m glad that in the records section of the [media guide] they keep up with the old standards, the records that were set by the Montreal teams as well as the records that are set with the Nationals,” Van Horne went on. “I’m glad that they do that. I think it would have been a shame to just cut your ties from the history books going back to the early years of the franchise. You still stand on your own as the Washington Nationals, but I don’t see anything that enhances or helps the franchise by cutting their ties from the past.”
And so here’s another tie to the past: Van Horne broadcast all four no-hitters in Montreal Expos history, starting with Bill Stoneman’s on April 17, 1969, just nine games into the franchise’s existence, and concluding with Dennis Martinez’s in 1991.
The Nats, of course, didn’t have a no-hitter until Sunday, when Zimmermann mastered the Marlins, with Van Horne on the visiting team’s radio call. Which means the longtime broadcaster has still called every no-hitter in this franchise’s history.
“Sure, I thought about that,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I broadcast their games for 32 years. I get flashbacks to things that happened in their history all the time. So sure, I thought abut that on Sunday, and I thought ‘Well, it’s been a while, but this is the same franchise.’ It was pretty good stuff.”
Van Horne — who received the baseball Hall of Fame’s 2011 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting — said he especially thought back to the Stoneman no-hitter. That one took place in Philadelphia, a city of special importance to Van Horne, who grew up in the Lehigh Valley before starting his professional career in Roanoke and Richmond. And it is forever referenced in his biographies, coming just nine games into his big-league career.
“I’ve never forgotten about that.,” he said. “That flashed through my mind on Sunday when I was doing the Zimmermann game.”
Van Horne has talked about Expos history during past Marlins broadcasts, but he didn’t dwell on that on Sunday. Neither did he have time to revel in the moment with industry friends; it was the season’s last getaway day for the Marlins, while the Nats were celebrating the amazing end to their season and readying for the playoffs. But Van Horne plans to chat with the author of the franchise’s fifth no-hitter in the future.
“I know how special it is for those players,” he said. “I’ve talked, of course, to every single one of them, except Jordan Zimmermann. I’ll look forward sometime next spring to seeing him and talking about it a little bit.”