The Nationals will throw it back to 1969 and recognize their Canadian heritage when they host the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park on July 6. For the first time, Washington will wear Montreal Expos throwback uniforms — specifically, the powder blue away jerseys and pants the expansion franchise wore with its classic tri-color cap during its inaugural season 50 years ago.
The Royals, who also were an expansion team in that 1969 season, will wear throwback versions of their original road gray uniforms featuring “Kansas City” in blue script. Incidentally, Montreal was once home to a minor league team nicknamed the Royals, for which Jackie Robinson played in 1946. If you’re wondering why the Nationals will wear road throwbacks at home, it’s because the Expos’ away uniforms are more striking than their original home whites.
The throwback theme will extend to the ballpark’s musical selections — “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies was the Billboard No. 1 hit single of 1969 — and the graphics on the scoreboards, with the Expos’ stylized ‘M’ replacing the Nationals’ curly ‘W’ for a day.
The Nationals will also offer several specialty food items for the occasion. Poutine will be available at Grand Slam Grill (Sections 110 and 141), Triple Play Grill (Section 318) and Anacostia Station (Section 218). Steak of the Union (Sections 117 and 133) will serve Montreal smoked beef brisket sandwiches with mustard on a rye roll. Mais non, the concession prices will not revert to those of Montreal’s Jarry Park in 1969.
Expos legend Vladimir Guerrero, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer, will be in attendance, and the Nationals will recognize several members of their current staff with Expos ties. That group includes Manager Dave Martinez, third base coach Bob Henley and MASN TV analyst F.P. Santangelo, all of whom played for Montreal.
Less visible members of the Nationals organization who were with the franchise in Montreal include vice president of clubhouse operations Rob McDonald, visiting clubhouse manager Matt Rosenthal, clubhouse and equipment manager Mike Wallace and catching coordinator Michael Barrett.
Since the Expos relocated to Washington before the 2005 season, the Nationals have grappled with how to acknowledge their Montreal roots and honor D.C. baseball history while simultaneously establishing their own identity. The “Ring of Honor” at Nationals Park features a hodgepodge of former Washington Senators, Homestead Grays, Nationals and Expos, including Andre Dawson, Gary Carter and Tim Raines. The Nationals are careful to differentiate between franchise records (since 1969), team records (since 2005) and D.C. baseball records, such as Frank Howard’s Washington home run mark that Ryan Zimmerman broke in 2017.
There’s a segment of Nationals fans that would prefer to leave the franchise’s pre-2005 history in Canada. The Nationals have worn throwbacks of the old Senators and Grays in previous years, but at least those franchises once called D.C. home.
Washington’s 1969 throwbacks may not go over well with some Expos fans, either. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has mentioned Montreal as a potential location for a future expansion team and last week said he granted the Tampa Bay Rays permission to explore splitting their home games between the Tampa region and Montreal, but losing “Nos Amours” to D.C. still stings more than a decade later.
“I’ll put it to you as simple as I can,” die-hard Expos fan Perry Giannias told The Post in 2017 about Raines’s induction into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park. “It’s like you being friends with a guy who’s now sleeping with your ex. And now they invite you to the wedding, and your kids are ushers or bridesmaids or flower girls. It doesn’t work like that. It’s very difficult to digest.”
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