Sunday, December 23, 2018


First, I am SO sorry for the lack of updates from the inaugural entry to this blog. Sometimes real life gets in the way and I completely dropped the ball on that. To be honest, this blog was handwritten in late July and due to issues beyond my control, I never revisited it or edited it. So to be fair, it’s time to revisit the Jersey Guy for Montreal Blog.

With all of the melodrama out of the way, it’s time to talk baseball. Throughout the learning process about the Montreal Expos, I’ve watched a plethora of documentaries and videos on the 1994 team.

The more and more I see it, from an outsider’s perspective, the 1994 Expos will always be a sore point that Montreal baseball fans have truly used as the beginning of the end of Major League Baseball in their city. From financial profits lost to players not willing to come to the team via free agency, the Expos just fell into mainstream obscurity in many cases (save for the greatness of Vladimir Guerrero).

However, 1994, from a season perspective, was a phenomenal year. Besides the loaded outfield of Larry Walker, Moises Alou, and Marquis Grissom, the great 1-2 starting pitching of Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez, the double-play tandem of Wil Cordero and Mike Lansing, and the intensity of John Wetteland in the back of the bullpen, there was one piece to the puzzle that led to one of the seminal moments during that 1994 campaign:

21 year old rookie Cliff Floyd taking Greg Maddux deep for a three run shot in Olympic Stadium on June 27, 1994.

For me, the first real memory I have of Cliff Floyd is catching the final out of the Mets clinching the National League East on September 18, 2006, the day before my 21st birthday. Before that moment, Cliff had an injury riddled season with only 11 home runs and 44 RBIs; yet somehow, that moment was extremely important to a glimpse of greatness during the Omar Minaya era of the Mets (Omar is a WHOLE another tale in the history of the Expos saga. I can’t wait to write about that).

However, for fans of Montreal baseball, Cliff Floyd was homegrown talent. Going #14 in the first round of the MLB Draft in 1991, the Chicago native was a phenom on the field, leading the Thornwood High School baseball team to the state championship during his senior year.

Going through the minor leagues in a two year span, Floyd made his Major League debut on September 18, 1993 in an Expo uniform (talk about full circle with the 2006 NL East clinching catch). He only played in 10 games in 1993, but #30 became a regular the following year.

For starters, manager Felipe Alou converted Floyd, primarily an outfielder, into a first baseman, due to the absolutely loaded mentioned outfield mentioned earlier. Getting significant playing time, at exactly 100 games, Floyd batted .281 with 94 hits, 19 doubles, 41 RBIs, and, in a surprisingly statistic, only 4 home runs. Not bad at all for a rookie campaign stat-wise, but they do not measure up to what he did against one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era.

By June 27, 1994, the Expos and Atlanta Braves were neck-and-neck in the newly realigned National League East. The Braves, who had a wealth of talent, were the odds-on favorite to win the division, but Montreal was flush with homegrown talent that were only in their twenties. With confidence and swagger building after each win, the showdown in Stade de Olympique was at its peak.

I harkened back to the 2015 MLB Documentary “The Colorful Montreal Expos” and hearing the description of the game from French Canadian broadcaster Rodger Brolette. There was one quote he said that stuck with me from that piece: “The turning point of that [1994] season was Cliff Floyd hitting the home run against GOD - Maddux.” Hearing that, I needed to see not just the moment, but the entire contest. Thank goodness for the Montreal Expos YouTube page. Instead of only having the at-bat, they had THE WHOLE GAME.

So, I decided to sit down in front of my smart TV in my living room and JUST WATCH. Man oh man. WHAT a matchup it was. Two pitchers at the max of their abilities. The previously mentioned “God” Greg Maddux faced off against young upstart for the Expos, Ken Hill.

On a side note, Hill, #44, was the ace on the young Montreal staff. His windup was very interesting, as his right elbow did not drop before he released his pitch. Watching this entire battle, I truly got to enjoy what Hill brought to the table. In my humble opinion, due to the damn strike, he was robbed from getting a 20 win season, which was very obtainable. He was THAT good, and none shined brighter than he during this game.

As I sat and watched, the one thing this game provided me was seeing how aggressive Montreal was on the basepath. All throughout, watching Marquis Grissom run wild and stealing bases, including taking advantage of a Maddux errant pickoff throw to second and going to third, was absolutely incredible. Also, seeing “Sweet” Lou Frazier and Wil Cordero take chances was exciting as well. Even 24 years later, you can see how much the game has changed. The era of the stolen base and small ball philosophy has truly taken a step back in the modern Sabermetrics era of MLB.

The deeper the contest went on, Maddux and Hill settled into a great game. Hill commanded his stuff really well, but Maddux showcased to me, a pre-disposed Brave hater, his mastery of pitch control and location. It was unreal and so precise. Maddux was pitching an absolute gem.

Still tied at 1 in the bottom of the 7th inning, Maddux started to labor. Grissom went 5.5 hole for a single. After avoiding a pitch-out, Grissom wound up stealing second and third, while “Sweet” Lou walked...and stole second on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Following a Moises Alou pop-out to second, Maddux actually got the OK from manager Bobby Cox to intentionally walk Darren Fletcher, loading the bases for Cordero. On a 1-1 count, the loud Olympic Stadium roared when Cordero hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Grissom, making it 2-1 Expos. The next batter: Cliff Floyd.

During the entire sequence leading up to Floyd’s at-bat, you were able to see the anger and frustration from Maddux with catcher Javi Lopez, including frequent mound step-offs, and a couple of meetings between the pair due to the sheer loudness of the Montreal fans inside Olympic Stadium. 45000 strong made it unbearable for the Braves, and Maddux felt the pressure. It was all over his face.

In spite of that, Maddux bared down and attempted to get out of the inning against the 21-year old rookie. From the stretch, Maddux delivered his first pitch: offspeed outside for Ball 1. Not perturbed, Maddux went inside. Floyd tried to hold his swing, but he went around for Strike 1. Maddux then came in with a curve ball, but Floyd made contact. Sadly, it went foul down the third base line. Maddux, seeing a chance to get out of the inning, went back inside. However, it drifted a bit too in, causing Floyd to narrowly move out of the way. Meanwhile, Frazier jumped at the chase and stole third base. Even with a 2-1 lead, Montreal was still aggressive on the basepath.

With a 2-2 count, Maddux reared back for his go-to-pitch: a change up, low and away. Lopez set up his position and Maddux unleashed.

Nine out of ten times, that pitch gets Strike 3. Nine out of ten times, Maddux gets out of the inning and the game is still in reach at 2-1 Expos. But there is still that one out of ten; Floyd was that one of this occasion.

As the ball tailed off outside, Floyd swung his bat like he was swinging a 9-iron on the golf course. However, Floyd’s undercut made contact, and just like a Happy Gilmore drive, the ball went over 400 feet. The baseball sailed into the right field bleachers and David Justice stood and watched it leave the yard. The rookie took the Professor deep and left him speechless. 5-1 Expos.

Manager Bobby Cox pulled Maddux from the game, and the Expo faithful were going berserk. Minutes later, inside the visitors clubhouse, someone was going berserk as well: Maddux. The mere thought of being taken deep by a 21-year old rookie off his go-to pitch allowed him to absolutely tear apart the clubhouse, unleashing his frustration in the process.

That moment became the highlight of the Montreal Expos 1994 season. As Rodger Brolette said as well in “the Colorful Montreal Expos”, “FLOYD! FLOYD! FLOYD!”

After watching that game, I got mad. I wished that the Expos truly had that chance to be World Champions. They were aggressive, confident, and hard-nosed. They had youth and lots of it. They had talent. Most of all, they were GOOD. The Expos hit their stride, but never got that chance. The damn 1994 Strike killed it for the team, the fan base, and the city. It became a case of “What could have been?”

However, June 27, 1994 happened. Cliff Floyd made a memory. And it will live on forever for Expos. “God” got beat.

Jon Harder

Thursday, July 26, 2018


This very well might be the biggest piece outside of my comfort zone ever as it comes to writing.

I’ve been following baseball since I was 5 years old in 1991, when I, alongside my Dad, watched Howard Johnson’s incredible season with the Mets as he led the league in both home runs and RBIs. My fandom of HoJo started my passion with the sport of baseball. There have been so many great memories with America’s pastime.

However, I’ll never forget my first real disappointment in baseball. It happened in the Summer of 1994, with the infamous Strike. I remember on August 11, 1994, I was in Baltimore with my Dad on a business trip. By chance, the Orioles were home that night playing the Boston Red Sox. On a whim, we went to Camden Yards, with the idea of simply attempting to buy tickets and get into the ballpark on what could, quite possibly be, the last game of the season. We were blessed to make it in, via getting tickets from will call, by the bottom of the 1st inning. In the top of the 3rd, with Arthur Rhodes on the mound, rain started coming down HARD. After a three hour rain delay and waiting as long as humanly possible, the game was rained out. It was crappy knowing that the game officially never took place. Dejected, we went back to our hotel, The ultimate cancelling of the season was my first real heartbreak in sports.

As more and more came out in the news about the cancellation of the ‘94 MLB season, either on ESPN or in the New York Daily News, I started to learn about the “What if’s” had the labor dispute was quickly resolved.

Matt Williams had 43 home runs and was chasing Roger Maris’ single season record of 61 homers. Tony Gwynn was batting .394 and had a legitimate chance of hitting .400 for a full season for the first time since Ted Williams going .406 in 1941. Carlos Baerga, in a unique stat, was robbed of a third straight season of 20 home runs, 200 hits, and 100 RBIs by a second baseman.

Most of all, it legitimately ruined the Montreal Expos chance of winning the National League East and possibly making it to the World Series.

At the time, I couldn’t see it, but that was the beginning of the end of the Montreal franchise. Instead, my full focus was on when the Yankees and Mets would return to the field and get back to the swing of things.

Thankfully, 1995 got things up and running again, but it took awhile to get things back on track. For the full season, my mind was focused on the Yankees winning the first ever Wild Card, attempting to enjoy the New York Mets, and Cal Ripken, Jr. becoming baseball’s new “Iron Man”. The Expos fell to the bottom of the NL East again, which in turn, fell into the background of my mind.

However, in 1996, thanks to my intense watching of ESPN, I discovered, and instantly became a fan of, Henry Rodriguez. His highlights on Sportscenter, including his fight with Danny Darwin, his grand slam off Curt Schilling in September, and his second deck dinger in the Home Run Derby. Combine the Montreal fans throwing “Oh Henry!” candy bars onto the field after a homer in Olympic Stadium, I became a believer in Rodriguez.

Yet, I still didn’t have much of a real knowledge of Montreal baseball history.

Being born in New York and raised in New Jersey, there wasn’t a lot of time for sports outside of the Metropolitan area. I was in the middle of the Yankees’ dynasty and the Mets blue-collar rise. I had two teams to focus on. Mix in being a high school student athlete and trying to figure my life out, everything else was non-existent.

Then, 2002 and the rumors of contraction in baseball piqued my interest. MLB Commissioner (and overall evil corporate suit) Bud Selig wanted to get rid of the Expos and Minnesota Twins due to a plethora of issues (attendance, outdated stadiums, lack of revenue). Minnesota’s government, fans, and ownership immediately had its team’s back, getting an injunction to uphold its lease on playing in the Metrodome for the 2002 season.

However, there wasn’t a major push back from the Expos side of things, mainly from an ownership perspective. It felt...weird.

Even weirder, on January 16, 2002, the rarest of the rare, a three-way ownership trade transpired. John Henry, owner of the Florida Marlins, bought the Boston Red Sox from the Yawkey Trust. Jeffrey Loria, majority owner of the Expos, bought the Marlins from Henry. In turn, Loria sold the Expos to MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. Even at 16 years old, it just didn’t make sense to me. Even if contraction was ultimately negated, with the Expos being bought by MLB meant only one thing: the fix was in for Montreal.

The final three seasons of Montreal baseball was strange. The franchise narrowly missing the MLB Wild Card in 2002 and 2003. In 2003 and 2004, the Expos split their home games between Montreal and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Finally, at the end of the 2004 season, the Expos played their last game on October 3, 2004 against the New York Mets, and relocated to Washington D.C. for the 2005 season to become the Nationals. MLB sold the team to Ted Lerner and Lerner Enterprises on July 24, 2006, and the era of MLB in the province of Quebec was over.

But why? It just didn’t make sense, especially with a lack of knowledge towards the franchise at time. I likened in, prior to “getting it”, to the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics leaving to Oklahoma City in 2008. I needed to know more.

Sadly, real life got in the way again, and save for the heartbreaking saga of the New York Mets post-2006 NLCS Game 7, I didn’t give baseball any mind for several years.

Then, Gary Carter died on February 16, 2012 from brain cancer, and it changed everything.

My old man, a die-hard Mets fan, was extremely saddened by his passing. Going through his own battle with cancer, my Dad was on limited time as well. One night, a few days after “the Kid’s” passing, we were talking about his career. I asked him if Carter’s peak was in blue and orange. His response:

“You should’ve seen him as an Expo.”

Thankfully, due to the power of the internet, I started reading up on Gary Carter’s days in Montreal. Then, falling deeper into the figurative rabbit hole, I started looking into the history of Montreal’s MLB tenure and the Expos’ entire run.

After five nonstop days of reading up on it, I was hooked. I fell in love with this team. I fell in love with the aura surrounding 1994. I loved seeing the tri-color hats. Most of all, I loved the “us against the world” style that the true blue Expos fans had for their team.

I “got it”. I became a huge fan of the Expos...after their existence.

Throughout the past six years, I’ve been consumed with this team. From Annakin Slayd’s Expos based hip-hop songs, both of MLB’s documentaries on the franchise and 1994 team, to Jonah Keri’s “Up Up and Away” book and countless Expos games on YouTube. The saga of this team is truly intriguing.

When the Mets went up to Montreal for a two-game exhibition series against the Blue Jays in 2014, I was in awe on how much the Province of Quebec missed Major League Baseball. It was inspiring to see a fan base pack 96000 fans into Olympic Stadium on two nights to celebrate both Gary Carter and the 1994 “Best Team In Baseball”.

Reading up on Warren Cromartie’s efforts with the Montreal Baseball Project, seeing Tim Raines go into Cooperstown in 2017, and even watching Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, son of Hall of Famer and Expos great Vladimir Guerrero, hit a game winning home run for Toronto during this year’s Montreal Exhibition series, helped lead me to this moment.

I can honestly say, with humbleness and modesty, that I’ve never been to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. However, the culture from a baseball perspective makes me want to be there and to be a part of this. Seeing MLB frequently reference Bartolo Colon as the Last Expo is a cool stat, but saddens me, as he is the last link to any active players ever to wear a Montreal Expos uniform. Mixing in the lack of respect the Nationals have to their history and lineage, in my opinion, the Expos legacy is slowly eroding away.

However, the ones that hold on to what the Expos inspire me. They believed then. They believed in 2004. They believe NOW.


My new blog, the Jersey Guy for Montreal Baseball, will be a place to talk about the Montreal Expos. From rumors of relocation, classic moments, and games, to the “What ifs” on LaBatt Park, the great Expos of the past, and even conspiracy theories on what fans think might have happened during seminal moments in Expos history; this is where the moments will be discussed. This is a passion project I have been planning on for quite some time. I intend to update this a few times a week and to just let it all hang out there. I hope that I, a guy from the Garden State, can garner some feedback and make some acquaintances along the way that are fans of the Expos. Most of all, I hope this can turn into a place where we can discuss daily happenings for the Montreal Expos rebirth.

Until then, fire up the oompa bands, enter the time machine, and let’s get fired up like Jonah Keri in 1995 after a David Segui three-run homer in Shea Stadium.

I’m a Jersey Guy for Montreal Baseball. Let’s do this!

Or...for those that speak French…

Je suis un gars du Jersey pour le baseball de Montreal. Faisons cela!

Jon Harder