New Book Reflects Upon History Of Expos 10 Years After Franchise's Last Season In Montreal
For author Jonah Keri -- born in Montreal and raised an Expos fan -- the nostalgia of MLB Opening Day is met with a hint of sadness for a team he watched dissolve and leave town while in his late 20s. The ’14 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Expos’ final year in Montreal and the 20-year anniversary of the ’94 team that held the best record in MLB before a strike famously wiped out the season. Keri chronicles these memorable moments and more in his new book “Up, Up and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos.” The Expos joined MLB as an expansion franchise in ’69, and Keri said the book is “kind of a rise and fall story that gets into what happened on the back end, why it did not work and how it affects the fans.” Keri noted as both a passionate supporter of the team and a serious journalist, the goal was to “explore the history of 36 years of a franchise and how it came to be and pull no punches and tell all the tales and do all that stuff through reporting and analysis and so forth, but let’s have some fun with it too.”
BY THE BOOK: “Up, Up and Away” ended up being a three-year project for Keri, from the time he signed the book deal to when the book hit the shelves last week. Keri interviewed over 130 people during the writing process, including former players like Bill Stoneman and Dan McGinn, longtime broadcasters Jacques Doucet and Dave Van Horne, fans, business and political leaders within the Montreal community, opposing players and his personal favorite -- former manager Felipe Alou. Even one of the more controversial figures in Expos history -- former Exec VP David Samson -- “had a lot to say” on the subject. There were only two key people that Keri was not able to get in touch with -- former P Randy Johnson and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Keri noted Johnson’s agent turned down the request for an interview while scheduling conflicts were to blame for Selig’s absence. “I would have loved to have MLB’s point of view, but I didn’t. Everybody else pretty much I got,” Keri said.
MONEY FOR NOTHING: When it comes to the demise of the Expos, a lot fans like to point blame at Selig and former Owner Jeffrey Loria, or even the Nationals. But Keri said, “The truth is that Bud Selig did not execute the Expos and neither did Jeffrey Loria and certainly the city of Washington had nothing to do with it, that’s just where they happened to move.” Keri said what it comes down to in baseball, and all pro sports, is franchises “need an owner who cares and is aggressive in doing things for the benefit of the team and also has a lot of money.” He added, “The Expos did not have that. … They were trying to run things on this beyond small budget and it wasn’t working and nobody had the vision to say, ‘You have to spend money to make money.’ I think that’s what did it in more than anything.” While there was this perception of constant turmoil in Montreal, almost every player interviewed for the book said playing for the Expos was the best time of their career. “That really stuck with me,” said Keri, “the affection that all of these guys seemed to have for the city.”