The definitive history of the Montreal Expos by the definitive Expos fan, the New York Times bestselling sportswriter and Grantland columnist Jonah Keri. 2014 is the 20th anniversary of the strike that killed baseball in Montreal, and the 10th anniversary of the team's move to Washington, DC. But the memories aren't dead--not by a long shot. The Expos pinwheel cap is still sported by Montrealers, former fans, and by many more in the US and Canada as a fashion item. Expos loyalists are still spotted at Blue Jays games and wherever the Washington Nationals play (often cheering against them). Every year there are rumours that Montreal--as North America's largest market without a baseball team--could host Major League Baseball again. There has never been a major English-language book on the entire franchise history. There also hasn't been a sportswriter as uniquely qualified to tell the whole story, and to make it appeal to baseball fans across Canada AND south of the border. Jonah Keri writes the chief baseball column for Grantland, and routinely makes appearances in Canadian media such as The Jeff Blair Show, Prime Time Sports and Off the Record. The author of the New York Times baseball bestseller The Extra 2% (Ballantine/ESPN Books), Keri is one of the new generation of high-profile sports writers equally facile with sabermetrics and traditional baseball reporting. He has interviewed everyone for this book (EVERYONE: including the ownership that allowed the team to be moved), and fans can expect to hear from just about every player and personality from the Expos' unforgettable 35 years in baseball. Up, Up, and Away is already one of the most anticipated sports books of next year.
This is our baseball book club read for July 2018. Jonah Keri details the history of the Expos and it is an informative yet at times painful read. I say painful because the owners did little to support the team, which lead to its best stars leaving as free agents or traded for minor league prospects. Other than the original owner Charles Bronfman, the owners did little to advocate for a new stadium either, which lead to the Expos inevitable flight from Montreal. Maybe that is why I detest the Nationals today- because I know how horrible it must have been for the fans in Montreal like Keri to lose their team out from under them. I am getting ahead of myself. Keri details the key players and moments in Expos history along with some personal memories. While the personal interspersed with history did not work for me, I enjoyed remembering the Expos, especially the Hawk who I grew to love when he was a member of the Cubs, and Dennis Martinez "El Presidente", one of my favorite non Cub players growing up because of both his grit and nickname. While not necessarily the best written baseball book I have read, it was certainly colorful and entertaining so invite my fellow baseball fans to join in on the discussion next month.
There is a popular idea for sports books these days based on Dan Epstein’s best sellers to really highlight the colorful characters of the games. The title and cover of this book certainly implies that it’s that type of book, though it really is an in depth and serious (though very readable) book.
I grew up a huge baseball fan in the 80s and the Montreal Expos were one of the colorful teams of those days. Keri chronicles the team from beginning to their end until the eventual move to Washington DC.
Bad business decisions seem to be part of the team from the start, though at least in the early days, it’s partially because of an ungrounded optimism.
The team in their early years were not very good. Fortunately, they ended up putting money into the minor leagues and player development and became one of the best teams of the early 1980s.
In a reminder that those kind of team ‘windows’ close in about a five year period - the team never made it to the World Series. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, they infamously miss it by one inning- the “Blue Monday” game against the Dodgers- detailed here
The team often claimed financial difficulties and at various times were forced to sell their biggest stars. Which is why some of the most beloved Expos are also beloved by other franchises - Rusty Staub and Gary Carter (NY Mets) and Andre Dawson (Cubs).
The team trades Carter in 1985, but trying to stay competitive settle for a mix of players who don’t accomplish much instead of young prospects. They lose Dawson the next year to free agency. The team does eventually rebound as the owner hopes to sell, which results in the infamous 1994 season. Infamous because the Expos have once again climbed to the top but a players strike means there would be no World Series that year (the year that the Expos finally seem likely to reach it).
It seems emblematic of the team over its history. Following the near miss, it’s pretty much inevitable that the end will come. A new owner throws money at the problem but not wisely. Community business leaders will not get the public blame, but it’s hard to believe that the outcome would have gotten so bad if they had even barely attempted to help.
Keri inevitably blames these local business leaders and I don’t think he’s wrong. The Montreal business community failed the team by not supporting it. There is also a weird dynamic with the other Canadian major league team- the Toronto Blue Jays- which certainly did not end up helping things.
The book is a good read-recounting the ups and downs- off and on the field. Keri grew up a fan and it shows as he does entwine his experience into the book (but never in unnecessary ways).
This is a great book for any baseball fan- Expos fan or not, at any level of knowledge with the team. It will certainly resonate with fans of smaller market teams.
At 400 pages, Keri suffers a bit from having so much information. In doing so, he doesn’t skimp much on the 35 year history of the team- which might be bonus for some. Not too detailed that it isn’t readable- nor too light that you’re left wanting more.
***LEGAL TYPE STUFF: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads***
That being said, I was already very interested in getting a copy of this. I've been reading Jonah Keri's work since I first started following Grantland early on. He's also happy enough to engage in conversations on Twitter (with me at least, including such topics as: Stan Musial being under-rated and what Shortstop would be a better pick for my fantasy baseball team). Needless to say, I really enjoy his writing, and I enjoy him being a successful CANADIAN sportswriter who is a Baseball junkie, much like I was as a kid and became again in my mid-late 20s.
The Expos were always my younger brother's team; I was a Cardinals fan from the age of 2, coinciding with the World Series in '82, and lasting until the strike of '94 which crushed me, and my brother even more. The Expos were unstoppable that year, and living only 2 hrs drive from Montreal didn't hurt that I saw more games at The Big O than Skydome (even though I was only 2 hrs from Toronto as well).
This is a very well researched book, but not just full of the stats and numbers that can turn people off sports books sometimes. This is a book full of warmth, heart, and deep personal connection. Keri, a native Montrealer, and 5 years my senior, grew up loving the home team, and became strongly involved with them and their fates, like many in La Belle Province.
Starting from the unlikely naming as an expansion city for the National League alongside San Diego in the late 60s, at Jarry Park, through to the last sputtering before being moved to DC and becoming the Nationals in 2005. I learned things about the team I hadn't known, I learned about players I hadn't heard of, or just barely recalled from baseball cards. I felt caught up in the moments Keri described with great ability, making us feel the joy, the heartbreak, the roar of the crowd.
Three years in the making, Keri interviewed dozens of people tied to the team, from Owner Charles Bronfman (of Seagram's fortune) to the great Felipe Alou, the best manager the team ever had, to the number of great players over the years (Dawson, Raines, Walker, Rogers, Martinez) to the sportswriters (Michael Farber) and those in the front office (Dave Dombrowski). But he doesn't rely too heavily on quotes or snippets, he gets to the meat of the story. He also isn't afraid to point fingers at problems, be they people or stadium issues; but still maintains a balanced and positive outlook on most of it all.
All I know is that once I cracked the spine this AM, I didn't put it down at all. I laughed, I cried, and I raged at the stupidities that befell this team. Hell, I used to hate when the Cards would lose to the 'Spos, as my brother would brag non-stop; yet here I am gushing about the book. I suppose, like many Canadians who were never really drawn to the Jays, or hockey all that much, the Expos were always a blast. I'm just glad someone got the chance to write this much deserved book on a team that never got the chance it should have.
Highly recommended for any sports fan, sports historians, or fans of a good story.
As a converted Nationals fan, I felt it was my duty to learn where my team comes from. And having spent a long weekend in Montreal, it quickly became one of my favorite places I have visited. Finally, being a devotee of Grantland and a fan of Keri's work for that site, I knew I had to read this book. And I am certainly glad I did. What a fun team. Such an interesting history. While it is certainly sad that they had to lose the team the way that they did, I do enjoy the team that DC got out of it. So I choose to honor the Expos' legacy through my Nats fandom and will wear my Expos hat proudly.
The Montreal Expos provided many interesting stories during their 36 years of existence, both on and off the field. Sportswriter Jonah Keri, who was also a fan of the team, covers their history in this fun-to-read account of the franchise.
Starting with the scramble to obtain players and a suitable stadium for the inaugural 1969 season, Keri captures the adventures and misadventures of the franchise with humor, knowledge and the viewpoint that a devoted fan provides, which was surprisingly objective as well.
The objectivity comes mainly from describing the many business decisions that resulted in star players leaving. One example is when after the team compiled the best record in the 1994 season in which the World Series was not played due to a player’s strike, the ownership group ordered general manager Kevin Malone to dump four of the team’s highest paid players in one week. Keri’s account of that fire sale did not read like a disgruntled fan – while criticizing the move, he did note that it did achieve the short term goals, but that it was just that – “a short-sighted glimpse of the situation.”
His accounts of the eventual ownership by Major League Baseball and his criticism of an ownership group that would not contribute the required money to keep the operations going that resulted in one man (Jeffrey Loria) obtaining 93% of the team was also surprisingly objective for someone who was a fan of the team. Other business matters such as losing broadcasting rights to the southern Ontario market and only online broadcasting in the early 2000’s were covered in the same manner.
This doesn’t mean that Keri only wrote about the front office. His accounts of the 36 seasons of Expos baseball on the field was just as good, especially when writing about the stars and beloved players who wore the red, white and blue of the team. His prose about the sad story of Ellis Valentine, the heartbreak of “Blue Monday” when Rick Monday homered to propel the Dodgers to victory over the Expos in the 1981 National League Championship Series and the excitement of the surprise run in 1994. Those passages are great reading for any baseball fan, whether or not he or she was an Expos fan.
One question that many ask is when was the point where the Expos started to show signs that they were in trouble. Keri’s account offers several times both on and off the field, but the most interesting one was when he described the apex of success for the team on the field as the 1982 All-Star game which Montreal hosted. It was at that time when the Expos were having their longest stretch of sustained success and had five players represent them at that All-Star game. While questionable at first to me, he makes a good point why he felt that way. That is an example of what Keri does throughout the book – makes points of why he believed something happened and uses solid evidence to support that claim.
This is a very entertaining and informative book that any reader who is interested in the history of this colorful team, whether a fan or not, will enjoy.
Wow. One thing I was thinking while I was getting through the entire history of the Expos was that although Jonah Keri painted the picture of how the earlier years (70's specifically), it was hard for me to identify with some of the players that I didn't know in MY youth. While we moved into the 80's and the rise of Hawk, Rock, and The Kid, I was really getting into the team, and was so excited to read through their playoff run. Jonah really made me want to go back and watch video of this team, and I even found while reading, going back and looking on Fangraphs to look up players (if you're reading this Jonah Keri, Tim Raines should be in the HOF, just look at his WAR right?)
The tone of the story quickly changed as the 80's teams was disassembled and as a fan of a very budget team myself, the Oakland A's, I can really sympathize with the story, and Jonah did a really good job at tapping into that emotion.
Jonah Keri is an amazing storyteller, and it was great to read about the history of the Expos, along with HIS history of following them through his youth to adulthood.
It's mid-April which normally means we should be in the early stages of a new MLB season. However, like many fans, I am going through baseball withdrawal amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So, in an effort to try to scratch my baseball itch a different way, I decided to pick up this book that had been on my shelf for about a year.
I am a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan and never was a fan of the Expos (though I did get to attend a game there in one of the team's final seasons in Montreal). I am certainly NOT a fan of the Washington Nationals (though have less disdain for the reigning World Series champs than I do for all of the former Orioles fans who jumped onto the Nats' bandwagon). Despite this, I was intrigued by this book after hearing good things about it from a few non-Expos fans in the baseball writing/podcasting community. I was particularly interested to read about the 1994 strike year, when the Expos were the best team in baseball before the season got cancelled, as well as the team's move to DC in the early 2000's.
Unfortunately, I had mistakenly thought that a disproportionate amount of the text was going to be about these two topics. It is, of course, entirely my fault for assuming this. Nonetheless, I was disappointed at how little was dedicated to these topics. What the book was was a comprehensive history of the team, leading up to its inception in 1969, all the way through the move to DC after the 2004 season. The author, Jonah Keri, was (is?) a diehard Expos fan and this shows in the tone of the book. Throughout the history of the team, there were a series of disappointments that completely ripped out the hearts of Expos fans. Despite having numerous high-caliber players (both All-Stars and Hall of Famers), the Expos only managed one playoff appearance and zero World Series appearances. Keri's emotion really comes through in the text, which at times reads like a tragedy. When you take away the first-person opinions and feelings that were inserted throughout the book, though, it actually read pretty dryly. It was a very linear progression of the team's history. Despite a number of interviews/quotes throughout the book, I don't feel like Keri really got much of an inside scoop about a lot of things. I learned a lot about some of the older history of the team, which I didn't find to be all that unique from what many expansion teams go through. However, I learned very little about the topics that I was most interested in. I lived through these events and was reminded of a few things I had forgotten, but don't feel like I got a lot of new information.
I gave the book 3 stars rather than 2 because I did appreciate how Keri was able to deliver a (relatively) concise yet comprehensive history of the team. I always enjoy reading about baseball history, even if it isn't exactly what I was expecting/hoping for. I do have sympathy for Expos fans as I know I would be crushed if the Orioles ever left town (and there have been recent rumors that that could be on the table). However, I don't have a ton of sympathy for their woes during the tenure of the team's stay in Montreal itself--there are many other fan bases (including Baltimore!) that have had just as many examples of on-the-field disappointments and front office mismanagement. This book was published in 2014, 5 years prior to the Nationals winning the World Series. I would be interested to hear another afterword on that topic. Although it was 15 years removed from the team's relocation, I'm sure it still stung for Expos fans.
I have many fond memories of trips to Montreal both to Jarry Park and “The Big O” growing up with the Expos. Jonah Keri’s book was a fun trip down memory lane, and I, like him, would love to see baseball back in Montreal under the right circumstances. Let’s Go Expos!!!!
Brilliant. Jonah Keri beautifully weaves two distinct perspectives to tell the story of the Expos.
First and foremost is the experience of following the team on the field: players coming and going, managers hired and fired, pennant races building and then (sadly) fading away. It was really interesting to read the stories of all the great players that came before my time, whose names I knew but whose stories I did not. It was even interesting to see how the teams I do remember cheering for developed since in the years before the web, it wasn't so easy to keep tabs on roster moves.
Neatly spliced in between the on-field drama is obviously the off-the-field story. Here, Keri takes off his fan hat and puts on his journalist hat to deliver an even-handed description of the factors that ultimately lead to the Expos downfall. I really wish that every bonehead American (and sadly, Toronto-based) commentator who believed that Montreal just didn't care about baseball would read this history. Outside of a few hardcore baseball markets like St. Louis, no fan base would have survived the circumstances that Expos fans went through. It's frankly amazing how many times they were able to play meaningful baseball late into the season despite always dumping their best players to save money.
What I enjoyed most of all was Keri's ability to capture the atmosphere at the Big O when there was even a moderately good crowd. It never ceased to amaze me how much noise just 30,000 people could make. I still cringe when I see the "Make some noise!" graphic on the scoreboard at Safeco Field because any build-up of energy will inevitably die out the second that the graphic disappears. In Montreal, if you were *at* the game, you were *into* the game, not unlike a Seahawks game at the CLink. Here is one such description:
"Empty, the Big O was a dark, cold, forbidding place. It was massive, and far from the bosom of bustling downtown Montreal. It was, in the absence of a good and interesting team, a lousy place to see a baseball game. Management knew all of this. And with the club improving on the field, the front office got to work on the fan experience. For the many fans who traveled to Olympic Stadium by Metro, the entire walk-up experience became electric. Exiting at the Pie-IX stop, you could walk shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of fans from the subway car, through a tunnel, and up a ramp leading directly to the stadium entrance. The second you passed through the turnstiles, you found yourself in the middle of a big party, loud and raucous (but not too raucous) and inviting. Straight ahead was a beer garden, flanked by an Oompah band with the volume at 11. In a city that had French as its main language and English as number two, the whole setup surprisingly felt like Oktoberfest, right down to the music. You could count the number of people who knew *all* the words to "The Happy Wanderer" on one hand as you wandered to your seat after a beer or five, but every living soul in the ballpark knew the chorus. And whether it was pre-gaming in the concourse or a celebrating a big Expos rally with the help of Fern Lapierre's booming organ, that chorus echoes through the building's cavernous expanse.
I'm not sure this book will hold much interest for someone who never really followed the Expos - I can't see myself being terribly interested in a history of say, the Milwaukee Brewers, for instance - but if you did, it's a gem.
Keri has three stories to tell in this volume, and only two of them are interesting. The first is the story of the characters and rogues who made up the roster of the Montreal Expos in their glory days. The archetypal story is the one about Tim Raines sliding headfirst into second because he had a vial of cocaine in his hip pocket that he didn't want to break. There should have been a lot more stories like this, and most of the stories that there are get shoved into sidebars, but there were a lot of characters who played for the Expos, and Keri retells those stories well.
The second piece is about the business of baseball, and given the near-complete lack of success that the Expos experienced on the field, that actually takes up a bit more space than you'd think. Keri makes the case for the Expos being a progenitor of the "Moneyball" trend, putting together competitive rosters of younger, cheaper players, but Keri explains that the Expos simply didn't have the acumen to keep doing this year after year, and given the problems with the team's location and finances and stadium, it led to the demise of baseball in Quebec (or la belle province, as Keri reminds us.
The third element is Keri's own experience as a fan. I am a baseball fan myself. I have a great story about the 1999 AL division series, which was played (if you want to call it that) in a tremendous downpour in Arlington. But I don't think there's that much of a market for my stories, and I don't think there was an urgent need for Keri to write himself in as a participant in the Expos' story when he didn't do anything but cheer on some bad teams.
This is not a bad book by any means, and even fans who weren't ever Montreal fans will find something to like. But the focus should have been on the players and their stories, rather than on the author's.
As a Red Sox fan, the joys of 2004 are, in many ways, inextricable from the plight of the Expos. We could say that solely from the acquisition of Pedro Martinez alone, but so much of how that team was built is based around the Montreal Expos, and Jonah Keri, who is quickly becoming a master of writing about these little teams that could, does an admirable job of mixing history with personal experience in his team-ography of the Expos from start to finish.
For statheads, there's a lot of fun looks at some players (including a Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines I hadn't considered). For baseball historians, the fairly wacky ups and downs, the mismanagement and strange cultural quirks, all of these things make for a fun narrative. For those who are just fans of the game, there's plenty here to love as well.
Overall, a fun and fast read, and definitely good for fans of baseball in general.
From frenzied start to the slow death of a finish, the Montreal Expos weren't just any baseball team. Jonah Keri comes up with anecdotes that tell the story of the Expos, the hometown team he embraced as a kid. Worthwhile book on an underappreciated team.
I read this 2014 book shortly after it was published. It came out exactly ten years after my favourite baseball team moved from their original city and twenty years after the MLB strike which curtailed the entire remainder of the season just when the 'Spos had the best record in baseball. Indeed, it was truly a pleasure to read of all the heartbreaks I’d experienced following this team since the early 1970s.
- Their early years of futility, having only retreads from other teams on their roster - Their incipient brushes with greatness: Carl Morton almost winning twenty games one season, Ross Grimsley doing so, the phenomenon of ‘le Grande Orange’: Rusty Staub, who once hit two home runs in both ends of a double header - Their breakthrough to the playoffs in 1981 and the disastrous decision to bring in Steve Rogers, their best starter, on a cold day in Montreal with the result that Rick Monday’s home run cost them their chance at a World Series - The predatory policies of the Toronto Blue Jays, who blocked the radio market for their Canadian counterparts so that I could no longer listen nightly to my favourite team on the radio - The ‘track team’ of Ron LeFore, Rodney Scott and Larry Lintz, who made base stealing a really exciting part of their game - The bizarre antics of Bill ‘The Spaceman’ Lee, who reacted to the release of Scott by leaving the park and going to a nearby bar to play pool - The incredible hitting of Dawson, Carter, Wallach, Parrish, Guerrero (Sr.) and Raines, combined with truly stolid starting pitching which propelled the ’94 team to a 74-40 record when the strike hit - The disaster of Olympic Stadium: carpeted concrete which forced Dawson to leave for the sake of his knees; they also had to play their last twenty home games one season on the road since the concrete façade of the building was falling down - They disaster of ownership after the distilling Bronfmans gave up: Claude Brochu forever trying to get partners, Jeffrey Loria just looking to have fun and make some money and the final indignity of having the rest of the league owners take over joint responsibility - The final fateful departure from Montreal when they were playing before miniscule crowds with no solid financial backing and in competition with the Jays who had by then won two World Series; even though I grew up in Toronto, I’ve never forgiven the money-minded Jays for how they helped run my favourite team out of Canada.
My feeling about sports writers is the same as that about referees in games and administrators in schools: you know they’re doing a good job when you don’t notice them at all. They make the calls they have to and don’t make those they shouldn’t. Thus, they stay invisible and let the real process continue. This is very true of Keri’s writing: I came away from the book with that everlasting bittersweet memory of my fav team, not with any strong opinion one way or the other about the writer. Thus, he did an admirable job.
This is an entertaining and page-turning overview of the existence of the Montreal Expos. It's clearly written from the perspective of a fan, which is both a good and a bad thing. But it's also relatively measured in its assessment of why the franchise failed. There's just one rather big problem hanging over all of it... So let's deal with that problem. Jonah Keri is a terrible human being. He has admitted to some of the things he did to his wife in court and these things are pretty fucking awful. Before I learned about this stuff, he was one of my favourite baseball writers. Perhaps my favourite baseball writer. Now I know that he's awful and the only reason I read this book is because I purchased it before he was accused of domestic violence. (Again, he plead guilty recently.) This is a problem for this book, of course. But it's a bigger problem because he cannot help but put himself - and, very briefly, his wife - into the book. If he didn't do that, I could at least cover my eyes and plug my eyes and sing to myself and pretend it wasn't written by an asshole, but I cannot do that when he mentions himself over and over again. If you can somehow get over the horrible stuff he did to his wife, this is a pretty great book, if you keep your expectations measured. The author is enthusiastic, clearly, but he has also take great pains to create the atmosphere of what the Expos' experience was like for fans before he ever attended a game. He is pretty thorough with his coverage of the players and some of the coaches and managers (and ownership) and he is mostly good-natured about it. He is clearly on the player's side, which is something that would be a good thing to say about the man if he didn't beat his wife. He's also pretty damn measured about why the Expos failed. Given that he grew up as a fan, I was a little concerned he might not be so sophisticated in his understanding of why the team left town. The reason I thought that: my Expos fan friends can get pretty unhinged about why the Expos left. They basically don't watch baseball any more and they blame the league more than they blame, say, Montrealers, for the team leaving. The author is much more nuanced, and it's appreciated. I really enjoyed this book. I learned things as I blazed through it and it made me want to have been there. (I never did manage to get to a game when I lived in Quebec, which is one of my great sports regrets.) But I can't give it the rating I want to give it for the simple fact that the author has admitted in court to doing some terrible things to another person, and not just any other person. I don't have time for men like that. Safe to say, this is the last thing I'll read that he wrote. And I hope that when his rehabilitation tour comes, we all ignore it.
I really enjoyed this book, even if it was slightly slow paced at times. It brought back lots of memories of my childhood watching the Expos when they'd be televised on CKX or CKY while growing up in Minot, ND. I really miss rooting for those old teams in the 1980s and early 90s. All the anticipation and the heartbreak every year. It was a great time to be an Expos fan, even if it never quite panned out in the end. I think that 1982 team was quite emblematic of the Expos franchise. A team loaded with great individual stars leading the league in various categories, but who couldn't quite put it all together as a team.
I was one of those people that MLB lost after the 1994 strike. To this day I can count on one hand the number or MLB games I've attended (2 MN Twins games with my wife right after we were married), watched on TV (last game of the 2016 WS where the Cubs finally won), or listened to on the radio (2006 WS between the Cards and Tigers, 2002 WS with ND boy Darin Erstad playing for the Angels). No guarantees the Expos would have gone all the way, especially given the historical let downs, but with the best record in baseball it would have been nice to at least have a chance. The teams after 94 were opaque to me. I knew a couple of the highlights like Pedro and Vladi having big years, but various ups and downs along with the surprisingly good production from players I hadn't heard about was nice.
The insights into the owner's situations was nice. I knew there were financial problems with the ownership, I just didn't realize how bad they were. And while the Big O always looked pretty on TV, I knew from all the publicity that the stadium itself was a horrible venue for baseball.
I rarely write reviews on here but felt the need to for this book in particular. The issue, however, is how to review a book I enjoyed immensely written by an author that leads me to all sorts of conflicted feelings?
Jonah Keri was one of my favorite baseball/sportswriters dating back to his days on Grantland, I was an avid listener of his podcast. To say I was disappointed in the actions of Mr. Keri against his spouse would be putting it lightly. This book has been on 'my list' for quite some time, long before that news broke, and there was a great hesitation from me to even start this book.
The book itself was worth the wait and I enjoyed it immensely, as it does a fantastic job of weaving the on field stories with breadcrumbs that lead to the eventual departure of the Montreal Expos to Washington DC. As someone that lived this experience with the St. Louis Rams, I connected deeply with the passages explaining the nuance of how the team, the city, and the league failed the die hard fans. Often, when sports teams move, the fans are used as a scapegoat, hiding the issues that lie much deeper. Keri does a good job of bringing those to light.
As a long time baseball fan that was born in the mid-80's, I missed most of the Expos' hey day in the 80's but reading about those teams along with the '94 team that I was too young to remember was an absolute treat.
Still, as much as I appreciated the writing, the work that went into it, and the storytelling, I struggled with personal feelings of guilt as I forged ahead on this one knowing what I knew about the author. I don't mean to belabor that point, but it became a case of 'separating art and artist,' and for that, what could have been a fantastic read that stood on its own will forever be tainted for me.
Great read on the MLB team formerly known as the Montreal Expos. I have read so, so, so many baseball books, but sadly nothing really on the Expos, although they are featured a lot in Split Season by Jeff Katz. This book is a MUST for Expos fans and every baseball fan will like it too. It was kind of like traveling through time as the author, Jonah Keri, takes you on a ride from the Expos' tough beginnings in 1969 and the 1970's to the 1980s, by which time the team had a new stadium that was built for the 1976 Olympics. Don't worry, you'll also read about the first ballpark here too. By the 1980's the Expos had a ton of great players like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines to go along with some others like Tim Wallach, Steve Rogers and an up and coming Jeff Reardon. Ellis Valentine, Rusty Staub and others are also discussed. Their is a special chapter just for Rick Monday and the 1981 playoffs. The book then guides the reader to the early 1990s and how Montreal began to build a dominant team led by Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Delino DeShields, Cliff Floyd and a little later, Pedro Martinez. There are also stories on Dennis Martinez, Mark Gardner, Mike Lansing, Andres Galarraga and other players from the decade. Then the strike hits in 1994 and the Expos are never the same again, and despite having a great player like Vladmir Guerrero, the team is not selling well as far as tickets go. The author is a die-hard fan and talks about certain games he went to. The author's chapter that he ends with Curtis Pride's double at home made me smile and uh, well, get a little mist in my eye. Very well written, very well reseached. I recommend for any baseball fan.
The Montreal Expos brought baseball to Canada and with it, a veritable roller-coaster of emotions: the highs of winning the division championship in 1981 and having the best team in baseball in 1994and the brutal, all-too-common lows, the strike that ended the 1994 season, the continued dispersal of the team's best players, and a stadium barely fit for purpose. And yet, Jonah Keri speaks for so many Expo fans with such love and affection for the team that did so much with so little.
This is both a history of the team, from its founding to the sorry end of the team as they went south to Washington, and the story of the fans, Jonah Keri in particular, chronicling his love of the team as he and his friends grew up supporting them. It is a fascinating insight into the Expos, who were for the most part a good team undone by so many external factors. Keri brings a great deal of insight into the failings of the Expos, which cannot be simply ascribed to Loria, but were the culmination of thirty years of mismanagement and miserly operating costs. Keri also brings interviews from practically the entire team and many major figures surrounding the team, many of whom still profess their love of the city and the team.
Could the Expos have won it all in 1994? Probably, if not that year, then at least again in 1995 if they hadn't traded away three of their star players. But as Keri recounts, the story of the Expos is one of constant ifs and maybes. Maybe if they hadn't.... If they only... Here's hoping that the Expos make a return to the game sooner rather than later. Canada and Montreal have waited long enough.
I saw an interview with Jonah Keri which got me super excited to read this book!
Growing up in Montreal, being a Habs fan, and remembering my youth as an Expos fan, I really wanted a better understanding of why the Expos left MLB. I also just wanted to know the history of the team. It's something I didn't fully know, and this book really didn't disappoint! Perfect for summer too :)
The book goes in chronological order: - Joining the league as an expansion team and getting Rusty Staub, their first star. - How they started focusing on a great farm system and getting stars that rocked through the 80's (Carter, Dawson, Raines, Wallach, Rogers, etc.) - The woes of the stadium and team owners (funding issues) - The awesome team of 90s. - Why and how they folded.
Anyway. It's just a really good history of the team and it's really easy to read. The author is pretty awesome and I like his writing style. It got me super excited to get the Expos back! However, it did get me frustrated hearing about the owners and managers trading every single good player to save money and didn't support the team at all... Worth the read!
The book "Up, Up, & Away" by Jonah Keri is a study of the history of the Montreal Expos’ baseball team. The author discusses the expansion draft from the Expos’ first season, highlights some of their most important moments as a team and focuses on some of their best players. Additionally, the author writes about some of their most memorable games, transactions, trades and draft picks. The author also highlights the importance of the Expos to the people of Montreal when the Expos played there.
The book contains quotes from various players and individuals who worked for the team. Additionally, the book contains quotes from players who played against the Expos through the years.
It was interesting to read about the trades that the Expos made in attempts to improve their team. Also, it was educational to read about the different personalities of the players and managers who worked for the Expos.
The author grew up an Expos’ fan, and he recounted some good memories of games that he watched while growing up rooting for the team. His recollection of events from the games seemed strong. He expressed well how exciting and memorable those moments were. This helped the reader to appreciate some highlights from the history of the Expos.
The author did a good job of recounting different games and accomplishments of certain players. The book also contained some interesting quotes from players and managers.
I would recommend this book for any baseball fan or a fan of the Montreal Expos.
"Up, Up and Away" is the latest entry in a series of books which I’ve been reading based on the shared former employer of their authors. For a few years, I’d check the website Grantland every day on my lunch break and basically click on anything non-Football related under the (usually correct) assumption that whatever the article was about I’d either learn something, or be kept entertained for its duration. Around this same time, I discovered Twitter which further allowed me to follow authors and reporters that I enjoyed and not only become aware the instant they wrote a new article, but also their humor and interests outside of their writing. With Grantland having closed up shop, several of the writers have relocated to The Ringer, while still others are easy enough to track in their new writing gigs through Twitter. Several of my favorite authors from the website have since (or previously) published full novels, which I’ve tracked down. That’s a long way of explaining why I read a book about the Montreal Expos, a baseball franchise that I never cared about or had any interest in.
To be clear, I love baseball. Along with basketball, it’s my favorite sport. While definitely a Cubs fan, with the exception of the Cardinals and Yankees I don’t really dislike any franchises and have a pretty solid knowledge of all the teams and their best players throughout history. This includes trips to both Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame and Museum and Kansas City for the Negro Leagues Museum, and trips to ballparks in cities from Florida to Arizona and most everywhere in between. So, why did I not appreciate this book more, when it’s about a sport I love, by a talented and knowledgeable author that I have read and enjoyed before this? I have several theories, and a few personal reasons that detracted from the overall enjoyment.
My biggest theory regarding why the book didn’t work was its scope. Telling the history of a franchise, from creation to relocation in 400 pages means some things will get glossed over and every instance the author chooses to focus on becomes paramount. Here, Keri did tons of interviews with former players and personnel but in most all instances the resulting inclusion is just a line or two of supplementary material that left few moments a reader would be sure to remember long after reading the book. Where a long conversation with Felipe Alou was referenced in the acknowledgment section, I can’t help but think the reader would have benefitted (and preferred) more of that conversation framed together at once than several one sentence comments sprinkled throughout the book. Likewise, Keri’s inclusion of stories of several game recaps from games he personally attended with friends serves the purpose of bringing a fan element to the book, but could have (should have) been replaced with expanded information on player and personnel trades/departures and additional financial information to support or refute his position on the importance of the team in the community.
Perhaps narrowing the scope of the book to just the playoff team or just the exodus of the Expos would have been more enthralling for the reader. While there is a lot of information covered here, the relatively small amount of time spent on each era ends up making this a resource somewhat comparable to Wikipedia (which is a great resource, but not what I’m looking for when purchasing a new book).
Another possibility for why this book didn’t work as well as it could have was the inherent dichotomy between the subject matter and the author’s attitude. Keri obviously loved the Expos and the new afterward on the book was tacked on to show all the other Montreal citizens who felt the same way. A book just highlighting something worthy of that admiration would have made sense, but here a complete history of the team leaves Keri unable to excuse the awful facilities, the rampant drug use, the multiple losing seasons, and final exile of the franchise. The warts and all approach is historically accurate, however a non-Expo fan is not likely to come away from the book with a new appreciation for the former franchise. The closest I came to changing perspectives on the team for the better was in reading Pedro Martinez’s comments following his World Series victory. Again, more focus on the individuals and their recollections of the legacy of the team might have improved the read as opposed to an overly brief complete history that we are left with.
Finally, as much as I enjoy Jonah Keri’s writing, as a disciple of the Bill Simmons school of writing he is likely to alienate some of his readers with his own personal beliefs coming through in his writing. With a column online, or his twitter account, you kind of know what you’re getting, but for the random reader picking up his book it can be a bit objectionable. At times I was reminded of the individual at work who begins telling you their political views in hushed tones with the expectation that you must surely agree with them. I’m used to ignoring Keri’s views on legalization of drugs, PED’s and discounting lucky hits from MVP candidates online, but while reading his book more of the same prejudices came out. It’s clear he sides with the players on labor issues, hates Bud Selig, and believes small ball strategies are inherently wrong. In an article putting forth those views he can defend them and put forth an argument the reader can accept or reject. Here though, the views were usually included with either no supplementary information, or just enough to give the worst facts against his target with no balance or attempt at objectivity for the other side. Just one more hazard of writing about a very broad topic in a short amount of space.
So I didn’t care for this book. Keri’s still a talented columnist and seems like a good guy online. I’m sure I’ll also check out his other book about the Tampa Bay Rays as soon as I track down a copy of it.
I thought it was a great book. I'm not Canadian or an Expos fan, just a guy who grew up in the 80's and 90's a baseball fan who had some familiarity with the Expos' almost-but-not-quite success during that era.
The history of the Montreal Expos provides a unique subject matter in that there are very few baseball clubs for which you can write a beginning-to-end story. As the first Canadian entrant into major U.S. professional sports, the Expos entered the National League as an expansion franchise in 1969 and played 36 seasons in Montreal before departing for Washington, D.C. in 2005 and taking upon themselves the dreadful moniker of "Nationals". Montreal remains the only MLB team to lose their team in the last 45 years.
Jonah Keri takes you from their humble beginnings playing in Jarry Park (a supposed short-term solution which wound up hosting the team for nearly a decade), through their prosperous years in the 1980s and 1990s, and on through their ultimate demise in the early part of the century. Throughout the book, he provides various reasons for the Expos' failure which prove that although fielding a talented ballclub is an important element, it doesn't necessarily guarantee success. A successful franchise needs political support, investment from the business community, and a thriving fan base. When the Expos didn't have any of the three, it was time to go. A little luck also helps, and the Expos certainly didn't have much of that, as proved by the 1994 team which most certainly would have won the World Series, if only it had been played. . .
Keri is not an impartial party to this tale - he grew up an Expos fan and in many cases inserts his first-person accounts of the proceedings. I felt like his fan's perspective made the book come alive. Written by anyone else, it may have just been a dull retelling of news accounts.
The book is more interesting than you would expect for a team that never won anything. If nothing else, you'll learn what the story is behind that mysterious "lb" logo. I had been wondering about that for years.
I watched the Montreal Expos on TV as a kid. I even went to the 'Big Owe" to see a Montreal Expos game. The book is about the history of the Montreal Expos from the beginnings when they played their first came at Jerry Park to the end when the franchise got moved to Washington, BC. There were some moments of triumphs when the Expos won the NL East Championship and defeats when Rick Monday of the LA Dodgers hit the home run to end their hopes of going to the World Series.
There was a lot of mismanagement which caused the Expos demise. The book gets into players personal demons like Tim Raines with his cocaine use and how he was on track to breaking the MLB record for stealing stolen bases before the strike ended that. The book even talks about The Kid and how he became a fan favorite, Vladi Guererro on his no hitter.
The book is very sad because of the demise of the Expos. I will says this but Montreal is not a baseball city.
I received a used copy of this as a present awhile back, so I didn't need to wrestle with the morality of supporting Jonah Keri by purchasing this...
I decided to read it in honor of the Washington Nationals winning the world series, finally doing what the Expos never could during their history. The book is a love letter to the history of the Expos and what they meant to Montreal, and is also filtered through Keri's experience as a fan, which becomes increasingly clear as it moves closer to his high-school years.
It's well-written and engaging, with plenty of fantastic access to former players, coaches, and officials, but the story has no natural high points or climaxes- the Expos make the playoffs once in 30 years, their best team ever is wiped out by the strike, and they eventually move away amid years of sinking fan interest. Keri does his best to craft peaks and valleys out of this narrative, but unless you are a huge baseball fan you might find yourself losing interest.
I'm not a particular baseball fan, but reading about a baseball team that lasted only for thirty-five years and suffered from bad luck and bad management by the owners did sound intriguing.
The then-mayor of Montreal had big plans for his city such as hosting the Olympics and a new subway system, and creating a local baseball team was one of them. Being built from scratch, the team had many teething problems, including local businessmen reluctant to invest in the team and a lack of a proper baseball stadium. But some businessmen did invest to allow the team's creation, and even a baseball stadium was built. Even so, the team had ill fortune throughout its existence.
With money always a problem, the stadium was of poor quality and unsuited for playing baseball games, and the team could never retain good players, thanks in large part due to refusal of the owners to invest enough and finally getting disillusioned and backing out. In 2004 the team would move to the USA and become the Washington Nationals. Montreal would not get a new baseball team, which is hardly a shock. An interesting but not pleasant story.
I myself find myself sentimental for the Montreal Expos and I consider it a baseball tragedy what happened to what was once a thriving baseball town and organization within a foreign culture. Jonah Keri filled in a lot of the blanks for me, not only about the teams over the years but how they came to be and how they ultimately came to be undone.
At times it was a bit numbers-heavy and I think that looking at old teams and players through the modern lens doesn’t always work. He expresses a lot of opinions about various baseball decisions based on the numbers that leave out a lot of the reality, specifically with scouting and player development. Those parts of the book I wasn’t into as much, having a little background in the game myself and seeing the flaws of his approach, but the research and the history lesson was very good.
I thought I knew a lot about this team, but author Jonah Keri showed me how wrong I was! This book was fun yet frustrating for this fan. I loved the way the author weaves interviews with players with pen-and-ink sketches, photos and anecdotes about the Montreal Expos, along with his own impressions of the team he loved as a child and continues to love to this day. Solid writing is the piece de resistance in this sports book.
Anyone who enjoys sports history should pick up this book and read it. The history of the Montreal Expos is a piece of the baseball puzzle that every baseball fan should know about. I am happy to have found this book and to add it to my baseball library. And I'm a Red Sox fan!