MONTREAL (AP) -- The Expos era in Montreal ended with a 9-1 loss to Florida on Wednesday night, a game delayed for 10 minutes when players were pulled off the field after a fan threw a golf ball that landed near second base.
Hours after baseball announced that the 36-year-old franchise
will be moved next season to Washington, D.C., a crowd of 31,395
showed up at Olympic Stadium for its final chance to say farewell.
It was the largest crowd of the year and about four times the
season average. Fans were warned in the third inning that the game
would be forfeited if anything else was thrown onto the field.
Three plastic bottles were tossed into left field in the sixth,
one near Florida's Miguel Cabrera. But the teams remained on the
field and no announcement was made. The game was delayed just a
couple minutes as the bottles were retrieved by a ball boy.
With two outs in the ninth, a fan jumped onto the field near
Florida's on-deck circle and was quickly escorted off by two
Montreal coach Claude Raymond stood alone on the field before he was joined by all the Expos as they waved goodbye to fans.
The crowd began standing when the Marlins came to bat in the top of the ninth. Fans, some with tears in their eyes, waved Canadian
flags and held up signs. Some were still lingering in the stands 15
minutes after the game ended.
Peter McStravick, an Ottawa native and lifelong Expos fan now living in Boston, held a sign with pictures of commissioner Bud
Selig, former team president Claude Brochu and Florida owner
Jeffrey Loria, who sold the franchise to the other 29 teams to
purchase the Marlins in 2002.
"Expos Hall of Shame," read the sign, "Merci de Rien (Thanks for Nothing.)"
"It's a funeral," said McStravick, who made a five-hour drive
to attend the game.
Former Expo Carl Pavano (18-8) set a Marlins record for wins, and Cabrera hit his 32nd homer.
Sun-woo Kim (4-6) lasted only two-plus innings.
Montreal has three games remaining this season, in New York
against the Mets. The Expos also played their first game at Shea
Stadium in 1969.
Reed, the crew chief, waved all the players into the dugout as
the crowd cheered. Security guards lined up along each baseline.
Drawing decent crowds was the problem for the Expos in recent years, prompting baseball to look for a new home.
The Senators' final home game was forfeited on Sept. 30, 1971. Fans rushed onto the field with two outs in the ninth inning, upset over owner Bob Short's decision to move the team to Texas.
The Senators were leading the New York Yankees 7-5 when the game was declared a forfeit.
Fans were still streaming into Olympic Stadium during the second inning Wednesday night. The seldom-used upper deck was already filling with spectators as Kim threw the first pitch to Juan Pierre.
Wednesday night's game was the 2,786th for the last-place Expos in Montreal, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That includes 641 at Jarry Park, where the team started play in 1969, and 2,145 at Olympic Stadium, where the Expos moved in 1977.
The 1994 Expos were honored in a pregame ceremony. That team was 74-40, the best record in baseball, and six games up in the NL East when major league players went on strike, a work stoppage that ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the playoffs and World
Several members of the 1994 team -- including current Montreal left-hander Joey Eischen, Florida's Wil Cordero, pitchers Ken Hill, Gil Heredia and Tim Scott -- were on hand to sign autographs as fans were allowed to mill about the outfield before the game.
Usherettes Marie-Claude Girard and Dominique Duquette were red-eyed from crying unabashedly as fans filed past them on and off the field.
Many fans brought gloves and played catch on the field, others
sat or sprawled on the field's artificial turf. Security was
increased, but the crowd cleared the field without any problems
when the autograph session ended.
The small group of players were introduced to the crowd before they walked to the outfield wall in left-center field, where they
unveiled a banner with the Expos' logo reading, "1994 Meilleure
Equipe du Baseball -- Best Team in Baseball."
Kim Richardson's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was initially greeted with boos. Applause soon drowned out the jeers.
Montreal's Tony Batista took an extended curtain call after he
came out of the game following the fifth inning. Batista, whose 32
home runs set a team record for third basemen, stepped out of the
dugout and thrust both arms up high to the delight of the crowd.
The fans also gave ace Livan Hernandez a loud ovation, as well as the team's English and French broadcasters when they were shown on the video scoreboard during the game.