A baseball city that was abandoned, Montreal deserves another shot at professional baseball.
Zach Carter is a first-year journalism major who writes for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Montreal, Québec, is known for a few things. It is the largest French-speaking city in North America and has many famous festivals, but it also has a rich history of baseball.
Professional baseball traces all the way back in Montreal to the 1890s, but it didn’t hit the big stage until the MLB came along and created the Montreal Expos.
The team made its MLB debut in the 1969 season. The first season was rough. They had 52 wins and 110 losses. With this record, some might say the franchise was a bad idea. Their first ten seasons ended without a winning record. But then, they followed with two 90-win seasons.
This is when the Expos started to become a franchise that was always in the hunt.
After the MLB’s strike in the 1994 season, the team was poorly handled. Before the strike, the Expos had one of the best team records that season. The MLB canceled the rest of the season, and due to the new salary cap rules, the team lost most of its core players.
This was the start of the downfall.
After the removal of Claude Brochu, head of the ownership group, a new regime was brought in during the 1999 offseason. Fans started to lose interest and stopped supporting the team due to the team being on the cheap side and not spending money on their franchise players. This led to the relocation and rebranding of the team.
If the MLB wanted a new team, why not go back to Montreal?
Montreal is a large city that has 1.7 million people, and a lot of those people are baseball fans. If you go to Twitter, there are many accounts that tweet about the team that ended over 18 years ago. One of the accounts named after the team tweets and retweets anything that has to do with the team. Pictures, stats and merchandise are also on the account.
When you look at the attendance record throughout the team's history, you can tell there are plenty of fans. Their best stretch was the 1979-83 seasons. Each year, the team was in the top four of the leagues attendance numbers.
But it also proves the fans like to see a winning product. In those four seasons I mentioned above, the team's best record was 95 wins and 65 losses. Their worst was 82 wins and 80 losses.
The worst stretch was from 1994 to the Expos’ final season. Of course, this is when the strike occurred, forcing fans to give up on the sport. Once the new owners’ group took over, the team finished its final six seasons last in attendance across the MLB.
It’s a trend that still continues to this day. Teams like the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds that have “poor” ownership are seeing low attendance numbers.
Even though the team relocated almost two decades ago, fans still want an MLB team to return.
One of those groups is “ExposNation.” They are a group that is trying to bring professional baseball back to Montreal. The group is recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Major League Players Alumni Association.
Another reason that I believe warrants an MLB team in Montreal is that the city helped break the color barrier in baseball.
The Montreal Royals were a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. When Jackie Robinson was signed by Brooklyn, his first step was to play for the Royals.
As history goes, Robinson was not warmly accepted into the league, but that was the opposite when he arrived in Montreal. Both Robinson and his wife made multiple comments about how nice and supportive the city was to them.
In a quote from his own book, “My Own Story,” he recounts his last moment as he left the city for Brooklyn.
“As my plane roared skyward and the lights of Montreal twinkled and winkled in the distance, I took one last look at this great city where I had found so much happiness,” Robinson said. “‘I don’t care if I never get to the Majors,’ I told myself. ‘This is the city for me. This is paradise.’’’
Over two years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays attempted a split season, and they called it the “Sister City” experiment. One-half of their home games would be in Tampa and the other half in Montreal.
This was the Rays’ way of trying to gain new fans since their fanbase was plummeting. The MLB was for the plan at the time.
But earlier this year, the league switched its opinion and canceled the idea.
Since the “Sister City" project did not pan out, ExpoNation has been slowing down. Their site says they are still prepared to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal.
There is still hope for Montreal, whether it is the Expos or a completely new team. The MLB expansion idea has been picking up speed, and only time will tell what the league decides.
If the MLB wants to tap into SEC country, an expansion team in Nashville just might be the way.
Brayden Goins is a first-year journalism major who writes for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Imagine this, game seven of the World Series, a sold-out Nashville crowd and a Nashville World Series win. Could you imagine what Broadway Street would be like that night?
Nashville, Tennessee, the city with 692,587 baseball-starved residents, would make a great home for an expansion or relocation team. The MLB has been trying to reach a bigger target audience in Southeastern Conference (SEC) country, and Nashville is the perfect spot for that.
Nashville is already a great sports city, as it has held the SEC Basketball tournament every year since 2013. It’s also home to a College Football Bowl game, an NFL team, an MLS team and an NHL team.
Ranking 29th in the U.S. for Media Market, a team in Nashville would expand MLB’s market not only to all of Tennessee but also parts of Arkansas, the Carolinas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Not only would it expand to SEC country, but fans in Tennessee are fairly loyal, especially in Nashville. In 2021, the Tennessee Titans (which are located in Nashville) averaged 68,566 fans a game, which was about 99.2 percent of their stadium. With loyal fans starved for baseball, Nashville’s atmosphere would be out of this world.
Speaking of attendance in Nashville, the Nashville Sound, the minor league affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers, had the highest attendance per game last season. The people in Nashville love baseball, and it shows.
The Minor League team is not the only baseball team to come through Nashville. From the late 1930s to the early 1950s, there were the Nashville Stars. The Stars were a semi-pro team in the Negro League baseball team. The Stars were never a part of the MLB, but instead, they were part of the Negro Major League (NML) and the Negro Southern League as well.
The Stars weren’t Nashville's only Negro League team, as a dominant team was on the rise in the early 1930s known as the Nashville Elite Giants. The Elite Giants moved to Baltimore in 1938, but their impact on Nashville will be forever lasting as players like Sammy Hughes, Jim “Junior” Gilliam and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes are all honored with street names, murals and photos across the city.
The ballpark the Nashville Stars and Nashville Elite Giants played in is known as Sulphur Dell, which was demolished in 1969 and rebuilt into First Horizon Park. The diamond has seen some all time greats come through as players like Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays Hays and Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige all drew sold out crowds at this park. Though those players never played for the Stars or Elite Giants, they did play for opposing teams. Sulphur Dell was also home of the 1932 Negro Southern League Championship. This was really the big awakening of baseball in the Music City.
The expansion to Nashville isn’t unlikely as multiple teams, like the Athletics and Rays, are considering moving cities in order to increase revenue and attendance. A group of investors named “Music City Baseball” has put together the money to build a new baseball stadium in Nashville. The stadium is set to be built in 2025 and will be used in 2026 if a team takes over. The group of investors includes country music stars and other locals, so you can probably expect to see concerts after the games, which would also draw in more people for the games.
Some notable investors include businessman John Loar, former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, music stars Darius Rucker and Justin Timberlake, and the newest person on board is former MLB first basemen and manager Don Mattingly.
The stadium that the investors are looking to build has not yet found a home, but there are some rumored locations where the stadium could be built. One of the biggest rumored spots for the build is next to Ted Rhodes Park on the corner of Walter Davis Boulevard and Ed Temple Boulevard. The site assessment is rumored to start within the next several months if things go smoothly.
With the MLB looking to expand or relocate teams, it’ll be interesting to see where they land, but it definitely seems that Nashville is a legitimate contender for a new or relocated MLB team.
The Queen City would be perfect for an MLB expansion team
Calvin Scott is a first-year media major who writes for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Charlotte, North Carolina, should undoubtedly be the number one candidate for cities up for an MLB expansion or relocation team in the near future.
The city is ranked the 16th most populous city in the United States with a population of 874,579, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
The population should most definitely matter in the course of outreach to spectators as Charlotte has more people than other cities with MLB teams such as Pittsburgh (300,431), San Francisco (815,201), Cleveland (367,991) and it has twice as many people as Miami (439,890).
Charlotte is more than capable of getting fans aboard to the love of America’s pastime. The city of Charlotte is home to three major professional sports teams: the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, Charlotte Hornets of the NBA and the newly established Charlotte FC of Major League Soccer.
There is a team in every major professional league in the state of North Carolina except for baseball. The Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL play in the state capital, Raleigh.
Charlotte already has the foundation for an MLB expansion team. The city is home to the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, the Charlotte Knights. They play at Truist Ballpark in uptown Charlotte.
Don't get me wrong now, it may sound silly, but although it is a minor league ballpark and the capacity is 10,200, I truly believe the city of Charlotte can reinvent the stadium with an all-out blueprint.
When you take into account where Charlotte is geographically, the city has all the outreach in the Carolinas. The city is surrounded by a bunch of other major cities in the North Carolina and South Carolina areas. Those include Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Rock Hill and Spartansburg. All the audiences of these areas need a team to root for, and a team in Charlotte would bring that all the way in.
That whole region of the United States doesn't really have an MLB team to support. Other than the monotonous teams in Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins, people in the south only have the Atlanta Braves to claim as their team.
The perfect name for the expansion team would be the Charlotte Aviators because of the history associated with North Carolina and the Wright Brothers. The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were trailblazers in the American aviation field, they are mostly recognized for inventing, constructing and flying the first successful motored airplane. The Wright Brothers moved to Kittyhawk, North Carolina to start the journey of their gliding and flying experiments. Ultimately, the Wright Brothers flew the first successful airplane in Kittyhawk where they traveled in the air across the North Carolina coastline.