Over 50,000 turn out for MLB at Olympic Stadium Saturday
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 4:33PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 29, 2014 6:33PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Montreal baseball fans showed their love for the sport Saturday as over 50,000 jammed the Olympic Stadium following a night which saw another 45,000 walk through turnstiles to watch major league baseball in Montreal for the first time since 2004.
The event was organized by concert promoter Evenko and the Montreal Baseball Project, headed by former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie and was also designed as a salute to the 1994 team, which at 74-40 had the best record in the majors before the lockout ended the season.
Darrin Fletcher, Marquis Grisson, Denis Boucher, Felipe Alou, Cliff Floyd, Tim Scott, Joey Eischen, Larry Walker and Moises Alou were among the 1994 Expos present for the celebration of their feats.
John McHale Jr., an MLB vice-president whose father was the Expos' original president, was impressed with the turnout. Montreal saw its team move to Washington in 2004 largely due to lack of fans.
"This market had likely lost the intense enthusiasm it once had for major league baseball, so I think this requires us to recalibrate our estimation of how popular our sport might be," said McHale Jr., who said he met with Cromartie. "They're in an unpredictable process with no certainty of success," he said.
For many fans, the game itself was of secondary importance. But for those keeping track, Melky Cabrera's two-run home run in the eighth inning gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 2-0 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday and a sweep of their two-game pre-season series held at an Olympic Stadium packed with former Montreal Expos fans.
Moises Sierra was on third with two out when Cabrera pounded an offering from lefty Adam Kolarek over the left-field wall to break a scoreless tie.
Toronto (16-13 in pre-season play) had beaten the Mets 5-4 on Ricardo Nanita's ninth-inning single before 46,121 on Friday night. The Mets ended their pre-season at 14-16.
The games were organized mainly to show the world that Montreal wants major league baseball back. The fans response was overwhelming, with a total of 96,350 attending the two games, mostly chanting "Let's go Expos" and "We want baseball."
It wasn't as joyous for one unidentified fan who suffered serious injuries Friday night when he fell from the outfield bleachers onto the stadium's concrete floor. Police ruled it an accident.
Jays starter Brandon Morrow pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and striking out eight. The Mets' Daisuke Matsusaka didn't allow a run in five innings, also striking out eight but conceding five hits.
The Blue Jays had a chance in the fourth with two on and one out, but Matsusaka got Brett Lawrie on a short fly to centre and struck out Colby Rasmus to end the threat. Aaron Sanchez pitched two innings for the win.
-With a file from The Canadian Press
Former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou shakes hands with Larry Walker and Cliff Floyd, left, as members of the 1994 Expos are introduced prior to a pre-season game with the Toronto Blue Jays facing the New York Mets Saturday, March 29, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
A fan shows his appreciation as members of the 1994 team are introduced prior to a pre-season game with the Toronto Blue jays facing the New York Mets Saturday, March 29, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Former Montreal Expos Darren Fletcher, Larry Walker, manager Felipe alou and Denis Boucher, left to right, line up as members of the 1994 team are introduced prior to a pre-season game with the Toronto Blue jays facing the New York Mets Saturday, March 29, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toronto Blue Jays' Moises Sierra is tagged out at home by New York Mets' Travis d'Arnaud to end the third inning during a pre-season game Saturday, March 29, 2014 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)