Wild Scene of Triumph in Montreal

Filed under Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals
April 14, 1969

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You know something special is happening when fans bypass exits, parking lots, and taverns to head straight to the advance ticket windows and beg for more. That was the scene in Montreal on April 14 when they lined up to buy more ducats seconds after the Expos had brought big league baseball to Montreal, by edging the Cardinals 12-10, with a script that would make Frank Merriwell blush.

Employing the rousing fireworks and nail-biting fumbling that had typified their every game, the Expos let it all hang out for a mob of 29,184 enraptured customers who came to cheer at Jarry Park. They left wanting more. It was the miracle of Jarry Park. No more than four days ago, the Expos’ brass feared the game might never happen, but every piece fell into place and Mayor Jean Drapeau added a little of his sunshine to round out a perfect day. Working continued around the clock to finish off the stadium. All that was missing were a few seats in the corners of the park and a perfect playing field, but even the super-critical athletes were willing to abide the discomfort.

The game drew international attention as more than 200 reporters covered the event, several of them syndicated U.S. columnists who wrote beautiful words about Montreal, the energy of its populace and the ingenuity of those who built a ball park in five months. “The design is the same as the first stadium in Houston but everything about it seems much better,” said Rusty Staub, the big man in the new scene. Or, as Don Bosch, would say, “It must be great – it’s major league, isn’t it?” It was the first major league game ever played outside the U.S. and it seemed to be an instant replay of all the great plays and great goofs that have happened in the 100 years when only Americans could enjoy the game.

The Expos jumped to a two run lead in the first inning on a home run by cleanup hitter Mack Jones. The ball flew over the right field fence and electrified the already jubilant fans. In the fourth, Bob Bailey doubled the lead with a two-run clout of his own into the left field bleachers. But the Cardinals, who have fallen flat out of the gate, woke up to cut the lead to 4-3 in the fifth. With runners on the corners, home plate umpire Mel Steiner called a balk on Expos starter Larry Jaster. The call flustered Jaster who walked his counterpart, Nelson Briles. Lou Brock followed with a double over the head of Bosch to score Julian Javier and Briles.

But the Expos responded promptly with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Three singles loaded the bases with two outs, and Jones beat out an infield single to extend the inning and lead to 5-3. Bailey singled to right to score two more runs, but was cut down at second as he drew the cutoff throw to end the inning. Curt Flood tied the game at seven in the seventh with a three run home run off Jaster. But again, the resilient Expos countered quickly with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Bosch singled and stole second base. Maury Wills plated him with a ringing single through the hole at third. Staub singled, and Wills scored when the usually reliable Javier bobbled what could have been a double play grounder by Jones. The Cardinals did escape when Bailey did hit into an inning ending double play.

Dan McGinn could not hold the Expos’ lead as he did in Chicago three days ago. St. Louis dinked around the southpaw for five singles, the final one off the bat of Flood scored two putting the visitors ahead for the first time all afternoon. It was short-lived as Montreal catcher John Bateman homered to tie the game at ten to lead off the bottom of the eighth. With two outs, Maury Wills doubled home a pair of runs with a drive over the head of Pinson. Montreal led once again and for the final time as Texan and the former Astro, Carroll Sembera, closed the Redbirds out in order in the top of the ninth.

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