Several years ago, MLB decided it would be a good idea to have a couple of teams in Canada. It seemed weird at the time, but the Toronto Blue Jays were born in 1977 and Montreal Expos were born in 1969. Predictably, as expansion teams. there were a few dismal years in the beginning. The Blue Jays lost over 100 games their first three seasons. They played at Exhibition Stadium, which had been built in 1879. Yes, that's right. 1879. Quick! Name the Blue Jays' first manager. Oh, forget it. His name was Roy Hartsfield. Who?
The Expos started quicker out of the gate. They only lost 100 games their first year (1969) and they started their existence with a big name manager in Gene Mauch. They played in a quickly little park called Jarry Park. The place is now a tennis stadium of all things. At least it's still around. Exhibition Stadium was demolished in 1999, 120 years after it was first erected.
Neither team did well at the box office to begin with. The Expos had an old time manager and Rusty Staub (Le Grand Orange) became a real hero. After the Mauch years, Dick Williams took over and he was one of the great all time managers. Mauch had longevity, but Williams had results. And the Expos did quite well at the gate from 1979 to around 1984. It is easy to wonder what it would have been like in Montreal if the strike hadn't shortened the 1981 season which was probably the best team the Expos ever assembled. But as we all know, it all went down hill after those years until the team was taken over by the MLB and moved to Washington, D. C.
The Blue Jays had to deal with the strike in only their fourth year of operation. That was awful timing for them. But after the strike (when the team was lousy anyway), the team steadily improved under several good managers like Bobby Cox, Jimy Williams and then Cito Gaston. The team exploded in attendance from the late 80s to about the mid 90s. Skydome was the wonder of the world and fans went their in droves.
Since those heady days, the Blue Jays have slowly declined and have become an afterthought in the American League East. They wouldn't be mentioned much at all if it weren't for all that Roy Halladay business for the last thirteen months. SkyDome isn't the buzzing place to go anymore and unfortunately, it isn't even called SkyDome anymore.
The teams north of the border always had a couple of obstacles to begin with. First, every road trip takes them through customs, which has to be a major drag. Next, salaries are not the same since the Canadian dollar and the U. S. dollar are rarely the same. Signing free agents is difficult because of the dollar obstacles.
The Fan lives right next door to Quebec. Montreal is only six hours from here. But the Expos were never buzz worthy. The Canadians of hockey, now that was the passion of sports fans in Quebec. But Toronto fans are avid and passionate. There just isn't as many as their used to be. The Fan has gotten acquainted with some of the bloggers that write up there and has come to appreciate just how good they are at covering their teams. Sites like Sports And the City and TaoofStieb are well written and show the same kind of savvy and passion as any city in MLB.
All of which is great to learn about. The Fan has always believed that when it comes to Canada, U.S. citizens are snobs. School kids in Canada could name off every U. S. state and their capital cities. Ask any kid in the U. S. to name two Canadian provinces and you'll get a blank stare. People in this country make jokes about mounties and moose and the word, "eh." Canadians are considered American wannabes (as if). Canada is the home of many proud families that fled the colonies during the Revolution if they wanted to stay loyal to the kind. That should be a source of pride, but instead is scorned over here and those people are labeled as Tories.
Living so close to Canada, the Fan has really had his eyes opened about that country. For example, if you want to be a teacher over there, you have to obtain a degree in some four year subject and THEN take a year of teaching courses. Imagine how much better our teachers would be if we did that? The coastline of New Brunswick is absolutely gorgeous. The Bay of Fundy is fascinating. Prince Edward Island is totally different than anywhere else on the east coast.
Personally, it would be thrilling to go to Toronto. It seems like a really cool city. Quebec City is probably the most romantic city in North America. But Toronto seems like one of the coolest. Perhaps some day the Fan will get a chance to visit there.
Oh. One last story about this meandering post that doesn't seem to have any point or substance (oh well). The Fan's wife is one of the U. S. snobs. No offense, dear, but you are. Back in 2000, the Fan went to Illinois to help his wife to be move from that state to Maine. The best route was to go through Canada instead of across the states, so that is what we did.
Well, the Fan's wife only drinks one thing from the minute she wakes up until the moment she goes to bed and that is Diet Mountain Dew. She loves the stuff and it's of utmost importance to always have it on hand. Well, it took us parts of three days to travel across Canada going from Illinois to here. We stopped at just about every convenience and grocery store along our route and for some reason, none of them sold Diet Mountain Dew. By the time we made it to Maine, the Fan's wife was pretty much a raving maniac.
Because of that, she still believes that Canada is the most backwards country on the planet and has absolutely nothing but bad thoughts about the country. Unfortunately, she is more the norm than the exception.