“Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos.” by Jonah Keri
Baseball, history, Expos
March 25, 2014
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
The Montreal Expos provided many interesting stories during their 36 years of existence, both on and off the field. Sportswriter Jonah Keri, who was also a fan of the team, covers their history in this fun-to-read account of the franchise.
Starting with the scramble to obtain players and a suitable stadium for the inaugural 1969 season, Keri captures the adventures and misadventures of the franchise with humor, knowledge and the viewpoint that a devoted fan provides, which was surprisingly objective as well.
The objectivity comes mainly from describing the many business decisions that resulted in star players leaving. One example is when after the team compiled the best record in the 1994 season in which the World Series was not played due to a player’s strike, the ownership group ordered general manager Kevin Malone to dump four of the team’s highest paid players in one week. Keri’s account of that fire sale did not read like a disgruntled fan – while criticizing the move, he did note that it did achieve the short term goals, but that it was just that – “a short-sighted glimpse of the situation.”
His accounts of the eventual ownership by Major League Baseball and his criticism of an ownership group that would not contribute the required money to keep the operations going that resulted in one man (Jeffrey Loria) obtaining 93% of the team was also surprisingly objective for someone who was a fan of the team. Other business matters such as losing broadcasting rights to the southern Ontario market and only online broadcasting in the early 2000’s were covered in the same manner.
This doesn’t mean that Keri only wrote about the front office. His accounts of the 36 seasons of Expos baseball on the field was just as good, especially when writing about the stars and beloved players who wore the red, white and blue of the team. His prose about the sad story of Ellis Valentine, the heartbreak of “Blue Monday” when Rick Monday homered to propel the Dodgers to victory over the Expos in the 1981 National League Championship Series and the excitement of the surprise run in 1994. Those passages are great reading for any baseball fan, whether or not he or she was an Expos fan.
One question that many ask is when was the point where the Expos started to show signs that they were in trouble. Keri’s account offers several times both on and off the field, but the most interesting one was when he described the apex of success for the team on the field as the 1982 All-Star game which Montreal hosted. It was at that time when the Expos were having their longest stretch of sustained success and had five players represent them at that All-Star game. While questionable at first to me, he makes a good point why he felt that way. That is an example of what Keri does throughout the book – makes points of why he believed something happened and uses solid evidence to support that claim.
This is a very entertaining and informative book that any reader who is interested in the history of this colorful team, whether a fan or not, will enjoy.
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