The 1994 MLB season appeared gravely threatened in the 1993-4 offseason as negotiations broke down between the MLB Players' Association and owners for a new labor contract. A strike date was set for August 12, 1994. On August 9, after a tense series of meetings with MLBPA representatives and federal mediators, the owners agreed to withdraw their demand for a salary cap; the MLBPA agreed to the revised terms of the contract, effectively averting the strike at the eleventh hour.
1994 Regular Season
Felipe Alou's Montreal Expos (105-57) finished with the best record in baseball; the New York Yankees (97-65) were the best team in the American League. Other teams reaching the playoffs in 1994 included the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians of the American League and the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros of the National League. The Athletics (73-89) had the dubious distinction of winning their division despite a losing record. This was the first year in which each league had three divisions.
Perhaps the biggest story in 1994 concerned San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Williams and his quest to break Roger Maris's 1961 record for home runs in a season (61). Williams ultimately beat Maris's record with 63 home runs. He would later be elected National League MVP over Houston's Jeff Bagwell. Fans also followed San Diego's Tony Gwynn and his quest to hit .400 in a single season, though ultimately he fell short.
This was the first season that included permanent division series (the system was previously set up in 1981 due to a strike). Coincidentally, 1981 was the only previous year in which the Expos had reached the playoffs. In the NL Division Series, Montreal swept Los Angeles and Cincinnati ultimately dispached Houston. In the NLCS the Expos beat the Reds in five games, sending them to their first World Series ever.
In the American League the Yankees made short work of the hapless A's while the Indians narrowly upset Chicago. In the ALCS the Yankees swept the Indians to reach the World Series.
1994 World Series: Montreal vs. New York
Game 1: At Yankee Stadium
The first game saw a matchup between two aces, Montreal's Ken Hill and New York's Jimmy Key. Key gave up two runs in the second inning and three in the fourth, and despite scoring four runs later on the Yankees were unable to make up the deficit as the Expos won Game 1. Final score: Montreal 6, New York 4. Hill was credited with the win; Key was the losing pitcher.
Game 2: At Yankee Stadium
Montreal's Pedro Martinez faced Jim Abbott in Game 2. Despite scoring two runs in the first inning the Expos would fall behind in the fourth inning on a grand slam by Bernie Williams and were unable to regain the lead as the Yankees evened the series. Final score: New York 7, Montreal 3. Abbott was the winning pitcher, Martinez the loser.
Game 3: At Olympic Stadium
A rather tight, high-scoring matchup between the Expos' Melido Perez and the Yankees' Jeff Fassero was ultimately decided by a Rondell White line drive in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Mike Lansing to break a tie. The Expos held on to win and take a 2-1 lead in the series. Final score: Montreal 6, New York 5. (WP Mel Rojas, LP Bob Wickman.)
Game 4: At Olympic Stadium
What had been a scoreless pitchers' duel between Montreal's Kirk Reuter and Terry Mulholland of the Yankees was blown wide open in the seventh and eighth innings thanks to a two-run homer by Darrin Fletcher and a strong rally led by Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker and Wil Cordero. The Expos took a 3-1 Series lead, putting them on the cusp of a world championship. Final score: Montreal 8, New York 0. (WP Reuter, LP Mulholland.)
Game 5: At Olympic Stadium
On the brink of elimination, Buck Showalter chose to start Jimmy Key again against Butch Henry in an attempt to force the Series back to the Bronx. Down 3-2 in the ninth inning, with one out remaining, the Yankees manage to score Bernie Williams off a single by pinch hitter Danny Tartabull, forcing the game into extra innings. The game, one of the most dramatic World Series games in recent memory, culminated in an Expos rally in the bottom of the tenth started by Moises Alou; it ended with a single by Darrin Fletcher that scored Alou and delivered Montreal its first-ever world championship. Final score: Montreal 4, New York 3. (WP Jeff Shaw, LP Sterling Hitchcock.)
The Expos won the 1994 World Series against the Yankees four games to one, a historic first for the once-hapless franchise. 1994 marked the third straight world title for a Canadian team. Expos shortstop Wil Cordero was named the Series MVP.
Undoubtedly the 1994 season had the greatest impact on the Montreal Expos. With the added revenue and greatly enhanced interest in the team resulting from their victory, the Expos were able to hold on to several of their stars including Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom and Cliff Floyd (though they did trade Moises Alou to the Yankees for pitching prospect Mariano Rivera). Though they fell to the eventual world champion Braves in the 1995 NLCS, the Expos would go on to win championships in 1997, 1998 and 2001, becoming one of the three preeminent teams of the period along with the Yankees and Braves.
The Expos' success increased their attendance despite the inadequacies of Olympic Stadium. The team requested public financing for a new stadium in downtown Montreal; Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard opposed the idea, leading to speculation that the team might leave Montreal. However, the Expos were sold in 2002; the new owners were able to negotiate an agreement for partial public financing of the new stadium, thanks to widespread public support caused by the Expos' success. After several delays in construction the Expos opened Labatt Park in 2009 to wide acclaim.
to be continued