Book Review – My Turn at Bat – The Sad Saga of the Expos by Claude Brochu

Claude Brochu

 

This is a self-defense book by one of the apparent goats in the Montreal Expos saga. Claude Brochu took the reigns of the Montreal Expos from Charles Bronfman when the distiller magnate wanted out after owning the team since its inception in 1969.This sad story tries to emphasize with some success as to who really was at fault in regards to the failure of the Expos. While Bronfman was able to rub shoulders and demand respect amongst the elite of the MLB owners (Bronfman was richer than them all) the new amalgam of owners that Brochu put together to replace Bronfman and keep him as the CEO was not able to come to conclusion, spend money to make money, not interfere in the management and on the field and expect the all levels of government to support and neutralize any loss.

 

 

 

Brochu touches on all the highs and lows on the field and off. The good years in the early 1990’s when everything was looking up, the Expos were winning, attendance was on the rise, great young prospects had turned into great young stars and the ownership consortium was working.

 

Brochu explains why he supported Selig and the owners during the 1994 work stoppage that cost the Expos an almost guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Brochu is often criticized for his support of MLB at the expense of the season. In short, Brochu writes that he knew that the Expos would not be able to keep their stars with the skyrocketing salaries and the shrinking Canadian Dollar. He had to support MLB and sacrifice the season in an attempt to save baseball in Montreal.

 

The next project that Brochu would venture into was the building of a new ballpark. Olympic Stadium was a white elephant that is still being paid for to this day. Brochu paints a different picture of the Triumvirate of Quebecois Nationalist political leaders (Bouchard, Perizeau and Landry) of the 1990s than most Canadians would remember. The Provincial government in time would not help the Expos. The many futile arguments, “The Expos already have a world-class stadium”, and the biggest croc, “Baseball is not part of the Quebecois culture,” were used to crush the dream of any publicly funded ballpark.

 

While the Montreal based pharmaceutical, grocery and construction giants had come to the aid of the Expos in 1990 when Bronfman sold the team they would not help out significantly in the funding of a new stadium after years of losses.

 

Brochu proves that he looked down all avenues to build a new ballpark and keep the Expos in La Belle Provence. At his wits end, he was going to sell the team to Richard Corry and Molson Brewers who owned the Canadiens Hockey Club and had just built a magnificent hockey palace at private expense. Molson’s wanted nothing to do with the Expos as the hockey arena which was always full was losing money – this also scared away any stragglers. Brochu explains adeptly that it would have been incredibly difficult in the Montreal marketplace of the late 1990’s to have a privately funded stadium built that would in fact, be the only way the Expos could survive.

 

Many myths about the Expos marketing, fan base, media revenues are all combated by Brochu and in a very interesting manner. The Montreal and Province of Quebec market appeared very different than any other baseball market and Brochu seems to have made the other owners and Bud Selig very aware of what was transpiring and what his concerns were.

 

Brochu tries with some success to pass some of the blame that he has taken over the last 10 years onto the ownership consortium that in all effect fired him as president after he was unable to lock up a stadium deal in Montreal. While he was still part of the consortium he was able to sit in on the squabbling and uncouth behavior that Jacques Menard and Jocelyn Proteau treated baseball executives, Selig and other

 

Brochu also defends Selig and explains how he was supportive of the status quo, thought baseball was viable in Montreal and hoped for the best for Brochu and the Expos. However, Selig was snubbed by Quebec politicians and the Jacques Menard ownership group, which soured him to the Expos in the late 1990s.

 

If this sounds bad the chapter in which Brochu goes into depth about the sale of the club to Jeffery Loria is even worse. Brochu paints Loria and his stepson as bullies and sleazy businessmen.

 

After reading this book Canadian baseball fans and Expos fans in-particular can’t help but lift some of the blame off of Claude Brochu and Bud Selig and place it on the upper crust of Montreal business and on the provincial politicians that had no interest in baseball (they let a successful, popular Quebec Nordiques move to Denver to win a Stanley Cup).

 

The baseball owners group is a very executive group and after reading this book I realize that Charles Bronfman was the only man that could truly save baseball in Montreal. He, like Brochu loved the Expos and baseball. They were baseball men and built a great organization and farm system that is now one of the worst ones in baseball as the Washington Nationals and their new owners are finding out.

 

This book is a must-read for Expos fans and anyone who is interested in sports ownership and failing franchises.

 

Written By

  • How old is this book? I’ve never heard of it.

  • Early

    Summer 2002, it is available on amazon.ca for under $10. Expos were still in Montreal when it came out.