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Throwback Expos day at D.C. baseball game divides Montrealers — and Americans

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MONTREAL — An Expos throwback day at the Washington Nationals’ ballpark has divided Montrealers, with some cheering the vintage uniforms donned by players Saturday afternoon as an overdue homage and others chastising the move as an “insult” to their baseball forebears.

The Nationals — created after the Expos moved to Washington in 2005 — announced this week they would tout the powder blue away jerseys and pants along with the vintage caps sported by Montreal players in their inaugural season 50 years ago.

The gimmick fits into a night of retro theatrics at Nationals Stadium that includes 1960s pop tunes, a stylized “M” on the scoreboard, a ceremonial first pitch thrown by newly inducted Expos Hall-of-Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. — and, of course, some poutine and smoked meat among the concessions.

While the stadium features a “ring of honour” that includes Expos legends like Gary Carter and Tim Raines, the Nationals’ northern roots go largely unacknowledged in D.C., according to observers.

“It’s very pick-and-choosy and it’s super weird,” said Montreal-based journalist and talk radio host Dave Kaufman.

Tributes to all-stars such as Tim Wallach remain virtually absent from the park, he said. “They left it so that Montrealers, at least in my opinion, still have no love for this team.”

But Kaufman isn’t among the disgruntled.

“I think it’s a nod to the history of the franchise,” he said. “I look at this as an advertisement for the city of Montreal that’s being done in the capital of the United States.”

The debate comes amid rising emotions and renewed hopes for an Expos reincarnation in Quebec’s biggest city. “It’s these kind of side glances and small smiles,” Kaufman said.

Stephen Bronfman — son of former Expos owner Charles Bronfman — has long pushed for a hometown revival. Late last month he praised a “groundbreaking” plan for the Tampa Bay Rays to split games between Montreal and Florida.

Sylvain Tremblay, who co-leads the Encore Baseball Montreal social media group, said he’s “looking forward instead of thinking about past problems” — but he can’t speak for his city.

“Basically they stole our team, and so on. That’s the way some people think in Montreal,” said Tremblay, whose group has more than 6,200 followers on Facebook and Twitter. “For them, it’s an insult.”

“The Washington Nationals wearing my Montreal Expos old uniform feels like a slap to the face,” complained one Twitter user who says he lives in an off-island suburb.

Quebeckers aren’t the only ones turned off by the marketing stunt.

Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro called it a “cheap, lazy, thoughtless promotion,” indicating that any claim to a connection between the two teams seems as distasteful as American poutine.

To have Guerrero tossing the opening pitch is to “celebrate a corpse,” he suggested, and posited that D.C. should look to its own past, which includes the Washington Senators who took off for Texas in the early 1970s.

Commenters tended to agree, with one asking rhetorically: “why do we give a rats arse about Montreal?” Another local tweeted that the throwback jersey “manages to disrespect both Expos fans and fans of both Senators teams” (there were two iterations).

Nonetheless, fans cheered late Saturday afternoon as Canada’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, introduced the Nationals after the loudspeakers blared out, “Mesdames et messieurs, ladies and gentlemen, your Expos.” Between plays the scoreboard piped out scenes of Expos lore, like Gary Carter celebrating a postseason victory in 1981, the only year the team reached the playoffs.

The shared bond of grief may offer a bridge between the two cities — the last two in Major League Baseball to see teams decamp for other climes.

“They know what kind of pain we have, because they had it in ’71,” Tremblay said. “What can you do? You don’t take care of your girlfriend — now she’s gone.”

But hope is back in the air in Montreal, mingling with the heady musk of nostalgia.

“The Expos were my youth. They were one of the great joys of my life,” Kaufman said. “I have not held that same passion about a sports team since they left.

“It didn’t matter that they never won a World Series. It didn’t matter that they were overall under .500 for my baseball-watching career,” he said.

“They were my team and I loved them and I miss them so much.”

The Canadian Press

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Local Sports

PARKER THOMPSON BREAKS NEW GROUND WITH INCREDIBLE TWO SERIES WEEKEND AT TORONTO INDY

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Parker Thompson representing Abel Sports in Toronto Indy

From Parker Thompson Racing

TORONTO, ONTARIO

Parker Thompson may be the busiest road racing driver on the continent. Since March, the young Alberta native has raced 27 times in four different series. Challenging for championship titles in both open-wheel race cars and sports cars, Thompson has shown incredible skill and versatility. That was most evident this weekend when Thompson raced in both the Indy Pro 2000 by Cooper Tires series, and the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series as part of the Honda Indy Toronto event. With four alternating races, Thompson demonstrated an adaptability seldom seen in motorsports. In an incredible performance, he earned three podium finishes and the Yokohama Tires Hard Charger award. The result puts an exclamation mark on his accomplishments so far this year, and further reinforces his status as one of the continents top young drivers.

With a busy ten session schedule over the three day weekend, Thompson could often be seen hurrying between the Porsche GT3 and Indy Pro 2000 paddocks located at opposite ends of the event site in downtown Toronto. Competing in two series during the same event presented a variety of challenges not typical of most race weekends.

“There is a lot of work and preparation that goes into every single session we do on the race track. Balancing two different series this weekend would never have been possible without incredible support from my teams, Abel Motorsports [Indy Pro 2000] and Sports Car Boutique [IMSA GT3 Canada]. Getting the maximum out of two very different cars was a tremendous challenge. The Porsche GT3 Cup Car, and the Tatuus PM-18 Indy Pro 2000 car are not only very different in size and handling characteristics, but they also require a very different strategy and approach during race action. Going back and forth between vehicles, and jumping straight into race pace really tested my concentration and ability to remember key markers and set-up notes for this very unforgiving Streets of Toronto track. This was probably my most stressful weekend of racing ever, but I’m overjoyed by our results! In these two highly competitive series, I always feel blessed to stand on the podium. Doing that three out of four times this weekend feels like a huge achievement.” – Parker Thompson

The first of three podiums came with Abel Motorsports in Indy Pro 2000, where Thompson began his first race of the weekend from seventh position in the thirteen car line up. Navigating traffic and multiple yellow flag incidents on the challenging street course, Thompson maneuvered the #8 Abel Motorsports car to a 3rd place finish.

Race 2 in Indy Pro 2000 featured a relentless duel between Thompson and championship leader Rasmus Lindh. Starting in P3 and P2 respectively, the two drivers exchanged places multiple times early in the race. Thompson would make a final pass in turn 3 of the Toronto street course, and hold off Lindh for the remainder of the race to earn a second place finish.

Parker Thompson Toronto Indy 2nd Place

In GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, Thompson began Race 1 from 7th position after a heavy rain prior to race start created conditions that challenged a variety of drivers and teams. In a clear demonstration of car control, Thompson navigated the #3 SCB Racing / Porsche Centre Victoria car around the drying track, executing four passes in the first seven laps. The performance earned him the Yokohama Tires Hard Charger Award, and the final step on the podium.

Parker Thompson 3rd place in Toronto

In Race 2 of GT3 Canada, a rare mistake from Thompson saw his Porsche make contact with a tire wall in turn eight. Continuing the race from the back of the field, a lengthy yellow flag resulting from a crash between drivers Metni and Dussault allowed Thompson to rejoin the main group and improve his position. Piloting a car with front end damage, he would work his way up to 5th position before the 45-minute race expired.

This incredible weekend marked the 100th race of Thompson’s young career, and performing double duty was a fitting celebration of that milestone. Since 2015, Thompson has had a steady career, earning wins in every type of car he has raced. In one-hundred races, he has earned 55 podiums and 26 race wins. His lifetime winning and podium percentages are outstanding by any measure, but Thompson’s numbers this season are even more impressive. In 2019, he has won exactly a third of his races, and placed on the podium more than three quarters of the time.

After one weekend off, Thompson will resume his busy schedule on July 26th with three consecutive race weekends in Indy Pro 2000, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, and the Canadian Touring Car Championship. He is currently second place in overall championship standings for Indy Pro 2000 and GT3 Canada, and he is leading the Canadian Touring Car Championship GTS standings.

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Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

Innisfail hosts Sports Hall of Fame Golf Tournament August 8th- Reserve your spot!

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As your plans and commitments for this summer start to fill your calendar, we hope that you have had a chance to set aside August 8 for the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum annual golf tournament.

On August 8, 2019, we will be having our annual golf tournament at Innisfail Golf Club. The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame has strived to preserve and celebrate Alberta’s exceptional athletes, builders, pioneers, and teams for over 62 years. Each year the Golf Tournament brings together our Honoured Members, Inductees, sporting organizations and the community for a great day of golf and networking. The Golf Tournament is a major fundraiser for ASHFM and allows us to continue to bring sports history and education to Albertans and inspire the future Hall of Famers. Your support in the past few years is very much appreciated and we hope that you will be one of our special guests this year.  I have enclosed the tournament sponsorship opportunities and a golf registration if you would like to join us for our Golf Tournament this year.

Please call Kayli at 403-341-8614 if you have any questions or concerns regarding our golf tournament sponsorship or participation.

Click to visit the website.

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