Last offseason I posted a bunch of “Turn Back The Clock” blog entries about games I attended in now-defunct stadiums. Two months ago, when MLB announced that Olympic Stadium would host two exhibition games in March 2014, several people asked me to blog about my experience there. Now that the World Series is done and I have some free time, let’s do it — a trip back in time to May 9, 2000 . . .
I woke up in Toronto that day (having just attended two games at SkyDome) and flew to Montreal. I remember that the weather was crappy, and I remember not giving a damn. In fact, I was glad. After all, what’s the point of being trapped inside an ugly, domed stadium if it’s not protecting you from a few raindrops, eh?
The stadium wasn’t just ugly. It was downright bizarre. Here’s a photo of it that I took as my taxi rolled up:
See what I mean?
Here’s a better photo that I took after getting out and walking around:
It might not look huge from this angle, but that weird tower is 175 meters tall. That’s 574 feet, making it the largest inclined tower in the world.
The area surrounding the stadium was desolate:
Then again, the same could be said of the interior; the paid attendance at this game was only 8,845, but you know what? I’m not gonna bash the people of Montreal for not showing up. Why? Because it’s hard to pay when you can’t even find the ticket office. Olympic Stadium was confusing, and since there was no one to ask, I ended up wandering aimlessly for quite some time. Eventually I found it and was pleased to learn that there were only two price options in the entire stadium: $8 and $16. I bought the “expensive” seat and headed inside for batting practice.
The layout of the stadium was awful for ballhawking. The bleachers were deep, the outfield wall was too high, and the cross-aisle at the front of the section felt crowded even with just a few other people positioned nearby. Combine those challenges with the fact that the gates opened just 90 minutes early, and I had a disappointing lack of opportunities.
The Expos were jogging off as I ran out to left field, so all of my baseballs came from the Phillies — three toss-ups from Trever Miller, Robert Person, and Kevin Sefcik, and a home run that I caught on the fly. After BP, I got my fifth ball of the day at the 3rd-base dugout from Phillies coach Ramon Henderson.
Between BP and the game, I wandered and took a few photos from the 1st-base side. Here’s one . . .
. . . and here’s another:
Those two photos can be combined to make a really lame panorama:
By the way, did you notice the size of the “crowd”? The stadium was practically empty, so if I only snagged four balls during BP, you can imagine how tough it was.
Here’s a look at the seats on the 1st-base side:
I didn’t take any photos from the upper deck because it was closed. (I vaguely recall trying unsuccessfully to sneak up there at one point for a foul ball during the game.)
Shortly before game time, I took a photo of Hideki Irabu warming up for his start:
Then I got some some random person to take my picture near the dugout:
Ugh! Blurry! Thanks a lot, random person with shaky hands and no camera skills. That said, I’m even more disappointed with myself for not taking *any* photos inside (or even outside) Olympic Stadium after that — nothing during the game, after the game, or even the following day. WHAT. THE. HELL. WAS. I. THINKING.
All I can say is that the Expos scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to win, 3-2. There were two homers during the game, and I was nowhere near them. Ron Gant hit the first one in the top of the 6th and Vladimir Guerrero went yard in the bottom of the 9th.
After the final out, I found a bunch of ticket stubs:
In general, I used to ask people for their stubs on the way out, but because everyone seemed to speak French at Olympic Stadium, I didn’t bother. I remember all the announcements during the game being in French. It was weird. And fun.
As for my second game in Montreal, I’ll let my journal do most of the talking at the end of this entry. For now, I’ll just list the balls that I snagged:
1) Thrown during BP by Expos pitcher Matt Blank in left field.
2) Thrown on the 3B side by Phillies pitching coach Galen Cisco.
3) Glove trick for a ball on a wooden platform behind the left field wall.
4) Thrown by Phillies outfielder Rob Ducey in left field.
5) Tossed at the 3B dugout by Phillies catcher Tom Prince after infield practice.
(I miss the days when teams took infield/outfield after BP. Sometimes both teams would do it, so I’d have two bonus opportunities to snag baseballs right after BP — one at each dugout. The biggest challenge was always getting past the crabby ushers, but anything was possible.)
6) Pre-game toss-up at the 1B dugout from Expos 3rd baseman Michael Barrett.
7) Foul ball hit by Bobby Abreu in the 3rd inning; grabbed after it landed.
(The fans in Montreal were inconceivably passive about snagging baseballs. Most of them didn’t bother getting up out of their seats to chase foul balls that landed near them. One man didn’t even care enough to reach down and pick up a ball that was slowly trickling past him on an empty staircase during the game. WTF?!)
8) Foul ball down the LF line by an Expos batter; tossed into the seats by Ron Gant.
9) Post-game toss-up at the 3B dugout from some random guy with the Phillies.
(That was lifetime ball No. 1,565.)
The Phillies won, 8-0, behind a four-hit shutout by Robert Person. Then I found some more ticket stubs on the way out:
Oh! I nearly forgot. Before the game, I got a few autographs on the previous days’ stubs. Here’s the best one:
That’s Vladimir Guerrero’s autograph.
Here’s another good one from Ugueth Urbina:
I’m not sure what the deal is with the $6 ticket. Maybe someone had purchased it with a coupon or at a discounted rate through group sales? Well . . . whatever. Check out my original, handwritten journal entries about these two games. The first one starts here when I woke up in Toronto:
These next two pages cover my travel to Montreal and confusion outside the stadium:
Here’s where I wrote about snagging my first few baseballs:
Here I am using Spanish on one page and getting confused by French on the other:
Please forgive all the bleeps. Certain things just can NOT be shared:
Here’s the start of a new entry about Day 2:
Here’s where I snagged two game-used balls:
Here are more details about my attempt to sneak into the upper deck, preceded by a funny story about an annoying fan . . .
. . . and here’s where it ends:
Anyone planning to be in Montreal next year for the exhibition games? (I’ll be in Australia.) If so, I hope this blog entry has given you an idea of what to expect, and for the rest of you, I simply hope it was entertaining.
Finally, here are my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries. Enjoy . . .
1) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
2) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
3) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
4) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
5) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
6) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
7) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
8) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
9) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
10) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium