Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 21, No. 2, 2022
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Robert J. Lewis
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Jason McDonald
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Louis René Beres
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Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Jordan Adler
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Daniel Charchuk
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Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
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Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





Donald Dewey has written some 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as contributed scores of stories to magazines and other periodicals. He has also had some 30 plays staged in Europe and the United States. Dewey was editor of the ASME-award winning magazine Attenzione and was editorial director of the East-West Network, overseeing a dozen in-flight magazines and the PBS organ Dial. Don's latest book, Nullo, is now available.

One question that lingered after the 1994-95 major league baseball lockdown is how Montreal was maneuvered into underwriting some of the bill for it.

No other city has not only been such a big fig leaf for baseball racism but played the stooge so readily for its biggest scandal since segregation. Old habits are hard to break, especially when they have been so successful.

There have already been several incarnations of a Montreal franchise, the first of which operated as a minor league club between the end of the nineteenth century and World War I. In 1928 a group of businessmen that included Charles Trudeau, the father and grandfather of future prime ministers, relaunched a team in the high minors dubbed the Royals. With war clouds in Europe beginning to squeeze long-range capital prospects for Commonwealth countries, the franchise was ripe for a takeover by the major league Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939. In pure baseball terms, the Dodger ownership produced a galaxy of future Hall of Fame players, including Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Roberto Clemente, Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, and managers Walter Alston and Tommy LaSorda. But Montreal has never been just baseball.

Most obviously, the city was the first home in organized white ball for Robinson, signed by the parent Dodgers prior to the 1946 season by Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey and Montreal president Hector Racine. The latter had to cosign the agreement to maintain the fiction that it was a totally minor league transaction and that Rickey had no intention of breaking the major league color barrier that had been enforced since the 1880s. Again strictly in baseball terms, even ardent champions of the move accepted that Rickey was right to measure Robinson's talents at a Triple A level before committing to a social crusade in Brooklyn. Robinson more than delivered, leading Montreal to a championship and becoming Canada's most popular player. Rickey's gamble that Montreal could serve as a decompression chamber away from decades of racial bias turned out to be the seminal tactic in creating Brooklyn's fabled Boys of Summer teams.

The Dodgers maintained control of the Royals until 1960, when team president Walter O'Malley used what became a familiar alibi in saying that attendance had become unsustainable and letting the team go to Syracuse. What he actually found unsustainable after the 1957 relocation of the Dodgers to Los Angeles was having to supervise the farm club across a continent, not least having to shell out substantial air fares for promotions and demotions. Through the 1960s O'Malley, the first among owner equals, made periodic sounds about supporting major league expansion into Montreal. What he hadn't foreseen was the American League beating him to the punch in 1969, expanding to Kansas City and Seattle, forcing a hasty National League expansion to Montreal (and San Diego). The Royals were back, but because Kansas City had gotten to the nickname first, they were now the Expos.

Through good, bad, and mediocre seasons, the Expos were a team of individual stars (Andre Dawson, Gary Carter) more than an all-star team. For much of their existence they also played in a white elephant of an arena left over from the 1976 Olympic Games where the stands seemed to come alive only if somebody rattled the seats up to the closed-in roof to echoing effect. It didn't take long for players to refer to the park as a funeral parlor, and that was just one source of grumbling. Another, gradually felt in boardrooms as much as in player wallets, was the volatility between a U.S. and a Canadian dollar, persuading some Expos that they made less than their contracts stipulated. The owners didn't like all the currency exchange numbers, either, and became less and less subtle about moving the franchise.

The standard explanation for the move to Washington in 2005 was that attendance alibi again. What is overlooked is that club owners, including those with the Expos, did all that was possible to assure that outcome. Step One was to unload through trade or free agency superior players who were indeed attracting fans. Among those sent off for little return in the late 1990s were future Cooperstown residents Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, and Tim Raines. Was there any greater proof that the team's progressively apathetic play confirmed that Canada was a hockey country, not one for baseball?

Step Two was the players strike of 1994, which ran through the World Series, providing owners with a second justification for closing up in what was branded a suspect market. The assertion still heard today that the strike made Expos fans stay away from the team and cause the move to Washington lacks only one ingredient -- fact. In spite of the dispatch of star players and the frigid atmosphere of the home park, as well as relatively miserable play on an artificial sod diamond, the Expos outdrew nine other teams in the turning-point year of 1995 and increased even that gate count a year later. Although the Mets and Giants were among the clubs behind them, the sportswriters and league officials distracted by all the hockey in Canada didn't claim that New Yorkers were mainly interested in marathon races or San Franciscans in shelling clams.

But the attendance question, while it might not have even been raised with a better ballpark, was a shadow play in any case. One didn't even have to believe in the widely reported stories that Expos officials were getting bonuses for every top-salaried player they managed to get off the books by dumping on another club. Far more basic to all the antics -- played down by a docile media -- was the October 1995 Quebec separatist referendum, which might have been defeated but so narrowly that MLB had nightmares about its Park Avenue headquarters acquiring a French accent if not immediately, eventually. American control of the national pastime had never been intended to mean some generic North American control. It is the terms of that control that would once again determine the genuineness of any new invasion of Canada.


Also by Donald Dewey:
Sorry For Your Troubles
The Odd Trio
Baseball After Hours
Ebbets Field: Where Legens Were Made
Capricorn Three
Baseball, Myth, and the Gods of Summer Pt. I
Baseball, Myth and the Gods of Summer Pt. II
Double Bill
Heroes and Victims
The Relationships Conundrum
The Finger
Smoke Blowers
Noticing Death
Passive Resistance
Not Playing It Safe
The Expectation Medium
Crisis in Critics
Words Not to Live By
Knowing the Killer
Racism to the Rescue
Punk Times
Not Playing It Safe
Meeting the Author
The Overwriting Syndrome
Writers As Ideas
Let Them Entertain Us
It's a Kindergarten Life
Being and Disconnectedness
History of Humour in the Cinema
Cartoon Power


Don Dewey's latest book, entitled Nullo, is about Danny, a reporter for a New York daily, who receives a deus ex machina for his frazzled life when a bureaucratic snafu sends the wrong coffin from Italy. Soon, he finds himself assigned to Rome to escort the sister of the man who should have been in the coffin.

As he accompanies her dance through Italian red tape, he realizes two things -- that he is in love with her and that he is far more interested in the story of the Italian whose body had been sent to New York than in that of her deceased brother. The dilemma becomes only more complicated when a third body is found to have been misplaced and when one of the three turns out not to be very dead.

You can purchase Nullo through Sunbury Press at or anywhere books are sold.











Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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