Loria quiet on potential return of the Expos

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

JUPITER, Fla. -- To approach him or not to approach him? That was the question facing me Saturday morning.

Just inside the Miami Marlins grounds that are open to the media and not the public, I saw this familiar figure dressed smartly in a bright, checkered shirt, blue trousers and black shoes. That man was Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. He was talking to an unidentified man, who was in civilian clothes.

When I saw that the conversation was winding down, I got brave, stepped up to approach Loria and introduced myself, not knowing if he would remember the name, considering that I had been critical of him regarding his Expos' ownership days in several media stories and in two books I co-authored with Bill Young about the Expos.

"What do you want,'' Loria asked me.

"I was wondering what you thought of the Expos perhaps coming back to Montreal,'' I asked him.

Not surprisingly, the elusive, reclusive Loria, as we all know him to be, walked away, saying, "That's another world. I don't talk about that.'' Then he threw his hands up in the air.

As I walked away a little sheepishly, I started taking some notes and then Loria came back a minute later to say, "Sorry, if it looked like I was walking away on you.''

So that was my opportunity to sneak in another question: "What did you think of the letter Stephen Bronfman wrote?''

Again, Loria walked away, saying, "No comment.''

Loria had his right for not wanting to say much. It's his prerogative. At least he said something.

Some time ago, Bronfman, son of original Expos owner Charles Bronfman, wrote a letter to Loria and all of his fellow major-league owners, pushing Montreal as a viable franchise even though the Expos were transferred to Washington following the 2004 season. Stephen Bronfman and Dollarama department-store mogul Larry Rossy form the basis of a potential Montreal ownership group.

Montreal is probably No. 1 on any expansion list or for possible relocation of a current franchise such as the Tampa Rays.

"Oh, yes, Montreal,'' said Jack McKeon, 85, a special assistant to Marlins president David Samson, Loria's son-in-law. "Then there would be Portland, Ore. and San Antonio, Tex.''

What about Charlotte, North Carolina?

"I don't know,'' said McKeon, who is more than just an expert on North California since he lives in a small town there called Elon. "They would have to get rid of one of their pro sports teams there. And the one team that's not going to leave is the NFL team. Football is big there.''

The other major pro sports team in North Carolina are the NBA's Hornets and the NHL's Hurricanes, who play out of Raleigh, which is located about two hours from Charlotte. McKeon might be right. It would be tough for North Carolina to support four major pro teams, including baseball. There are only so many sports dollars to go around.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has been high on Montreal as a viable franchise since he took office in January, 2015 and told me recently that he talks "periodically'' with Bronfman. So it's obvious that something positive is brewing for Montreal. It's not a question of if, but when. Everyone knows that.

In the end, it would be interesting to find out how Loria would vote on a motion to support Montreal as a new franchise. We'll see what happens down the road.

Comment

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com