On This Date in Sports July 13, 1982: Match Des Etoiles

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The All-Star Game goes international for the first time, as Olympic Stadium in Montreal hosts the mid-summer classic. There is plenty for local fans to cheer, as the National League roster features five players from the host Expos. This includes Steve Rogers, who gets the start and the win as the National League extends its winning streak to 11 games, beating the American League 4-1. The big hit comes off the bat of Cincinnati Reds Shortstop Dave Concepcion, who delivers a two-run home run in the second inning and wins MVP honors.

Baseball first expanded to Canada in 1969, when the Montreal Expos began playing at Jarry Park. The converted minor league stadium suited the Expos well until 1977 when they moved into Olympic Stadium. A year earlier, Montreal played host to the Summer Olympics, with the Big O playing a central role, hosting all track events and the opening and closing ceremonies. Initially, the stadium was to have a retractable roof, but cost overruns delayed its completion. This did not bother fans in Montreal as the Expos became one of the top teams in the National League, drawing big crowds as they battled for the Eastern Division with stars like Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Steve Rogers, and Al Oliver all who were on the National League All-Star roster in 1982. Coming off a trip to the NLCS in 1981, the Expos were one of baseball’s most exciting teams, helping to create a great atmosphere at Olympic Stadium that carried into the All-Star celebration.

Coming into the game, the American League was looking for a change of fortune as the National League had won 22 of the last 25 games, with one tie. This included a ten-game winning streak dating back to 1971. Things started well for the Junior circuit as Oakland Athletics speedster Rickey Henderson led the game off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Reggie Jackson, representing the California Angels. The lead stood until the second inning, when Dennis Eckersley of the Boston Red Sox, who got the start, issued a two-out walk to Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy. This set the stage for Dave Concepcion’s rare home run. The shortstop, a mainstay for the Big Red Machine, was known mainly for his glove and had just one dinger in 328 at-bats in the season’s first half. The National League added a third run off Eckersley an inning later, as Ruppert Jones of the San Diego Padres led off with a pinch triple and scored on a sac-fly off the bat of Pete Rose, representing the Philadelphia Phillies. In the sixth inning, the National League added a fourth run. The Expos took center stage as Al Oliver led off with a double against Kansas City Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry and later scored on a single off the bat off Gary Carter. It would be the last run scored on the night, as the American League could not get anything going after that first inning run, losing 4-1. The American League’s losing streak in the All-Star Game would end in 1983 with a 13-3 at Comiskey Park.

It was a time of great tumult in the Bronx as the Yankees went through three managers in 1982, with Gene Michael and Bob Lemon seeming to trade the job back and forth. Some oddities of the game included Billy Martin of the Oakland Athletics managing the American League squad instead of the pennant-winning New York Yankees manager. Ironically following the season, Martin would rejoin the Yankees for the third of five tenures as a manager in the days when Owner George Steinbrenner often made moves without thinking it out.

The 1982 All-Star Game would be a high point for baseball in Montreal, as they could not keep their stars due to rising salaries. In 1987 Olympic Stadium finally got its retractable roof, but it seemed to suck the life out of the stadium. In addition, the roof was continuously breaking down, which added to the increasing expense of the stadium. A strike in 1994 ripped the heart out of Montreal fans as the Expos held the best record in baseball when the season ended prematurely on August 12th. When the players returned the following spring, many of the Expos top players were gone, leading fans to boycott Olympic Stadium. The next decade would see the Expos rot, as the cost overruns of the stadium and the inability to compete financially made the Expos act almost like a minor league franchise as they were forced to trade their star players every time they reached free agency. Eventually, the team would find new owners and leave Montreal behind, becoming the Washington Nationals in 2005.