Jarry Park was the original home of the Montreal Expos between 1969-1976, and the site of the first MLB game ever played outside the United States on April 14,1969, when the Expos defeated the St.Louis Cardinals 8-7.
The Expos original ownership group, led by Charles Bronfman, and the city of Montreal were awarded a National League expansion franchise on March 28,1968. Almost instantly, there were problems. Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, who offered up the Montreal Autostade as a temporary facility until a domed stadium could be build, could not strike a deal with the CFL Montreal Alouettes who held the lease on the Autostade. Further complicating matters, the Autostade’s unusual configuration was not ideal for a baseball ballpark.
The situation deteriorated rapidly. Key members of the proposed ownership group started withdrawing their support, such as Jean-Louis Lévesque, and Robert Irsay (who would eventually buy the Baltimore Colts of the NFL and move them to Indianapolis). The next stadium option to be considered was Delormier Downs, the old home of the defunct Montreal Royals. While Delormier Downs was home to legends such as Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente during their minor league careers, it was not viable as a major league stadium. Its seating capacity of 20,000 was sub-standard, and because it was located in a fully developed area, no real-estate was available to build additional seating capacity to the structure.
Naming the franchise became a complicated matter as well. The intended name for the Montreal franchise was the Royals, in honor of the Dodgers AAA farm team based in Montreal from 1928-1960. Unfortunately, Kansas City decided to use that moniker for their newly awarded American League expansion franchise just months earlier.
With key members of the proposed ownership group withdrawing their support, and no viable stadium available, the newly awarded Montreal franchise was on life support almost as soon as it was born. There was strong speculation that Montreal would have to forfeit their franchise. Cities such as Buffalo and Dallas were rumored to be considered as alternatives. While Charles Bronfman filled the ownership void created by the withdrawls of Lévesque and Irsay, the stadium issue loomed large with the franchise scheduled to begin play in 8 short months.
With time running out, National League president Warren Giles decided to visit Montreal in August 1968 with hopes of salvaging the franchise. During his visit, Giles visited possible locations with Mayor Jean Drapeau before settling on Jarry Park. Giles especially liked its close proximity to a commuter railroad, and the Metropolitan Expressway which was only 1 km away.
Originally designed as a public ball park with a maximum capacity of 3,000 seats, Jarry Park was quickly transformed into a viable major league stadium between September 1968 – April 1969. Extensions were built down both the first and third base lines, reaching the foul poles, and bleachers were installed behind the left field fence. While the elements sometimes proved challenging due to Montreal’s short summers, Jarry Park provided an intimate setting, with seating so close to the action, it wasn’t unusual to hear the players talking amongst themselves on the field.
Jarry Park Stadium offered unique characteristics that provided for great ambiance. It was the last remaining ball park of its time that featured single deck seating. A public swimming pool was located behind the right field fence, and home runs would occasionally land in it. The late Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first player to accomplish that feat in 1969. Jarry Park also featured a massive scoreboard behind the fence in right field, and because the stadium was located within an actual park, it was rather common to see fans having picnics outside the stadium before and after games during the summer months.
Unfortunately, it was understood that Jarry Park was nothing more than a temporary solution until a permanent stadium could be built. Montreal was granted a franchise on the condition that a domed stadium be in place for the 1972 season. However, a strike delayed the completion of Olympic Stadium. When it became obvious that Olympic Stadium would not be ready on time, the Expos were forced to seek permission from MLB to stay in Jarry for one more season. Further construction delays forced the Expos to repeat the process until Olympic Stadium was finally ready in time for the 1977 season. The Expos would play their final game at Jarry Park on September 26, 1976.
- Right field: 340 ft.
- Right-center field: 368 ft.
- Center field: 417 ft.
- Left-center field: 368 ft.
- Left field: 340 ft.