Raines, Dawson recall historic run by ’81 Expos
On Nov. 24 and 25, 1981, Queen performed two sold-out shows at the Montreal Forum. They’re preserved in a live album, Queen Rock Montreal, and an accompanying concert film, and are generally regarded as some of the band’s greatest live shows of all time.
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Tim Raines only appeared as a pinch runner that season, and was a late call-up with just 27 plate appearances the following season. But in 1981 the Rock powered onto the scene in Montreal.
“I didn’t play a game in the outfield at the professional level until I was first called up to the big leagues,” Raines recalled during a Hall of Fame virtual donor appreciation program in October. “I learned to play in the outfield at the major league level.”
Led by this trio, Montreal powered into the home stretch of the season with a perfectly-timed hot streak, winning 16 of their final 24 games, including a seven-game winning streak in late September. On Oct. 3, with a 5-4 defeat of the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, the Expos secured their first playoff berth in franchise history.
Due to the strike-shortened season, the format for the playoffs had to be altered. The owners determined that the season would be split in half: The first place teams from each half within each division would square off in a best-of-five divisional series, a precursor of sorts to the League Division Series that would become permanent years later. The winner of that matchup would advance to the League Championship series.
“Coming off the injury I was excited to be back, to be playing, so the nervousness of it wasn’t really a part of it. Getting the opportunity to play against the Dodgers, I was excited.”
The 1981 NLCS began in Los Angeles, at Dodger Stadium. The Expos lost Game 1, but surged back to win Game 2, handing a loss to Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela, who would ultimately beat out Raines for Rookie of the Year honors. Montreal’s victory in Game 2 also marked the end of an abysmal streak for the Expos at Dodger Stadium, where they had lost 19 of their last 20 appearances.
Unfortunately, the series’ Northern transition didn’t bode well for the Expos, who won their first home game but fell to the eventual World Series champions in the final two games.
It would be the closest the Expos would ever get to the World Series, as another strike in 1994 foiled the Montreal’s attempt to return to the playoffs. The franchise didn’t appear in another MLB postseason until relocating to Washington D.C.
Isabelle Minasian was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum