In 2004, the Montreal Expos left for Washington D.C., leaving the city—and its die-hard fans—without a baseball team. Since then, fans have filled the void elsewhere, with the Toronto Blue Jays exhibition games in late March, or sports memorabilia shows such as the Sports Collectors International at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau. ExposFest, a family fundraiser organized by Expos superfan Perry Giannias, also serves to fill this niche.
“This is my Sunday at the ballpark,” Giannias said with a smile, as hoards of fans lined up at his booth.
As part of ExposFest fundraising efforts, Expos legends—pitcher Ross Grimsley, second-baseman Rodney Scott, outfielder Otis Nixon, and Quebecois pitcher Claude Raymond—gathered to sign autographs and chat baseball with passersby.
In 2015, Giannias’ niece passed away after a year-long battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare terminal brain cancer. ExposFest was born the following spring as a way to raise funds to combat the disease. Giannias told The McGill Tribune that baseball and his family are two of his greatest passions, and that combining the two in ExposFest was the perfect marriage.
“This was about making a difference down the road,” Giannias said.
Capitalizing on the Expos nostalgia he and many others feel, the main event—held in the spring—brings former Expos into town for autograph signings and family fun. Other fundraisers, like the one at Collectors International, keep the Expos’ legacy alive through the rest of the year.
The smiles on faces young and old brightened the room, as parents introduced their children to their favourite ballplayers or reminisced about days spent at the Olympic Stadium. The memories of summers past filled the air, as tales of classic Expos seasons in the 1980s and 1990s were shared by both fans and former players.
As the afternoon wore on, the conversation at the booth turned to Major League Baseball today. Whenever the topic of those pesky Washington Nationals arose, Giannias shook his head in disdain. Clearly, the team’s departure from Montreal is still a sore spot for many Expos fans across the city, but Giannis is certain Montreal will get a team within five years. He pointed to the support his fundraisers get as proof that the fanbase is still alive and well.
Until then, his presence in the community will not waver, as he continues fundraising and adding to his massive memorabilia collection of over 1,000 monumental jerseys, baseballs, bats, helmets, gloves, and even bases. When asked about his favourite items, Giannias was naturally indecisive.
“You are asking me the equivalent of, ‘which son do I like better?’” Giannias said.
(Gabe Nisker / The McGill Tribune)
He eventually named Maurice Richard’s only childhood baseball glove as one of the coolest items in his possession. Some of his pieces have been displayed at Montreal City Hall, or in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s an impressive collection—quite like the impressive collection of fans who gather every year to look back on the baseball team the city once cherished. ExposFest has now raised $215,932 for DIPG, and donations are accepted at www.childrenfoundation.com/fundraiser/kat-dipg/. More information about the event is available at exposfest.com.