Major League Baseball first branched outside the United States when the Montreal Expos held their first home game 51 years ago today.
On April 14, 1969, the Expos hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Jarry Park Stadium in Montreal, Quebec. Former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson threw the first pitch of Montreal's historic game, and the home team later held off a seven-run fourth inning by the Cardinals for an 8-7 victory.
Six days earlier, the Expos had played their first regular-season game in franchise history against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in Queens. Montreal recorded an 11-10 victory on Opening Day against a Mets team that went on to win the World Series later that season.
The Expos spent 36 years in Montreal, but the team later relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals ahead of the 2005 season.
The Expos became MLB's first franchise located outside the U.S. after the city's Triple A team, the Royals, folded in 1960. Montreal political leaders wanted an MLB franchise, and the city was awarded an expansion team in the National League for the 1969 season.
The team was named after the Expo 67 World's Fair, which was held in Montreal in 1967. Jarry Park Stadium was the Expos' home until 1976, but the team called Olympic Stadium its home starting the following year. The venue was originally built as the main stadium for the 1976 Summer Olympics and holds the largest seating capacity in Canada (56,040).
The Expos did not find much early success. The team finished last in the NL East with a 52–110 record in its inaugural year and failed to post a winning record during its first 10 seasons.
The Expos later found a winning formula under manager Felipe Alou, who led the team from 1992-2001. Under Alou, Montreal recorded four winning seasons, highlighted by a 1994 performance that saw the Expos hold baseball's top record. That season was ended prematurely, though, by a players' strike.
Following that year, attendance and interest in the Expos started to fall in the city. The team's top players were traded, and MLB attempted to disband the franchise after it failed to attain funding for a new ballpark. The league instead purchased the Expos before the 2002 season and announced the team's relocation in 2004.
On Sept. 29, 2004, the Expos played their final game in Montreal. The home team fell 9-1 in a contest with the Marlins, marking the Expos' last appearance in Olympic Stadium.
The Toronto Blue Jays stand as MLB's lone franchise located outside the U.S. The league has continued its international push by holding regular-season games in locations such as Tokyo, Mexico, Australia, Puerto Rico and England, and through the MLB International league.