When the Montreal Expos announced they would be moving to Washington D.C. at the end of the 2004 season few people were sad. Montreal wasn't exactly a great baseball town. Few fans showed up to the games and even fewer cheered for the team.
There was, however, one fan that was very sad.
Youppi!. That wasn't an exclamation point placed there for emphasis; it is part of his name.
Youppi! is grossly overweight, with a pointy head and a giant nose and beard. He is orange and spent most home games dancing and cheering for his team, the Expos.
Youppi! had been the Expos mascot since he joined the team on their tenth anniversary.
You know; since we are being nostalgic, let’s take a quick look at the history of the Expos:
The Montréal Expos joined MLB's National League in 1969, along with the San Diego Padres. This gave them a special bond with the Padres. Whenever one player from the Expos would see one from the San Diego club they would say "What's up Padre?" Margaritas and a night of Scrabble and thumb wrestling would usually follow.
The Expos were named for Expo 67, the Montréal world's fair. The Expos had ten straight losing seasons after they debuted in Montréal's Jarry Park. In 1979 they posted their first winning record, this year also marked the debut of Youppi!. This cannot be just a coincidence. It was Youppi!'s cheers that carried the team.
However, in the mid 1980s even Youppi! could not help the team, as they played mediocre at best. Still, they had Youppi! and a manager named Buck Rodgers.
Still, Buck never drew a laser gun and shot at opposing pitchers. Shame on you, Buck, Youppi! was counting on you.
At some point the Expos moved to Olympic Stadium and they had a lot of blue and red in their uniforms. They also had a guy who had an afro that stuck out on all sides of his baseball hat. Plus, they had an outfielder who used to chew tobacco. It's all a little fuzzy to me, so don't expect accuracy.
Speaking of "fuzzy", Youppi! is one of three mascots on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The others are the Phillie Phanatic of Philadelphia and the Famous Chicken from San Diego.
On Valentines Day 2002 there was a 30-0 vote that led to the Expos moving to Washington. Youppi! was not allowed to vote. It was very un-American... then again, he is Canadian.
The next year the team played 22 of its home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. No one in Montréal noticed.
No one, that is, except Youppi!. Then again, maybe he traveled to Puerto Rico with the team and was known as ¡El Youppi!. I have no idea.
Incidentally, the name Youppi! is actually French. It is the word for "Yippee". This meant that when Youppi! went to see Star Wars The Phantom Menace, he kept turning around when Anakin said "Youppi!". At first he thought someone was calling his name, then he realized it was just bad screenwriting.
When the Expos moved the orange, hairy giant was replaced by Screech. Yes, the nerd from "Saved By The Bell". Oh wait, I read that wrong, NOT the nerd from "Saved By The Bell", that was Mario Lopez.
This Screech is a baby eagle. He may do the same things Youppi! did, like dance on the dugout and hug fans, but he is no Youppi!.
Youppi! has a distinguished place in baseball history. He is the first mascot to be thrown out of a game. On August 23, 1989, he was tossed out during the 11th inning because of a complaint from Los Angeles Dodgers manager, and mascot hater, Tommy Lasorda.
Before Youppi!, the team had a different mascot that may have been even stranger. It was a baseball player with a baseball for a head. Many other teams have similar mascots, most notably Mr. Met, the New York Mets mascot.
The Expos baseball headed mascot had one special trait, antenna sticking out of his head.
He scared kids, and let’s face it, why would a baseball be a fan of baseball? That is like deer cheering for hunters or a spouse cheering for spousal abuse.
So, the Expos contacted Jim Henson who designed Youppi!. The first costume was very difficult to see out of and the wearer used to have Youppi! smack himself on the nose in order to adjust the costume head. This became Youppi!'s trademark from then on. Fans loved it and the children emulated it.
This is why Montréal leads the world in self inflicted, pediatric nasal trauma.
What is next for Youppi!? It's not clear. The mascot was sold before the start of the season, but the sale was held up for trademark issues. It is said that there are many potential new homes for Youppi! including a Canadian drug company and a hockey team.
If none of that works out, Youppi!, you are welcome here. You can cheer me on as I make typos and write bad puns.