Dombrowski fondly recalls time in Montreal

Former Expos GM would like to see baseball return to city

Dombrowski fondly recalls time in Montreal

MONTREAL -- Pedro Martinez isn't the only member of the Red Sox family who had his career breakthrough in Montreal.

This weekend has also been a sweet trip down memory lane for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who cut his teeth as a decision-maker for the Expos.

Dombrowski spent five seasons (1987-91) with the Expos in a variety of roles, including general manager.

"It feels great to be back," Dombrowski said. "So many great memories. We're staying downtown. I went for a jog [Friday] morning where I used to live and up the mountain and just driving in from the airport from Dorval, being here with a couple of legends like Pedro Martinez and [scout] Gary Hughes, it's great. It's a great feeling to be back in the ballpark and just walking in here and being in Montreal. It's a great city."

The memories flooded back to Dombrowski as if they just happened.

"I had a three-story condo," said Dombrowski. "It was right at the bottom of the mountain, so it was easy for me to hop on that path and run there. It was a great city."

Dombrowski recalled how much fun he had watching the Canadiens play hockey at the old Montreal Forum.

"I love hockey. I remember those games," Dombrowski said. "Remember the Quebec Nordiques when they played the Canadiens. Oh my goodness, with the Stastny brothers. Unbelievable. The was passion there. They won the Stanley Cup my first year here. They were just a tremendous team."

And thanks to many of the moves made by Dombrowski, the Expos had a strong team then. The Red Sox and Blue Jays played exhibition games at Olympic Stadium on Friday and Saturday. You can count Dombrowski among those who'd love to see baseball make a full-time return to Montreal.

"I thought it was a great baseball city," said Dombrowski. "I love Montreal. It's a big league city in every regard. They love baseball; there are a lot of passionate baseball fans here. There are also a lot of memories here for people."

To this point, Dombrowski is most known for the World Series championship team he built with the Marlins in 1997 and the two pennant winners he constructed in Detroit. Perhaps the most haunting memories of his career came in Montreal in the summer of 1989.

The Expos led the National League East with a 62-44 record on Aug. 1 and had high hopes. But they went into a 19-37 free fall to finish 12 games behind the Cubs.

"I thought we had the best team. We didn't prove to be the best team," Dombrowski said. "I remember down the stretch we pitched great. We were three games in front in mid-August and went to Chicago and they swept us there and we just never got our bats going.

"I know Jim Leyland, who was the manager of the Pirates and is one of my best friends to this day, used to say, 'Dave, you guys should have won in '89, you had the best team.' We didn't, so that was probably my most disappointing time."

For Dombrowski, however, Montreal brings back almost all good memories.

"I really remember the good players we had and the good organization we had," said Dombrowski. "It was outstanding."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.