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Expos lose final game as team from Montreal

NEW YORK (AP) -- Todd Zeile's finale was a whole lot more
fulfilling than the Montreal Expos' farewell.

Zeile hit a three-run homer in the last at-bat of his career,
leading the New York Mets over the Expos 8-1 on Sunday in
Montreal's final game before moving to Washington.

"I tried to enjoy the day and have something fun and memorable
to take with me," Zeile said.

The game was also the last for Art Howe as the Mets' manager. He
was fired Sept. 15, but chose to stay on to finish out a dismal
season in which the Mets went 71-91.

"The special things that happened today, it was exciting to be
a part of," Howe said. "When Todd hit that home run I just got
goosebumps."

The Expos played their first and final game as Montreal's "Nos
Amours" at Shea Stadium. In front of an uninspired crowd of 33,569
that was fitting for the two worst teams in the NL East, fans
started a brief "Let's go Expos!" chant in the ninth inning.

"In the ninth inning, it really hit me that we weren't the
Montreal Expos," Terrmel Sledge said. "Making the last out in
Montreal and having the last hit here, it's weird to be a part of
this. It's weird to be a part of history. When I look it up, I'll
see my name."

A couple hundred fans lingered at the Expos dugout after Endy
Chavez grounded out to second for the last out, but the players
didn't return. The Expos finished with a record of 2,753-2,943 and
four ties.

"I've seen this with some other ballclubs when they were
moving, and from a distance it doesn't really hit you," Expos
manager Frank Robinson said. "But when you're involved in this
thing and it's final -- the name Montreal Expos won't be in
existence next year, that's a rude awakening, and it's a sad
situation because of the people it's going to touch in a negative
way."

The Expos enthusiastically began their first season in the
National League on April 8, 1969, in front of an opening day crowd
of 44,591 and beat the Mets 11-10, highlighted by Coco Laboy's
three-run homer in the eighth.

Starting next season, the ballclub that jump-started the careers
of stars such as Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker, Andre Dawson, Tim
Raines and Gary Carter, will play in Washington -- becoming the
first franchise to relocate since the Washington Senators became
the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season.

Before the game, players donned the gray road uniform with the
red script "Montreal" written across its chest for one last time
without much sentimentality. To Brad Wilkerson and Joey Eischen, a
member of the 1994 team that had the best record in baseball before
the players' strike ended the season and canceled the playoffs, the
real finale was the rousing send-off fans gave them at Olympic
Stadium on Wednesday.

Coach Eddie Rodriguez playfully posed for photographers as he
posted the final scorecard, and several dozen fans in Expos jerseys
and hats gathered behind their dugout holding signs such as "Nos
Amours" -- our beloved ones -- "Always in our hearts" and "Au
Revoir Expos."

The Expos will make the move without their general manager, Omar
Minaya, who took over the same role with the Mets on Thursday.

Minaya, a deft talent evaluator, helped assemble a competitive
squad in Montreal despite the budgetary limitations set by Major
League Baseball. The Expos were bought by the 29 other teams in
2002 and finished over .500 the past two seasons. This year, they
fell to 67-95 after Guerrero left as a free agent.

"We're maybe two or three guys away from the playoffs,"
Wilkerson said. "Moving to Washington might bring us to the
playoffs."

The Expos got off to a good start Sunday, scoring a run on
Sledge's RBI single, but didn't have any success against Tom
Glavine (11-14) afterward, mustering just three hits in his six
innings.

Sledge got the Expos' final hit -- Bob Bailey had the first -- in
the eighth off John Franco, who was making his 695th and perhaps
last appearance for New York.

The 44-year-old Franco then got Ryan Church to foul out to
Zeile, who was catching in the last game of his 15-year career.
With the fans saluting Franco, Zeile gave the ball to Franco and
the two hugged in front of the dugout.

"That might be the last ball ever in a Mets uniform," Franco
said.

The Mets tied it in the first on David Wright's sacrifice fly
and took a 3-1 lead on the rookie's two run-homer off John
Patterson (4-7), making Montreal's last start -- Mudcat Grant made
the Expos' first.

Kaz Matsui had RBI singles in the fifth and eighth, and Zeile
added his three-run homer in the sixth off Claudio Vargas.

Game notes
The Mets honored Zeile before the game. He was given a
jersey signed by his teammates, a scrapbook chronicling this season
and a vacation of his choice. ... Jose Reyes' three stolen bases
were a career high. ... Maury Wills struck out in the Expos' first
at-bat, against Tom Seaver.