In the final game of the preseason series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the St Louis Cardinals in Montréal, Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr electrified the crowd by hitting a walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Guerrero had broken a scoreless deadlock that had lasted throughout the contest. To many Jays fans, it was a sneak peek of what was to come in the future as Guerrero is one of baseball’s top prospects. But to other, likely older fans of the game—it meant much more.
A lot of factors lined up for the game to reach this perfect ending. This was Vladimir Guerrero Jr, whose father was one of the greatest ever players to suit up for the now-defunct Montréal Expos. And when he did it, he was playing for the only Canadian team left in the majors, wearing his father’s old number, while inside his old stadium. The home run took Expo fans a few decades back, eliciting bittersweet memories of the team’s glory days. To quote Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane in Moneyball, “how can you not be romantic about baseball?“
Needless to say, Guerrero’s walk-off will end up becoming one of the most memorable stories in baseball this year, even though the regular season has not even started. But another intriguing aspect of this story is that it could be also examined as a template for romanticism in late-18th Century Europe, an artistic and intellectual movement that was marked by ideas of heroism and glorification of the past. But mostly importantly, the sheer impossibility of Guerrero’s home run, and the emotional memories that it evoked perfectly fits that criteria.
The introduction of romanticism catalysed Europe to push for the creation of distinct nation-states, leading to events such as the French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848. The movement was also connected with the concept of Arcadia which had persisted in artwork at that time, and included motifs such as natural beauty and looking to the past, when glorious empires like Athens and Rome flourished, hence the name romanticism. Similarly, the word ‘novel’ in numerous European languages is roman, since they are fictional stories meant to invoke some sort of emotional response when read.
Many who lived in Europe back then believed that striving to form nation-states was heroic, as it involved rebelling against a reigning sovereign. They also believed that the nation-state would restore a glorious past, replacing old monarchs that no longer served in the interests of the common people. These sentiments were further stoked by the emergence of nationalism, when Europeans began to find common traits in each other such as culture and language.
In a similar vein, Expos fans found a common identity as they all supported the same team, and Guerrero’s late game heroics reminded them of the Expos’ greatest moments before the team was relocated to Washington. At the same time, they wonder what could be done for the Expos to again return to Montréal.
Both Expo fans and 18th Century Europeans were reminded of a glorious shared past after they were exposed to occurrences that evoked strong emotions. For Expo fans, it was a poetic walk-off home run hit by the son of an Expos legend. And for Europeans, it was in the form of artwork and literature that roused nationalistic spirits. In their unity, they both desired to recreate the past by achieving greater things in the future.
Above Photo: Vladimir Guerrero Jr of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates after walking off the St Louis Cardinals in a preseason match in Montréal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)