Baseball in Colorado remains a unique experience after three decades. Despite what the humidors have done, scoring remains high in the Mile High City amid the thin air and thanks to the benefit of canyon-like outfield gaps.
The Rockies have yet to win a World Series unlike their 1993 brothers in Florida, but they have division titles and a Hall of Famer and other memories to cherish while they await a title for Denver.
Opening on a Mile High: April 9, 1993
Elevation was up and so was the crowd size. More than 80,000 filled into a football stadium that had transformed into a ballpark to witness the first-ever Rockies home game.
And in the first at-bat in the major league history of Mile High Stadium, Eric Young Sr. did what so many have done in Colorado for the 30 years that followed: hit a home run. He had just 79 in his career entering this contest against the Montreal Expos.
Three more runs were scored in that opening inning and the Don Baylor-led Rockies prevailed, 11-4. Young went 4-for-4, while Andres Galarraga and Jerald Clark each had three hits.
Christening Coors: April 26, 1995
After two seasons in Mile High, the Rockies became baseball legit in ’95. The conclusion of the players’ strike delayed the opener at Coors Field, but it was worth it.
A back-and-forth slugfest against the New York Mets was tied 7-7 after nine, 8-8 after 13, and 9-8 entering the bottom of the 14th. Any lead the Mets gained was erased. Dante Bichette’s three-run homer ensured New York wouldn’t have any other chances.
On a night when the game-time temperature was 42 degrees, Bichette connected for the Rockies’ only homer of the night and pumped his fist as it went into the left-center-field stands.
First Postseason Appearance: October 1, 1995
Legitimacy didn’t come solely in the form of a new home. The Rockies put up gaudy offensive numbers mostly off the bats of the “Blake Street Bombers”: Larry Walker, Bichette, Galarraga, and Vinny Castilla. Thanks to Major League Baseball’s recent expansion, a division title wasn’t the only avenue to the postseason.
Colorado wound up one game back of the Dodgers in the NL West, but its 77 victories (in a 144-game schedule) were enough to earn the lone Wild Card berth. It took until the regular season finale, which required a comeback win over the Giants at home.
The eventual champion Braves eliminated the Rockies in the Division Series.
MVP in a Walk: November 14, 1997
It’s been said that Colorado Rockies hitters were the beneficiaries of the home environment they played in. Larry Walker might say otherwise.
Walker led the league in homers (49), on-base percentage (.452), and slugging percentage (.720). He drove in 130 runs, tied for a club record. His 409 total bases were the most by a major leaguer since Stan Musial in 1948. He also won a Gold Glove for the third-straight year.
What stood out most was that Walker hit .346 with 29 homers and 62 runs away from Coors Field. He is the only Colorado player to be named league MVP and in 2020 became the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Rockie.
Helton Starts a Trend: September 18, 2007
It was a big win and only grew in significance. The Rockies could ill-afford many more losses as they saw their chances in the Wild Card race fading. They won the first game of a doubleheader with the Dodgers and in Game 2 were down 8-7 with two down in the ninth.
With Matt Holliday on first base, Todd Helton went deep. The walk-off was Colorado’s third victory in a row and set the stage for one of the most epic closes to a regular season by any team.
A career-long Rockie, Helton was the consistent, perennial All-Star for Colorado while the franchise struggled to return to relevance. While he was past his prime by 2007, he was still front-and-center in the team’s finest month.
Welcome to Rock-tober: October 1, 2007
The Rockies won 14 of their final 15 regular season games. That was enough to match the San Diego Padres and force a one-game tiebreaker at Coors Field for the Wild Card. Colorado’s leads of 3-0 and 6-5 disappeared. In the top of the 13th, San Diego appeared to have enough when it scored twice with Trevor Hoffman ready to close. But the Rockies were far from done.
Back-to-back doubles preceded Matt Holliday’s tying triple. Then Jamey Carroll lined out to right. Holliday tagged and tried to score, sliding head-first as the throw came to catcher Michael Barrett. It appeared Barrett’s foot blocked Holliday’s hand, but the call was safe. The magic continued.
No Phight for Phils: October 6, 2007
The Philadelphia Phillies had made a late charge to the postseason. But their streak paled in comparison to Colorado’s. They were not stopping this runaway train. The Rockies’ first playoff appearance since 1995 would not end abruptly.
Instead, the Division Series was a continuation of late September’s magic.
The Rockies took the first two at Citizens Bank Park by scores of 4-2 and 10-5 before edging out a 2-1 victory to complete the sweep. Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker came through with the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth and the Rockies were on their way to the NLCS.
Rockie Top: October 15, 2007
Like the Phillies, the Diamondbacks were no match. The Rockies captured their first and only National League title with a four-game sweep of Arizona. Holliday’s three-run homer was the difference in Game 4’s 6-4 win and made him the MVP.
Fittingly, Todd Helton made the pennant-clinching putout. In the iconic image of the franchise’s history, Helton caught the throw from Troy Tulowitzki and raised his arms up with ball in glove. Seven consecutive postseason victories without a loss meant the Rockies had 21 wins over a 22-game stretch. Waiting more than a week for their American League opponent, the fairy tale ended in a World Series sweep by the Boston Red Sox. But the memory of ’07 stands alone.
Ubaldo’s No-No: April 17, 2010
Rockies and pitching excellence have rarely gone hand-in-hand, but Ubaldo Jiménez defied this theme. His night at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves was a 128-pitch outing that included seven strikeouts and six walks. When he retired Brian McCann in the ninth, it resulted in the first (and to this day, only) no-hitter in Colorado history.
The 2010 season proved to be a memorable one for Jiménez, the best of his career and perhaps the finest by any Rockie pitcher. The 26-year-old had a 161 ERA+ with 221 strikeouts and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.
Arenado Does Cycle in Style: June 18, 2017
The succession of Hall of Fame-caliber talent in Colorado went from Walker to Helton to, most recently, Nolan Arenado. For eight seasons, he won the NL Gold Glove at third base each year, led the league in homers three times, RBIs twice, and total bases twice.
Arenado had a Father’s Day for the ages when he tripled, singled, and doubled for three hits in his first four at-bats. He came up in the ninth with runners on the corners and the Rockies trailing the Giants 5-4. Arenado’s walk-off to complete the eighth cycle in club history was especially memorable for how it happened and what happened after, as the celebration at home plate left Arenado a bloodied hero.