Photo courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com
When Troy Tulowitzki suits up at Chase Field on July 12, it will be the 36th time a player has worn a Rockies uni in the National League dugout of the midseason classic. Nineteen different Rockies have been selected to the All-Star Game in the franchise 19-year history, and that relatively modest list started in 1993 with one name: Andres Galarraga.
"The Big Cat" did have great success before coming to Colorado, winning the Silver Slugger in 1988 after leading the National League in total bases in an All-Star season, adding a Gold Glove to his trophy case in both 1989 and 1990. Galarraga hit a wall in 1991 as a 30-year-old, with a paltry .219/.268/.336 slash line in 400 plate appearances, and his year in St. Louis in 1992 wasn't much better (.243/.282/.391).
With pitchers now taking advantage of his free-swinging ways, the aging and oft-injured Galarraga's best days definitely seemed to be behind him. However, the St. Louis Cardinals 1992 hitting coach saw something, and when Don Baylor jumped to Colorado as the Rockies' first manager, he recommended to general manager Bob Gebhard that he sign Galarraga, whose $3million option was declined by the Cardinals.
Gebhard took Baylor's advice, and The Big Cat was on board the expansion franchise for the price of 1-year, $850k.
Galarraga rewarded Baylor by cutting his strikeout rate nearly in half to 15.5%, won the batting title with a .370 batting average and 22 home runs. Andres Jose Padavani Galarraga became an instant hit in Denver, with kids all over the state emulating his exaggerated open batting stance in their backyard wiffle ball games.
After hitting .391 with 13 HR and 65 RBI in the first half of 1993, The Big Cat became the Rockies' first ever All-Star. The move to altitude certainly helped, but his park adjusted wRC+ that year of 149 was legitimately fantastic. Also, note Baseball Reference's park factor for Mile High Stadium in 1993 (120) was not much higher than Coors Field last season (118).
John Kruk of the Phillies was voted the starter, Mark Grace acted as the designated hitter, and the only other first baseman was ironically Galarraga's replacement in St. Louis: Gregg Jefferies. Click past the jump to see how Galarraga did.
Bobby Cox gave John Kruk three at-bats on that day on July 13, 1993. Kruk went 0-for-3 and struck out twice. Cox did allow The Big Cat to take the field at Camden Yards, though he only got one at-bat, popping out to shortstop Travis Fryman against Twins closer Rick Aguilera.
It wasn't a memorable performance for the Rockies' All-Star by any means, but Galarraga will forever hold the distinction of being Colorado's first All-Star. Hats off to the Big Cat, who turned a ripe 50 years old two weeks ago.