Top Colorado Rockies All-Star Performances #5: Mike Hampton Becomes First Rox Pitcher Selected to All-Star Game

10 Jul 2001: Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda jokes with National League players (left to right, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Sean Casey, Cincinnati Reds, Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves, Mike Hampton, Colorado Rockies, Cliff Floyd, Florida Marlins, and Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies) after being struck by a flying bat while coaching third base during the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star game at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington, won by the American League 4-1. Otto Gruele/Allsport

In their first eight years of existence, the Colorado Rockies pitching staff was, simply put, the laughing stock of Major League Baseball. During that stretch, the club finished a season with an ERA under 5 just twice (4.97 in 1995 and 4.99 in 1998), and their home ballpark was widely known as a launching pad - the likes of which baseball had never before seen. So, it wasn't a big surprise that after the 2000 season, the Rockies desperately threw a nine-figure contract at the free agent market's best pitcher - Mike Hampton, formerly of the Houston Astros and New York Mets.

For the first half of the 2001 season, Hampton captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of rabid Rockies fans throughout the Rocky Mountain region, as he posted a 9-5 record with an ERA of just 4.02 - a number that, at the time, stood out like a 2.02 ERA would now. In addition to his nearly-unprecedented wizardry on the mound, Hampton posted a first half OPS of 1.035 at the plate, including six home runs. As a reward, Hampton was selected by his former manager Bobby Valentine (who was the NL's skipper that year as a result of the Mets representing the senior circuit in the World Series the year before) as one of the Rockies' three representatives - along with Todd Helton and Larry Walker - for the 2001 All-Star Game to be held at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Read about Hampton's performance in the game after the jump...

Hampton would enter the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, and was greeted by a due-up of John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, and Cal Ripken. Hampton got Olerud to hit a grounder to second baseman Jeff Kent, but Kent booted it and as a result, allowed the lead-off batter to reach base. Hampton recovered from the error nicely, as he induced ground outs off the bats of the next two hitters - Martinez and Ripken. However, with two outs, Hampton was unable to put away Ivan Rodriguez, as Pudge singled up the middle and drove in Jason Giambi (who came in to pinch run for Olerud) in the process. Thankfully, that was all the damage Hampton would allow, as rookie Ichiro Suzuki would groundout to fellow rookie Albert Pujols to end the inning. He was replaced by Jon Lieber in the next frame.

If you're keeping score, that's five groundballs (including the E4 and the single)  - all coming off the bats of guys who either are in the Hall of Fame or have a good chance to be someday (Olerud excluded - though he did have a nice career). All-in-all, Hampton did the Rox proud - especially for a franchise who many thought at the time would probably never have a pitcher worthy enough to be selected to an All-Star team.

Unfortunately for the Rockies, Hampton's first half success did not carry over to the second half of the season, as he was clobbered by opposing hitters to the tune of a 5-8 record and a 7.46 ERA. He played one more season after that in a Rockies uniform (an uninspiring one, as the 7-15 record and 6.15 ERA would suggest) before being shipped off to Florida. The Rockies ended up paying him in at least some capacity until the 2009 season, when his albatross of a contract finally came completely off the books. He went on to pitch for the Marlins, Braves, Astros (again), and Diamondbacks before calling it quits prior to the start of this season.

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