FanPost

Friday Rockpile: Anticipation Breeds Nostalgia

Doug Pensinger

Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.

As we roll into February and get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, I like to think back to my favorite Rockies memories. Please reply back with your favorite Rockies moments and help the community relive all of our favorite moments.

My first writers search article was based on some statistical analysis, and I enjoy that type of writing, but I thought I should provide some more personal information in my second post so everyone can get to know me and the staff can decide if I am the right type of person to be bringing you Rockies news and information throughout the year. Being a long time lurker, without a post until I applied for this, I am behind in introducing myself. So I decided to provide a little bit of a look into my life while still talking about the Rockies. My best way to do this, I decided, is to write about my five favorite Rockies games that I have attended, hopefully bringing up some good memories and some forgotten names.

I have to first state that the closest I have lived to Denver since the birth of the Rockies was when I was in Colorado Springs from the inaugural year in 1993 until 1997. Being in the Air Force, I have since lived in St. Louis, Oklahoma, S. Carolina, Missouri, California, Washington, D.C., and Morocco. Despite this, I have found a way to make it to several Rockies games. Because I love Denver, and Coors field, this list will only consist of home games. So, without further ado:

Number 5: Monday, May 25, 2009; Colorado 6, LA 16.

How can this big of a blow out be in my list of top five? Well, its because this was my first stop on my great baseball road trip, and as such I will talk a little about each game. I was moving from California to Washington D.C., and my wife and two daughters had to stay in Monterey to finish the school year. I decided that if I was on my own, I was going to hit a baseball game every night. Well...every night after spending the first night in Vegas anyway. I met my sister and her friends from Boulder for this game and while we lost, and lost badly, we had a good time together. On to the game:

Jorge De La Rosa was awful, giving up 7 earned runs in three and a third to go to 0-5 with a 5.25 ERA. Colorado mounted a comeback in the 4th through 6th innings with a Barmes RBI double in the 4th, 3 one-out walks in the fifth leading to a Spillborghs RBI ground-out, a 2-rbi double for Hawpe, and an RBI single for Hawpe. Then Jason Grilli and Alex Embree combined to give 8 runs up in the seventh and the Dodgers added an extra run off of Corpas in the ninth. The loss dropped Colorado to 18-26 and Clint Hurdle only survived for the rest of my road trip. The good news is the Rockies turned it around and ended up in the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years.

The next night I picked my dad up at the Kansas City airport as he joined my journey and we went to see the Royals play the Detroit Tigers. I had lived near Kansas City from 2004-07 and always enjoyed going to games at Kauffman Stadium but this was my first chance to see Greinke pitch. He had been the talk of baseball so far that season. After posting two pretty descent seasons for KC in ’07 and ’08, he headed into the game at 7-1 with an ERA of 0.82. He didn’t disappoint and threw a complete game six hitter with one earned run and 8 strikeouts. There was no anticipation of a shutout as he gave up his only run on consecutive hits in the first inning to Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez, but after that he settled down and was assisted by 3 double plays erasing all but two baserunners the rest of the game. KC’s offense had better luck against Edwin Jackson, getting their first three runs in the 6th and then adding a run in the 7th and two in the 8th after Jackson left with two on in the 7th. The home team won 6 to 1.

For May 27th, my dad and I detoured slightly and got into Cincinnati to watch the Reds play the Astros. I knew I was getting to see a former Rockie play for the Reds, Willie Tavarez, but I didn’t realize I was going to see a future Rockies pitcher in Astro’s starter Felipe Paulino. Paulino did ok, but Bronson Arroyo stole the show for the Reds, throwing a complete game on only 92 pitches and giving up 1 run on 5 hits with 3 SO and 1 walk. He, like Greinke the night before, allowed his only run in the first so there was no big drama towards the end but he dominated after that. Bruce had two home runs and one of the two evil Hairston brothers also sent one deep. Arroyo even got into the act on offense, hitting a double in the fifth and his team won 6 to 1. So after three games, I saw dominating pitching performance by the home team in every game except the Rockies.

Arrived in Washington DC on May 28th and the Nationals were on a road trip. However, the Orioles were in town and just a short drive away. My dad and I decided we were too tired to make the trip though. It’s too bad too, because I could have seen another great home team pitching performance. The Orioles had to use three relievers after their starter, David Hernandez dominated for 5 and a third in his rookie debut, but the result was almost identically the same as the two previous nights as the home team won, but this time 5 to 1. While this was a great road trip and I was able to visit Coors field again, it pales next to my top 4 favorite games.

Number 4: My youngest daughter, Hope, sees her first Rockies game: May 29, 2003; Colorado 12, Los Angeles 5.

Living in South Carolina at the time, it was the funeral for my grandfather who had died in a car accident that brought me and my family to Denver. So, while that was a somber occasion, my family needed a little bit of a break and we chose to leave the work of packing up my grandparent’s farmhouse for a few hours to watch baseball and enjoy ourselves.

The Rockies did not disappoint, giving up 3 runs in the first two innings but getting 2 in the first themselves and then breaking open for 4 in the third and 3 in the fourth. Todd Helton had, what was at the time, a career high 6 RBIs and Scott Elarton gave hope that he was going to be a successful reclamation project by only giving up those 3 early runs in 5 innings to win his first game since May 6, 2001.

My youngest daughter was only five months old and going to this game made it so that both of my two daughters made it to their first Rockies game prior to turning one year old despite living on the East Coast. One of the biggest things I remember from this game is that my mother-in-law was able to get us some great seats close in along the third base line. We ended up sitting right in front of Preston Wilson’s mom and even though he ended up going 0-5 with 4 strikeouts, it was nice to talk a bit to her about her son. Wilson was pretty busy out in center as the Dodgers hit a couple of triples to the deep alleys and also a couple of bloop singles to center and he ended up corralling the final out of the game. Other Rockies who had big games that day include Ronnie Belliard who had a career-high five hits and Jay Payton who drove in 3 runs.

This win also completed the Rockies first ever sweep of the Dodgers in Denver, gave them a 7-1 home stand that brought them to .500 on the year, and provided me hope that they could be competitive in 2003. The Rockies ended up fighting all year to stay relevant until August 12 when they won in extra innings to again be at five hundred. Then the bottom fell out over the next 45 days and they had to win their last two games to end the season at 74-88, with the Giants winning the division by double digits. In the end, a season that started with Colorado giving up on Mike Hampton in a trade for Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson ended in more disappointment and the team started its youth movement the next year.

Number 3: My firstborn's first Rockies experience, August 22, 2000; Colorado 7, Atlanta 6.

The previous winter, my wife had blessed me with the birth of our first daughter. She was only a couple of weeks away from being a potential millennium baby and I was excited to take her out to Denver so she could be introduced to my grandparents. Needless to say, she needed the full Colorado experience, to include a Rockies game. Little did I know that I was going to treat her to one of the rarest sights in major league baseball.

Colorado got an early lead, tagging John Burkett for six runs in the first four innings while only allowing one. At this point, we talked about leaving the game early because it was a hot sunny day. While we had plenty of sunscreen and even an umbrella to shade my daughter, we didn't want the altitude and heat to effect her too badly. In the end, we kept her hydrated while staying at the game, and thank goodness we did.

The Braves came back and tied the score and we were off to extra innings. The Rockies, already short-handed in the bullpen from overuse the previous couple of days, needed 3 relievers to get through regulation and then used up 2 pitchers in the 10th and 2 in the 11th. At the top of the 12th, with the game still tied, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Brett Mayne take the mound. For those who are too young to remember, Mayne was our veteran catcher that year with the young Petrick having caught the game. With catcher pitching to catcher, (who's on first?) the Braves were able to get a hit and walk but were failed at pushing a run across the plate before Mayne recorded three outs. Mayne wasn't playing in the game because he had some sort of non-throwing arm injury. This caused Buddy Bell to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning with Adam Melhuse who ended up getting the game-winning RBI. I have always wondered who would have pitched the 13th if Melhuse would have struck out...

Just like with my younger daughter, my oldest daughter's first game was a win that brought the team to .500. They would go on to win 82 games that year and provide some false optimism for the next few years. For me, I was excited that we beat the Braves who I have disliked ever since they knocked us out of our first playoffs in 1995.

Number 2: My first Rockies game, June 21, 1995; Colorado 6, Florida 3.

While I love my daughters, their first games cannot compare to my first game at Coors Field and my first time seeing the Rockies live. I did not get the chance to travel up from Colorado Springs to see the Rockies during their first two years at Mile High, but with Coors Field open and access to a dependable car, my friend Billy and I were on our way to see baseball at a mile high.

Now I can't promise that this was the game we saw. I know that it was a midweek, day game in June of 1995 and was in the later half of the month. To keep baseball involved in the discussion, I will talk about the game. However, the reason this is #2 on my list is of seeing Coors Field and falling in love with baseball. I had always liked baseball, but with Denver only have the Bears(then Zephers after I left) when I grew up there, my first loyalty was to the Broncos and then to the Rockies hockey team until they were stolen. Baseball was something I watched on lazy summer afternoons but not something I followed. The birth of the Rockies had altered my opinion but not until I sat inside that wonderful stadium did they because a 1A to the #1 Broncos for me.

The field was immaculate, there didn't seem to be a bad seat in the place and my friend and I sat way behind home plate for a fun game. If it was on June 21, we got to see the Rockies beat "the other expansion team." Billy Swift wasn't sharp but he was good enough to give me hope that he could be successful for us, going 5 innings and getting his second win of the game. Walt, Larry, Dante, and Vinny got some descent hits and even the Big Cat made a brief appearance after originally getting the day off after a night game. My favorite player at the time, Joe Girardi, lead the team with two RBIs and the Rockies won to get to 4 games over .500. They went on to the playoffs that year and I have been hooked ever since. My love of the Colorado Rockies began there and was strong enough to make it through some pretty bad years for the guys in Purple.

Number 1: The 163rd game: Monday, October 1, 2007; Colorado 9, San Diego 8. "They played as if they never wanted the season to end, and they had already gotten an extra day."

No, I was not lucky enough to be at this game, but I still have to put it at the top of my list. This game, the previous 13 wins in 14 games, and the Rocktober that followed remains, in my mind, as one of the most improbably runs in sports, except it wasn't improbable to me. I remember telling my wife, starting at the end of August, how many games the Rockies had to win to make the playoffs. I gave her daily updates and really thought it was going to happen. I watched games on my laptop during master's classes, I watched games while writing papers. My great machinations for Rockies in the playoffs seemed over when the Padres got a lead in their September 29th game against Milwaukee.

Trevor Hoffman came into the ninth inning for the Padres and all seemed lost for the Rocks. However a game-tying triple sent the game to extra innings and the Padres lost in the 11th to set up a one game playoff.

The Rockies were hot, having the second best record in the league since mid-May and their current streak was a 13-1 record. Everyone on the team helped to gain an early lead, from veterans Yorvit Torrealba and Todd Helton hitting home runs to September call-up Seth Smith and a young Troy Tulowitzki hitting triples. But the umpires ruled a possible game clinching home run by Atkins as only a long fly ball that hit the wall and the relief pitchers couldn't hold the lead with Holliday not helping matters with some bad defense.

The Padres tied it up to force those famous extra innings and one of the two evil Hairston brothers knocked one over the fence in the 13th to give the Friars a two run lead. Enter Sandman...err Hells Bells and Trevor Hoffman. Without his famous Bells to run into, Hoffman was again mortal for the second time in three days. Holiday hit a tying triple to make amends for his earlier shoddy defense and with only one out, the stage was set for Jamey Carroll to drive in the run. Only he didn't get much on the ball and it was a shallow fly. The ensuing play at the plate is still not agreed upon between the two sets of fans and made for a great parody commercial the next year in Rockies advertising. The Rockies made the playoffs, taking Todd Helton there for the first time in his career. They swept the first two rounds, however the Red Sox proved too much in the World Series. But this game was a magical end to a magical regular season.

Thank you for listening to my favorite games, now please share some of your own and any critiques are appreciated as well.


Off Topic Links-Not much new out there, but this was on espn.com:

Look who makes Matt Berry's top fantasy list

Off-topic

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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