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Past and Present: Let's Play Two!

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"It's a great day for a ball game, let's play two!"

Hall of Fame shortstop and doubleheader advocate Ernie Banks throws out the first pitch before the 2010 Civil Rights Game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
Hall of Fame shortstop and doubleheader advocate Ernie Banks throws out the first pitch before the 2010 Civil Rights Game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
Andy Lyons

Note: When I started writing this, I was under the impression the Rockies and Mets would be playing a doubleheader today.

"It's a great day for a ball game, let's play two!"

That quote from Hall of Famer Ernie Banks is one of my favorite baseball-related quotes of all-time. This is likely because doubleheaders are one of my favorite things about baseball. Football teams are never asked to play more than one game in a day, and you don't see it in basketball or soccer beyond about the high school level. At the professional level, the doubleheader is something unique to baseball.

As far as the Rockies go, they've played 43 twin-bills in their 21 seasons, sweeping 15 of them, they were swept 13 times and split the other 15. The last two doubleheaders at Coors Field have resulted in Rockies sweeps, Tuesday's wins over the Mets and a sweep of a day-night doubleheader on May 28, 2012 against the Astros.

The number of doubleheaders, especially true two-games-for-the-price-of-one twin-bills, throughout Major League Baseball has naturally dwindled over the years thanks to the proliferation of air travel and the desire of owners to collect a gate for all 81 home games. Take for example Jackie Robinson's rookie year in 1947, the Dodgers played 17 doubleheaders that season (They swept eight, were swept in four and split five.) The Rockies, by contrast, have played 17 twin-bills in the last 10 seasons.

Of course, you can't discuss doubleheaders and the Rockies without bringing up their only doubleheader of 2007. The date was September 18, the Rockies had just salvaged the final game of a three-game set with the Marlins, but were five games out of the Wild Card with 13 to play heading into a four-game series against the Dodgers. Jeff Francis out-dueled Chad Billingsley for a 3-1 Rockies win in the opener, and the nightcap featured Todd Helton's walk-off against Takashi Saito, effectively kicking off the Rockies' run for the pennant. I always felt like the fact that it was a doubleheader sweep added some extra impact to that homer.

That game aside, some of my favorite baseball memories have come at doubleheaders at all levels. Of course growing up there were always little league and into high school doubleheaders. I didn't play much, but I had siblings and friends that did and it was always fun to spend a day at the field with family and friends.

College for me was at Northern Colorado in Greeley, which meant Saturday doubleheaders at Jackson Field, a place that makes Coors Field look like a pitcher's paradise by comparison. There were days out there that can only be described as absurd, including a double dip in 2007 I covered for the campus newspaper that saw the Bears and New Mexico State combine to score 54 runs in two games, UNC lost 14-13 and 19-12.

Though that doesn't compare to the doubleheader I missed out on covering a couple years later in which the Bears and Texas-Pan American combined to score 75 in a pair of contests. This one went better for the home team, as the Bears swept UTPA 28-22 and 19-6. UTPA's starter in the nightcap allowed 14 runs on 16 hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Then of course there's the big league twin-bill, I've only been to a couple, but I remember them. The first was a classic twi-night doubleheader against the Marlins in 2010, Greg Smith pitched pretty well in the first game, but lost, and we came back to get the split in the nightcap against Nate Robertson.

The other was last season against the Astros, the guy in front of me during the opener complained loudly about Jed Lowrie hitting a home run in the top of the first, but the Rockies scored five in the bottom of the first and he was conspicuously quiet for the rest of the game. The nightcap featured Dexter Fowler's walk-off triple.

The few people at Coors Field on Tuesday, while undoubtedly very cold, will have a story they'll remember for a very long time.

Doubleheaders are a great link to the past, see both ends of one at a big league stadium and it feels like you're back in baseballs golden age, when you could get a box seat for $1.50 (if you're a Marlins fan on StubHub, you can still probably pull that off) and a hot dog for 50 cents (on the other hand, I don't think I'd want to eat any hot dog I could get for that price these days), which is why I was excited to see the Rockies schedule one last season, even if it was a day-night split, and why I was disappointed they didn't do so this season.

In the end, I think Ernie Banks is right, it's a great day for a ball game, and we should play two more often.