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Past & Present: The Birth of a Different Franchise

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Looking back at the Rockies first trip to Arizona, which coincided with the debut game for the Diamondbacks franchise.

As a rookie, Todd Helton drove in the first run in the history of Chase Field. This is not a photo of that event (notice the lack of hideously ugly purple and teal uniforms.)
As a rookie, Todd Helton drove in the first run in the history of Chase Field. This is not a photo of that event (notice the lack of hideously ugly purple and teal uniforms.)
Christian Petersen

With the Rockies celebrating their 20th anniversary this season and doing a lot of looking back at the franchise's origins as well as the club making it's first trip to Chase Field starting tonight, I thought it would be fun to look back at when the Rockies took part in the beginning of another franchise, that being the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The date was March 31, 1998 and 47,484 fans were in attendance to see the hometown Diamondbacks in those hideously ugly purple and teal uniforms take on the Rockies in the first game at what was then called Bank One Ballpark.

There was no Eric Young leadoff home run moment for the D-Backs, as the late Darryl Kile struck out Devon White to lead off the bottom of the first inning. In fact, both Kile and Arizona starter Andy Benes gave up just a lone single in scoreless first innings.

The Rockies got on the board against Benes in the top of the second, when a 24-year-old rookie named Todd Helton drove in Vinny Castilla with a double to left field, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Benes and Kile kept the score at 1-0 until the sixth, when Castilla hit the first home run in the history of what is now Chase Field, a two-run shot to left that gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead.

The Diamondbacks answered with the first run in the history of the franchise in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a Travis Lee solo home run off of Kile that cut the Rockies lead to 3-1.

The Rockies finally blew the game open in the seventh, with Ellis Burks chasing Benes from the game with an RBI double. Benes worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (all of them earned) on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout.

Arizona reliever Clint Sodowsky didn't fare much better than Benes, allowing back-to-back singles to Larry Walker and Dante Bichette before serving up Castilla's second home run of the game. The Rockies led 8-1 by the end of the inning. They added an insurance run in the eighth thanks to a Dante Bichette single.

Rockies reliever, and one time Diamondbacks interim general manager, Jerry Dipoto allowed a consolation run in the ninth via a Karim Garcia home run before closing out the 9-2 Rockies win.

Like the Mets did to them in 1993, the Rockies would go on to sweep the Diamondbacks in Arizona's first ever series. The Rockies took the second game, 6-0, thanks to eight shutout innings from John Thomson and won the series finale, 6-4, with the game swinging on Bichette's three-run homer in the sixth inning off of Brian Anderson.

The rest of 1998 would not go as well for the Rockies, who suffered an eight-game losing streak in April en route to a 77-85 finish and fourth place in the NL West. The team Colorado finished ahead of was Arizona, who started the season 8-31 before finishing 65-97.

I think the lesson here, though, given what happened here and at Mile High Stadium in 1993 is that if the Rockies are involved in a team's first ever home game, they're going to win and win big.