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Past & Present: Just how did Dick Monfort wind up owning the Rockies anyway?

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How Connie Mack, Al Davis and a felon helped to shape the Rockies' current ownership group.

Doug Pensinger

To put things mildly, Rockies owner Dick Monfort has said some things he probably shouldn't have in the past couple of weeks and the team's fan base is rather displeased with ownership at the moment. But the story of how Monfort came to be in the position he is stretches back some 60 years and includes some of the biggest names in baseball history.

The history of professional baseball in Denver stretches back to the 1950s, when Philadelphia A's owner Connie Mack (real name Cornelius McGillicuddy) went bankrupt and was forced to sell the team to interests that moved the A's to Kansas City for the 1955 season, forcing the minor league Blues to move to Denver, becoming the Bears and starting a long and successful relationship between Denver and minor league baseball.

The support for the Bears in Denver was so great, in fact, that it led to repeated rumors and attempts to move a major league franchise to Denver, the most notable of these coming in 1978, when Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley reached an agreement in principle to sell the team  to businessman Marvin Davis, who would have moved the team to Denver.

However, just before the agreement was officially signed, Al Davis announced he was moving he Raiders to Los Angeles and the city of Oakland, not wanting to lose both of its major sports teams, refused to let the A's out of their stadium lease, forcing them to remain in Oakland. The lesson here is, of course, that Al Davis ruins everything.

Finally, in 1990, in an effort spearheaded by banking executive Larry Varnell, Denver voters approved a 0.1 percent increase in sales tax to fund what would be Coors Field. With funding for a stadium in place, Colorado governor Roy Romer formed a commission to find an ownership group and help convince Major League Baseball to put an expansion team in the Mile High City.

Romer's commission found their men in Ohio businessmen John Antonelli and Mickey Monus, the latter the head of the successful Phar-Mor chain of drug stores, and on July 5, 1991, Major League Baseball approved Denver as the site of an expansion team that would start play in the 1993 season. The Rockies were born.

A year later, in July of 1992, it was discovered that Monus had been cooking the books at Phar-Mor and had embezzled nearly  $10 million from the company. Needless to say, Monus and Antonelli were no longer viable owners for the Rockies and they looked to sell their stake in the team and for a time it looked like the Rockies would move to Tampa, Fla. before they even played a game. ESPN tracked down Monus and ran this fantastic piece on the original Rockies owners during the 2007 World Series.

In the fall of 1992, the Rockies found a new group of investors. Trucking magnate Jerry McMorris was joined by Denver businessman Oren Benton and Charlie Monfort in buying Antonelli and Monus' stake in the team for $15 million. Benton would sell his stake in the team to Dick Monfort in 1997.

Upon purchasing the franchise, McMorris became the Rockies' first team president for the 1993 season, a role he held until 2001 when the team's executive vice-president Keli McGregor was promoted to the job. Interestingly, given Dick Monfort's recent comments to KOA about someone in their thirties not being fit to run a franchise, McGregor was just 38 when he took over as team president.

In 2005, the Monforts bought out McMorris, giving them essentially full control of the Rockies. Along with McGregor, they piloted the team through its most successful era in the late 2000s. Unfortunately, McGregor died tragically on April 20, 2010 at the age of 47, leaving Dick Monfort in the role of team president, a position he holds to this day.

In the end, it took a very unfortunate series of events, a bankruptcy, the abrupt cancellation of a sale, an embezzlement indictment and an untimely death, put Dick Monfort in the position he is. Call it destiny, a curse or just a bad set of circumstances, but people connected to professional baseball in Denver have not had it easy, and Monfort certainly doesn't right now.