There's just something about the 25th of September. The Rockies have lost only once on that date in the last decade, and that was when a certain #17 more than made up for it with a storybook goodbye. Last night was the fourth Rockies game I've attended on September 25th, and all four have been fantastic.
In 2009, the Rockies were closing in on a playoff berth and defeated the Cardinals 2-1 on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Yorvit Torrealba. A sellout crowd stuck around afterwards for fireworks. It's one of my fondest Rockies memories outside of 2007.
The mood was not as joyous the following year, as the Rockies entered the game on the heels of a five game losing streak, fighting for their playoff lives. That was the night they staged their last stand, coming back in thrilling fashion to defeat the eventual World Champion Giants in extra innings for what would be their final victory of that season. To date, it's the last meaningful win the team has had at all. Still, at that moment it felt like there was still a bit of magic left at 20th & Blake.
Fast forward three more years to 2013, and you'd find the Rockies playing out the string while also facing the eventual World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox. The final home game of the year was a brutal 15-5 defeat, but almost no one remembers the score. What they remember is Todd Helton hitting a home run and a double in his final home game in front of a sellout crowd, and his emotional lap around the field after the game. It was magical to be there that night, and it sits near the top of a long list of favorite Rockies memories for me.
Needless to say, there wasn't anything nearly so momentous happening last night. I had hoped that Nolan Arenado might become the first Rockie in 14 years to hit 40 home runs, but he was held in check by Dodger pitching. Before the game, I was keenly aware of what the date was, and I couldn't help but reminisce about the previous games I had been to while lamenting the fact that there was no such buzz surrounding this one. Despite all that, last night was a wonderful evening at Coors Field.
You couldn't have ordered more perfect late summer/early fall weather for a baseball game. That, along with the fireworks promotion, drew over 38,000 fans out to Coors Field on the last weekend of the home schedule. For the first time this year, I went to a game with my parents, who had also been present on all three previous 25ths of September. That connection to the past, combined with the realization that this would be the last baseball game I would be attending for more than six months, made me appreciate being at the ballpark more than usual last night.
For a team that has been out of contention since it was still technically spring, the atmosphere on this autumn night was as good as could possibly have been expected. The crowd was large, and the promise of fireworks kept them there until the very end. The 6:10 start meant that the fans were even more late-arriving than usual, but by the time the Rockies offense broke out in the third and fourth innings there was a very good vibe in the building.
When Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Corey Dickerson hit home runs in alternating at-bats in the fourth, the cheers got louder each time. I was standing on the concourse, where sound always echoes, and you could have been tricked for a moment into thinking this was a game of consequence if you had just listened to the sound as CarGo's 38th homer went over the center field fence.
There were Dodger fans in attendance last night, and they were heard from en masse at times, particularly when the Bums scored two runs in the seventh, but for the most part the noise was dominated by Rockies fans. I'm going to choose to blame the Dodger fans for starting the wave in the sixth inning, though. They might be the only fans in all of baseball more laid back than ours.
After John Axford got the second out in the ninth, the video screens implored Rockies fans to get on their feet, and they complied like they usually do, but then something happened that I haven't heard happen in a long time. The crowd noise swelled as Axford got ready to deliver his first pitch to Adrian Gonzalez. Almost everyone was still there on account of the fireworks. The noise was unprompted and authentic, and it was loud.
It reminded me for a moment of CarGo rounding third on his mad dash home in 2010, or of Todd sliding headfirst into second for his final career hit at Coors Field in 2013. I hadn't heard that particular sound since then; a full two years. It was fantastic. Axford got A-Gon to ground to Adames at second, and when he threw to Morneau at first for the final out, Coors let out a roar. Once again I was able to forget for a moment that this game moved the Rockies to 64-90 and not 90-64.
I'm not trying to say that it was a "playoff atmosphere" last night, because it was certainly far short of that. Still, there were glimpses of that sort of vibe and that's something I have sorely missed feeling at Rockies games over the past few years.
Last night was also the symbolic end of an era. George Frazier was honored at a retirement ceremony before the game by Drew Goodman, as he winds down his nineteen year career broadcasting the Rockies. Love him or hate him, Frazier has been there for most of the franchise's history and has called most of the greatest moments in Rockies history.
Despite the lack of any spectacular or earth-shattering occurrences, last night was a good night to be at Coors Field. The Rockies won, and the fans were treated to fireworks for showing up to support them. This also happened:
I shouldn't have expected anything less from September 25th.
I'll see you again next year, Coors. Never change.
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 26, 2015