On Saturday, four former Rockies will return to Coors Field — a place they turned into a launch pad for dozens and dozens of homers. As they became the Blake Street Bombers, Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andrés Galarraga, and Ellis Burks helped build a new franchise’s identity.
As part of the Rockies 30th anniversary season, Walker, Bichette, Burks, and Castilla will be honored before the second game of Colorado’s doubleheader against the Giants. The first 15,000 fans at the game will get a Blake Street Bombers T-shirt and all be treated to a postgame drone light show.
Even though Galarraga won’t be on hand, the Bombers deserve a celebration. The home run numbers they put up in the first few seasons after the Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995 were remarkable. The sluggers were so talented at blasting longballs that they set an expectation of homers that’s been hard to match in the years since.
Rockies Year-by-Year Homer Leaders
|Year||Players with 30 or More Homers|
|Year||Players with 30 or More Homers|
|1995*||Bichette 40, Walker 36, Castilla 32, Galarraga 31|
|1996||Galarraga 47, Castilla 40, Burks 40, Bichette 31|
|1997||Walker 49, Galarraga 41, Castilla 40, Burks 32|
|1999||Walker 37, Helton 35, Bichette 34, Castilla 33|
|2001||Helton 49, Walker 38|
|2003||Wilson 36, Helton 33|
|2004||Burnitz 37, Castilla 35, Helton 32|
|2005||None (Helton 20)|
|2008||None (Holliday 25)|
|2012||None (Rosario 28)|
|2013||None (González 26)|
|2014||None (Dickerson 24)|
|2015||Arenado 42, González 40|
|2017||Arenado 37, Blackmon 37, Reynolds 30|
|2018||Arenado 38, Story 37|
|2019||Arenado 41, Story 35, Blackmon 32|
|2021||None (Cron 28)|
|2022||None (Cron 29)|
|* First season at Coors Field|
In Coors Field’s inaugural season, Bichette led the Bombers with 40 homers, Walker hit 36, Castilla added 32, and Galarraga hit 31. Burks battled injuries and only played 103 games, adding 14 homers. The Rockies not only led the National League in homers that season, but also became the fastest expansion team to qualify for the postseason when they won the Wild Card.
The Rockies led the NL in homers the next two seasons as three Bombers hit the 40 mark in 1996 (Galarraga 47, Castilla 40, Burks 40). Bichette added 31 and Walker hit 18 in an injury-shortened year. In 1997 the totals went even higher: Walker 49, Galarraga 41, Castilla 40, Burks 32, and Bichette 26.
Can you imagine having three Rockies hit 40 homers in a season right now? It’s unfathomable.
In 2023, it’s unlikely the team will have one player hit 30 — a scenario that’s happened in seven previous seasons in team history. The longest stretch came from 2011-13. Ryan McMahon leads the team with 24 homers and if he doesn’t hit six homers in the final 17 games, the 2021-23 match the franchise record drought.
Things have changed at Coors Field since the Blake Street Bombers were born as the humidor and the Bridich Barrier have made homers harder, but it’s still a friendly longball environment. And while the numbers of homers rise and fall on a year-to-year basis across MLB depending on pitching, the baseballs, and other factors, the Braves are proof enough that teams can hit homers in 2023. With Matt Olson’s 51 dingers leading the way, the Braves have three players with at least 30 homers (Ronald Acuna 37, Austin Riley 35, and Marcell Ozuna 34). Ozzie Albies is sitting at 29 at likely to join the club soon. For good measure, Eddie Rosario has 21 homers and Sean Murphy has added 20.
With the criteria of having four players with at least 30 homers each set by the 1995-1997 Rockies, you might think that Colorado has had several iterations of subsequent Blake Street Bomber generations in the years since. But it’s only happened once and that was in 1999 with three of the four members of the club being original Bombers. Walker hit 37, Bichette hit 34, and Castilla hit 33 while Todd Helton mashed 35 in his second full season on the team.
If you reduce the crew size from four to three, the Rockies have had three players hit at least 30 homers three times since 1999. The first was in 2004 when Castilla tried to keep the Bombers alive with 35, Helton added 32, and Jeromy Burnitz led the team with 37.
The closest version of a Blake Street Bombers 2.0 came from 2016-19 when Nolan Arenado anchored a high-octane offense. Arenado and Charlie Blackmon both hit 37 in 2017 when Mark Reynolds added 30. In 2019, Arenado blasted 41, Trevor Story hit 35, and Blackmon hit 32. When Arenado left, so did 30 homers.
C.J. Cron was close, hitting 28 in 2021 and 29 in 2022. Blackmon has hit 30 twice in his career, but not since 2019, and, at 37, he’s not going to hit those numbers again. Kris Bryant, who is only 31 and has a better chance at a power resurgence, has also done it twice, but not since 2019. Ryan McMahon has hit 24, 23, 20, and 23 in the last four full seasons and might be the kind of player who hits 30 in a season. The roster just has a different makeup than the Rockies of yore.
Helton hit 30 or more homers six times in his career, topping out at 49 in 2001. Castilla also did it six times with his career-best 46 coming in 1998. Walker hit or surpassed 30 four times with 49 being his highest in his MVP season in 1997. Galarraga passed 30 five times, four times as a Rockie, with his best season coming in 1996 when he hit 47. Burks smashed 30 or more four times with two of those seasons as a Rockie, including his career-best mark of 40 in 1996.
Could there be a Rockies roster in the near future with four players that hit 30 homers?
It’s hard to imagine.
However, if Nolan Jones stays at his current pace of hitting one homer every 19.31 at-bats, which is the best on the team, he could hit about 25 homers next year. If Bryant can hit a homer every 25.40 at-bats and stay healthy, it could give the Rockies three players with 20 or more homers. Perhaps Rockies fans could even dream of a Blake Street Light Bombers if Montero can keep smashing.
At least it would be a start.
★ ★ ★
It started raining in Denver early Thursday evening and just kept going, causing the Rockies and Giants to preemptively postpone their series-opening game. Now the Rockies will play a doubleheader on Saturday with game one set for 12:20 p.m. and game two set for 6:10 p.m. Chase Anderson was set to face off against Logan Webb on Thursday and the same showdown will now take place on Friday.
The Rockies have seven games in the next six days and it could tweak the starting rotation slightly after Thursday’s rain-postponed game vs. the Giants. DNVR’s Patrick Lyons hints that it could open up the possibility that Ryan Feltner could make his way back to the mound after recovering from a fractured skill he suffered on a line drive on May 13. Or Connor Seabold could also get a call-up from Triple-A Albuquerque.
Friday is Roberto Clemente Day across MLB. All players will wear No. 21 and the league will celebrate the legacy of the Hall of Famer for his work on and off the field. Kyle Freeland is once again the Roberto Clemente Award nominee and he did an interview with High Heat on Wednesday about why he gives back to the community, why he loves working with Special Olympics athletes, the lessons he learned from Ian Desmond, how he’s honored to wear No. 21 all the time, and what cool memorabilia he is raffling off to raise money for Special Olympics.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
The Chihuahuas scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game at 8-8, but it didn't last very long. Jimmy Herron hit his 18th homer of the season in the top of the ninth and it was enough to carry the Isotopes to victory on Thursday night. Coco Montes went 3-for-5 with one run scored, one RBI, and one walk, Willie MacIver went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a walk, and Wynton Bernard recorded two hits, including an RBI double, and also scored two runs. Aaron Shunk added a two-run double on a night when Albuquerque out-hit El Paso 14-8.
Back on top!!! Jimmy Herron goes KABOOM on the first pitch of the ninth inning!!— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) September 15, 2023
T9: Isotopes 9, Chihuahuas 8 pic.twitter.com/DuOuK5t2WM
Yanquiel Fernandez’s remarkable season continues. With the Yard Goats and Sea Dogs locked at 3-3, Fernandez hit a two-run homer that turned out to be the game-winner on Thursday. After hitting 17 homers in 58 games with High-A Spokane, Fernandez now has eight homers in 54 games with Double-A Hartford. Jordan Beck added two hits and scored a run, Ryan Ritter hit an RBI double, Sterlin Thompson drove in a run with a single, and Drew Romo hit into an RBI fielder’s choice to account for Hartford’s scoring. Connor Van Scoyoc earned his second win of the season after only giving up three runs on six hits (two homers) with four strikeouts and no walks.
★ ★ ★
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!