“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
These are the impactful words that the ghost of Babe Ruth tells Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez the night before his destined pickle with The Beast is The Sandlot. That quote has always stuck with me as a testament to how stories and people are molded.
For 17 years in Colorado, Todd Helton was a hero. The former first-round pick in 1995 became a player who embodied the Rockies and was a model of consistency, quality and character in every aspect of the game. Yes, he had legendary moments, but they were often quickly forgotten because of the poor state of the organization he played for, and the scrutiny he faced because he just so happened to call Coors Field home. He was always mostly remembered fondly as a hero for the Rockies.
On January 23, 2024, Todd Helton became a legend.
Welcome to Cooperstown, Todd Helton! pic.twitter.com/IJwdobmsJk— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) January 24, 2024
It can’t be overstated the feeling of relief and sheer adulation to hear that Helton had been elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s been a precarious journey this offseason, as I, like many of you, eagerly checked for Hall of Fame ballot announcements each day on social media. I cheered as I saw checkmarks next to his name from returning voters. I jumped for joy as first-time voters checked his name and as he gained new votes from other votes. I sneered when I saw voters inexplicably drop him off their ballots. I jeered when I saw the rationales of other voters as to why they had left him off their ballots in the first place. For a few months, I waited with bated breath, knowing that the vote was going to be close, and at one point even losing faith that he would reach the mountaintop.
I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
Helton not only reached the 75% threshold needed for induction but soared to nearly 80%, ending up with 79.7% of the vote. Unlike the Hall of Fame announcement for Larry Walker, I didn’t run out into the parking lot of my college apartment leaping for joy and yelling. Much like Helton raising his hands in sweet victory after catching the final out of the 2007 NLCS that sent him to his first World Series, I raised my hands to the sky to emulate my childhood hero.
What many baseball fans and writers failed to realize about Helton, is just what he means to the people of Colorado. For 31 years, fans of the Rockies have had very little to celebrate. The team is often the butt of many jokes, and for good reason. The team has been the keynote speaker of mediocrity and failure for the majority of its existence. There have been bright spots and worthwhile moments but they often end up as flashes in the pan. They have seen the team drive away fan favorites and other players push their way out. In those spats between the front office and the players, the fans are left in the crossfire and left to pick up the pieces.
I have often experienced at various times the feeling of not being wanted in my life. I’ve seen times when I’ve been rejected or looked over for something “better.” It’s a terrible feeling that can happen a lot in sports. Stars move on, players get unhappy, and things change. That wasn’t the case for Helton.
For his entire career, Helton chose the Colorado Rockies. He chose the fans.
Rocky Top ➡️ Rocky Mountains ➡️ Cooperstown pic.twitter.com/mqzBLmM8dJ— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) January 23, 2024
To Helton, Coors Field and its people were simply his home. It was never an excuse or a crutch for his career. There was a time when he was almost traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 2007 season but thankfully the deal fell through and Helton expressed his desire that it would mean more to win in Colorado than anywhere else. He then went on to spark the magical September run and lead the Rockies to their first National League Pennant that year.
As I wrote numerous times,— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) January 24, 2024
Helton reluctantly agreed to trade to Red Sox before 2007 season. Trade collapsed over pitchers coming back in deal. Helton was relieved. He never wanted to leave. Just Listen to his answer about it #Denver7 #Rockies pic.twitter.com/ZmtYF2EkCZ
He embraced his role as a mentor and guide, inspiring his teammates to go on and do great things in their own careers. They played for Todd because they knew how much it would mean to him to win.
I remember when I was in denial in 2012 and 2013 about the idea of Helton retiring. As a fan, I always believed that he couldn’t retire until he got that World Series ring. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help him get there, but I wanted nothing more than for him to get back to the playoffs and get the ring he deserved.
Those are the same feelings I’ve had for the past six years watching the Hall of Fame voting results. I’ve wanted the world to celebrate and recognize how great a player he was. I’ve wanted him to be enshrined in Cooperstown. I’ve wanted people to understand that he wasn’t a player that was great because of where he played, but a great player at his core, no matter where he played.
Now, he has received the call to immortality. Much like Helton, I now feel a sense of relief that the process is over. After 17 years, 2,247 games, 2,519 hits, 592 doubles, 369 home runs, and a whole lot of memories, Helton, myself, and a whole lot of fans feel a sweet sense of validation and unparalleled delight that will carry on forever. Never have happier tears been shed in the state of Colorado.
Helton is no longer just a Colorado hero, he is now an MLB legend.
And legends never die.
Thomas Harding writes up an in-depth article breaking down the news and stats of the announcement for Helton.
WATCH: Todd Helton on his Hall of Fame induction | MLB.com
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