John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Summit County It wasn’t Babe Ruth standing with his back to the camera saying farewell to the faithful fans in Yankee Stadium back in 1948, but for this longtime Rockies fan, last Sunday’s game at Coors Field was a moment worth remembering.
This time, it was Todd Helton, flanked by his wife, daughters and several former teammates, standing in the middle of infield saying goodbye to thousands of die-hard Rockies fans who had been drawn to Blake Street by the allure of a commemorative bobblehead and a chance to witness Colorado Rockies history.
After Sunday, the only place you will find Todd Helton’s No. 17 anywhere in Coors Field is above Center Field next to a sign with the No. 42 honoring Jack Robinson, and another with the initials KSM for former team president Keli McGregor. Helton is the first Colorado Rockies player to have his number retired, and while it may not rank in the greatest baseball moments of all time, it definitely was worth a three-hour drive to Denver and the price of a ticket to the game.
The really cool thing is that a year after leaving the game, Helton’s name nearly filled all the seats at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon for the first game of a doubleheader. It’s hard to image that many people showed up to watch the last-place Colorado Rockies take on the Cincinnati Reds in a game that featured two teams near the bottom of their divisions. The Reds, however, are on the outside of the wildcard race hoping to find a way in. But most of the fans on this day were wearing purple and black.
Being on the outside of the playoff race is something that Rockies fans have gotten used to throughout the years. We all keep heading to the ballfield, or watching our television sets, hoping to watch the Rockies make a run to the playoffs. But by this time, most years the Rockies are out of contention, and the fans are looking forward to the future.
Sunday’s game was typical for the Rockies and was kind of a fitting way to honor Helton’s career. The Rockies jumped out to an early lead, but after an hour rain-delay, the Reds rallied to take a 9-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Reds' closer couldn’t seal the deal setting up Cory Dickerson who hit a three-run shot to center field to give the Rockies a 10-9 walk-off win.
Yes, it’s true, the Rockies don’t always win, but throughout the years, they have proven to be a team that you can never turn your back on before the final out. Sure, a lot of fans still are hoping this team wins a World Series someday — and that would be a great moment in Colorado sports.
But this season we will have to take what we can get, and there isn’t a Rockies fan out there that would say Sunday’s games at Coors Field marked a special moment in the history of Major League Baseball in Colorado. True fans will just have to keep waiting for the parade that will follow the team’s first World Series title.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966