With the 2021 All-Star Game coming to Coors Field, we look back at the last time Denver hosted the event.
Its official: the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be held at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. On July 13th, the National and American League All-Stars will take the field in Denver for the first time since 1998, in front of what will hopefully be a roaring full-capacity crowd.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is coming to Colorado.
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) April 6, 2021
A lot has changed for both the league and the Rockies in the 23 years since Coors Field last played host to Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic. For starters, the Montréal Expos no longer exist, shipped out to Washington, D.C. following the 2004 season. Then-new-Commissioner Bud Selig has since retired and given way to now-Commissioner Rob Manfred. Divisions have shifted around. The Astros are an American League team. There was a major crackdown on the use of performance enhancing drugs with 2007’s Mitchell Report, leading to the end of the controversial “steroid era” of baseball.
The Colorado Rockies have seen their fair share of changes too. In 2002 the team installed a humidor at Coors Field to help negate the much maligned “Coors Effect.” In 2005 Dick and Charlie Monfort became the controlling owners of the team, succeeding Jerry McMorris. The Rooftop party deck is a thing now. The Rockies have had four more playoff runs, including their lone World Series appearance in 2007. The team also finally has its first elected Hall of Fame player (with another making strides in voting), as well as its first retired numbers: Larry Walker (33) and Todd Helton (17).
But the more everything changes, the more it stays the same. The Rockies still haven’t won their division as they near the franchise’s 30-year anniversary, and have not won a World Series. Beloved players are shipped out to other teams either to cut costs or clear space. People still decry Coors Field as an unfair advantage to the Rockies’ batters: an asterisk on the careers of talented players and potential Hall-of-Famers. Larry Walker didn’t make the Hall of Fame until his tenth and final year of eligibility, and Todd Helton is facing similar hurdles.
Let us rewind back to 1998, though. The Expos still exist, Bud Selig is in his first year as Commissioner, and the Rockies are halfway through their sixth season of play. The children of Rockies legends aren’t breaking into the big leagues, but are instead being carried in the arms of their fathers. Rockies All-Star Dante Bichette holds his six year old son Dante Jr. while future Blue Jays star Bo is just four months old.
The Colorado Rockies made their first playoff run in 1995 with a Wild Card berth, but the young team was just now starting to gain notoriety. Larry Walker had won the 1997 National League MVP, and the All-Star Game put Coors Field on the national stage for the first time. Three Rockies were elected as All-Stars that year, with Walker starting in right field. Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette were elected as reserve players. The rosters themselves were jam-packed with players now considered legends. A whopping 15 1998 All-Stars are now in the Hall of Fame, including Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Pedro Martínez, and Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey—the then Seattle Superstar—even won the Home Run Derby despite being a late entry. Griffey wasn’t even planning to participate, but heckling fans at a workout changed his mind and won the whole thing. The Rockies had a participant in the Derby as well. Vinny Castilla finished in third place with 12 total home runs, beating out titans of the steroid era like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, the latter of whom would go on to shatter the single season home run record during the 1998 season in a thrilling race with Sammy Sosa. The roster even had several beloved former Rockies like Andrés Galarraga and Walt Weiss, both of whom had left the Rockies in the 1997 offseason.
The special All-Star jerseys used for batting practice and the Home Run Derby may be an annual occurrence now, but back in 1998 it was only the second time they had ever been used. Utilizing a striking design of Coors Green for the National League and Rockies Black for the American League (both with purple accents and mountain imagery), the uniforms set a standard that is rarely met to this day.
Now return to the year 2021. So much has changed in 23 years, and so much has remained the same. The Rockies are again in a period of transition with the departure of Nolan Arenado. Coors Field is still questioned as an unfair hitter’s paradise by outsiders. However, it’s impossible to not get excited thinking about what may happen in the 2021 All-Star Game. Will Bo Bichette come to Coors Field for the game, 23 years after his father? Will beloved former Rockies stars Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu be there to represent their new homes? More importantly, who will represent the Rockies? Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story seem like locks, but will one of the young new players surprise us all with an All-Star season? Could Josh Fuentes play on the same team as his cousin one more time? Perhaps most importantly, though: will they hand out Beanie Babies?