The following is the second of a five-part series celebrating the top 25 memories, players, milestones and headlines of the first quarter-century of the ballpark in LoDo:
No. 20, Catcher Brett Mayne notches a “W,” Aug. 22, 2000: It’s unusual for a position player to pitch in a major league game. It’s even rarer when a catcher pitches. It’s historic when the catcher gets the win.
But that’s what happened when Mayne delivered in the 12th inning against the Atlanta Braves. Mayne, unable to catch because of strained ligaments in his left catching hand, became the first position player in 32 years to record a big-league pitching victory. Mayne stranded two runners by retiring Chipper Jones on a check-swing grounder for the final out.
“I didn’t like the way things were looking right there,” Mayne deadpanned. “But then my movement took over.”
Rocky Colavito had been the last position player to win a game from the mound, pitching 2 ⅔ shutout innings as the Yankees defeated Detroit on Aug. 25, 1968.
“I was born that year,” Mayne said.
No. 19, Nine-run ninth sinks the Cardinals, July 6, 2010: The improbable is always possible at Coors Field. And so on a rainy night in LoDo, the Rockies erased a six-run deficit in the ninth to upend the St. Louis Cardinals on Seth Smith’s two-out, three-run, walk-off homer.
“It’s the best comeback I have ever been associated with,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
At the time, no team in the modern era had ever scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to win a game, according to STATS LLC, whose data goes back to 1918. Just six days earlier, the Atlanta Braves trailed Cincinnati 9-3 before scoring seven times in the bottom of the ninth.
No. 18: Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo throws a no-no, Sept. 17, 1996: Here’s the call from legendary broadcaster Vin Scully:
“Hideo Nomo has done what they said could not be done … Not in the Mile High City. Not at Coors Field in Denver. He has not only shut out the Rockies, he has pitched a no-hitter. And thank goodness they saw it in Japan.”
How improbable was it that Nomo should no-hit the Rockies at Coors Field? Teams combined to post a 7.06 ERA at Coors in 1996, which was not only the highest in the majors that season, but it remains the highest ERA for any individual ballpark in a single season in major league history.
The game was supposed to start at 7:05 p.m. but Denver was slammed with thunderstorms. After a two-hour rain delay, umpire crew chief Bill Hohn decided that conditions were good enough to play ball. The official attendance was 50,066, but only about 30,000 fans endured the rain delay and a 46-degree temperature to watch the only no-no in Coors Field history.
The heavy air seemed to deaden hard-hit balls and after the game, Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza said: “It was a little muggy and the ball didn’t carry as well as it usually does here.”
Nomo walked four and struck out eight in the Dodgers’ 9-0 victory.
No. 17, Helton doubles for his 2,500th hit, Sept. 1, 2013: It was perfectly fitting that Todd Helton would reach the milestone on a 3-2 pitch, and that it would be an opposite-field double. Since he made his rookie debut in 1997, opposite-field doubles had been a Helton trademark.
Helton, who became the 96th player in major-league history to reach 2,500 hits, stood on second base, let the cheers wash over him, and then took off his batting helmet and acknowledged the crowd.
Helton ended his career with 592 doubles, ranking 19th in big-league history.
No. 16, Beltin’ Helton’s grand finale, Sept. 25, 2013: In his final game at Coors Field, the 1,148th of his career there (including seven postseason games), Helton’s swan song was an emotional hit. In his first at-bat, on a 1-1 count, Helton crushed an 87-mph cutter from Boston Red Sox starter Jake Peavy over the right-field scoreboard, through a pair of arms and into Dylan Casey’s hands in section 108. It was the 369th, and last, home run of Helton’s career. Did Peavy groove the pitch? Does it matter?
On that perfect autumn night in front of 48,775 fans, Helton gave and he received. The Rockies presented him with a 6-year-old, black-and-white tobiano gelding American Paint horse, he got a high five in the dugout from his buddy Peyton Manning, and received four standing ovations and one curtain call.
“Big moments happen to special people. It was his day and his night,” said reliever Matt Belisle, Helton’s closest friend on the team. “We all tried to act like it was a normal day … but …”
Coors Field fact: The Rockies drew 71,974,462 fans to the ballpark in the first 25 years, an average of 35,790 per game.