I am an enormous Eric Young fan, and if you’re not, I’m not sure that we can be friends. There are many iconic images from the mid-’90s heyday of the Blake Street Bombers, and most of them are related to gigantic home runs. But don’t you forget about speedy little EY charging around the bases, showing lead-off hitters everywhere just how it’s done.
EY made his debut with the Dodgers in 1992 but was taken in the expansion draft by the Rockies following that season. He made a name for himself quickly; as the very first Rockies batter to ever take a swing at Mile High Stadium, he hit a home run on April 9, 1993. He wasn’t much of a power hitter, however, and he went on to hit just 2 more long balls that whole season. But that didn’t matter. EY’s prowess was speed, and the fact that he could stretch an ordinary single into a double or a double into a triple meant that any hit from him was likely to be quality.
EY’s best season was 1996, when he hit .324. He also stole 53 bases, more than anyone else in the National League. And on June 30th, he accomplished the feat for which he’s enshrined in the Hall of Fame. That day, the Dodgers were in town, and EY reached base 5 times and stole at least one base 4 of those times. The first time, in the 3rd inning, he stole both 2nd and 3rd while Ellis Burks was at the plate (Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo was so rattled he walked Burks on 4 pitches). Then, with Dante Bichette up to bat, EY stole home. Wham bam! You have to love that. In all, he stole 6 bases in that game, which tied a major league record. In the records room in Cooperstown, the pants that EY wore during this game hang in the display case, and clearly they were not laundered before they were donated. With his help, the Rockies stole 10 bases total in that game, and there’s something to be said for a team’s aggression feeding off that one player. We’re still waiting for a guy like EY to come along and do that for the Rockies again.
Sadly, EY was one of the first of the Rockies’ beloved originals to be traded away. In August 1997, he was sent to the Dodgers for Pedro Astacio, who liked to rack up double-digit wins but also liked to give up 40 home runs. In retrospect, I’d have kept EY. He bounced around from club to club for the rest of his career, spending time with the Cubs, the Brewers, the Giants, the Rangers, and the Padres. But he retired as a Rockie and will always be remembered as one.
It’s hard to say what EY is best known for these days: his coaching career or his offspring. The former began a few years ago when he worked as a roving instructor for the Astros, and continues today in his role as first-base coach for our rivals the Diamondbacks. It’s not fun to see him in an enemy’s uniform, but at least we get to see him fairly often. As for those offspring, well, we all know about EY Jr. He’s hung on with the Rockies despite rumors that he’d be traded at various times, and every so often we see flickers of his dad in him. If he were to steal 6 bases in a game someday, that might make me love him as much as I loved the first EY. Until then, one of them reigns supreme in my heart.