The 1993 Rockies were good at a lot of things. Some of those things were hitting home runs, stealing bases, making ridiculous errors, and both winning and losing by double digits. When they lost, it was nothing short of a crap show. Relief pitchers were giving up 3 runs without even pitching a whole inning, hitters were striking out in three pitches, runners were getting tagged out on the basepaths. But when they won, it was like magic.
On June 19th, the Rockies scored the most runs in franchise history, a record they would not break until April 28th, 1996. The number on this day in 1993 was 17. The opponent was the San Diego Padres. The game was legendary.
Let’s set the scene. It’s evening in Denver, and the sky is still streaked with color from the sunset. The sky is clear and the breeze blows softly. Some of our favorite Rockies take the field at Mile High Stadium: Eric Young, Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla. Willie Blair toes the rubber and throws the first pitch to Bill Bean. Ball one. Blair’s second pitch is launched to the gap in right center, where it’s chased down and caught by Alex Cole. Is this an omen for the Friars? Perhaps. In any case, they go down in order and Blair throws just eight pitches in the inning.
In the bottom of the first, the Rockies acquired three baserunners but weren’t able to score. No doubt they were trying to take it slow, since their game plan was total annihilation. They wanted to wait until the Padres let their guard down before they unleashed it fully.
Surprisingly, the Padres drew first blood in the second inning. Fred McGriff led off with a double and reached third on a groundout, then scored on a Derek Bell sacrifice fly. But the rally ended when Kevin Higgins (who played three positions in this game) tried to steal 2nd and was gunned down by Jayhawk Owens. And then the Rockies came to bat. Castilla led off with a single and Owens was called out on strikes. Blair’s sacrifice bunt moved Castilla to 2nd and EY walked. Then the Cole, Bichette, and Galarraga hit back-to-back-to-back singles that scored 4 runs. The slaughter was beginning.
The wheels didn’t really come off for the Padres until the third inning. A single, a double, and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out. Blair laid down another bunt, this one a real beauty, and catcher Higgins couldn’t field it. A run scored and the bases were still juiced. That would do it for pitcher Kerry Taylor, who was replaced by Mark Ettles. Ettles allowed back-to-back singles to EY and Cole, scoring 4 more runs. Charlie Hayes hit a three-run home run before the Rockies finally ran out of steam. If you’re keeping track, the score was now 12-1.
The Padres would go on to score twice more on solo shots by Bell and Gary Sheffield, but it was too late to make a difference. They were no match for the fired-up Rockies, especially Blair. He pitched 8 innings and he also came to the plate in the bottom of the 7th and did some serious damage of his own. The bases were loaded, there were 2 outs, the count was full. Blair laced a double to left center on the sixth pitch of the at-bat and cleared the bases. Tip of the cap to him.