Today was a red-letter day for Rockies fans. Never in our team’s history has a player’s jersey number been retired. Some would argue that one should have been before now, perhaps Larry Walker‘s or Dante Bichette‘s. You’ll get no argument against from me in either case. But whether it should or shouldn’t have happened before today, no one can deny that today was incredibly special.
Today the Rockies retired their first number, and they did it for their best player. Todd Helton has first-ballot Hall of Fame numbers, and he played his entire career here in Denver. Who knows when we’ll have another player like that again? (And don’t say Troy Tulowitzki, because if he can’t figure out to play a full season without getting hurt, he’ll never have Hall of Fame numbers.)
The retirement ceremony was short and sweet. Helton and his family came out onto the field along with a handful of others. Drew Goodman introduced everybody, and then former Rockie Brad Hawpe spoke about what it was like to play with the Toddfather. He told a great story about his first day of spring training. He’d played first base his whole life, but after Helton complimented him on his playing, he told him he’d better find another position.
Current Rockies Matt Belisle also spoke, and both lauded Helton’s determination to win, day in and day out. The last speaker was Helton’s older daughter, 11-year-old Tierney Faith. She started off by saying that her daddy had been a Rockie her entire life, and that Coors Field had been her second home. She talked about how much her daddy had been home since retiring, and then jokingly asked the crowd if we wanted him back. She said she loved him and was proud of him. It was a precious moment, no doubt something Helton himself will never forget.
After that, there was a brief video in which Helton talked about how much he loved playing for the Rockies. The video, which can be viewed here, was a little short on highlights, but it was still gratifying to hear Helton talk about how much the fans have meant to him. He also spoke for a moment at the podium, thanking the fans for all their support. And then the number was revealed, and that was that.
Someone must have wisely realized that allowing Dick Monfort to speak would have been a really bad idea, because all he and brother Charlie were allowed to do was unveil the replica jersey number that Helton would take home.
So after all that, on a field bedecked with number 17’s, could the Rockies win? They couldn’t do it during Helton’s final home game, last September, when he was the only one who contributed any real offense. But they did do it today, in a most improbable, LoDo magic fashion.
Jordan Lyles got the start and was perfectly good through his first 3 innings, allowing only one baserunner on a walk. Meanwhile, the Rockies had Mat Latos‘s number, scoring 3 runs on a Corey Dickerson double, a Nolan Arenado single, and a Charlie Blackmon homer. But then everything switched, or, in other words, the Reds made adjustments and the Rockies did not. Lyles gave up 5 runs in his final 2 innings, including one on a wild pitch, and the Rockies didn’t score again off Latos.
In fact, things were looking very grim until the bottom of the 7th, when Dickerson led off with a home run. They got grim again fast: with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Rockies managed to score only one more time. To be fair, the Reds sent a relief pitcher named Jumbo Diaz to the mound, and I’m sorry, but if your name is Jumbo, you are way too cool to be allowing runs.
Going into the 9th, the score was 7-5 in favor of the Reds. Then it became 9-5 when Rex Brothers pitched a very 2014-Rex-Brothers kind of inning. BUT THEN it was the bottom of the 9th. And Aroldis Chapman was pitching, which usually means it’s over. But the Rockies were not ready for it to be over.
They sent Chapman to the showers to the tune of 4 earned runs, without recording a single out. They raised his ERA almost an entire run, which is no easy feat at this point in the season. And Drew Stubbs hit a walk-off, two-out, three-run home run to end the game.
It was the very least that Todd Helton deserved. I still wish we could have given him a World Series win, but in the absence of that, this was not bad.