Colorado Rockies: This Day In History – Blake Street Bombers Dismantled

17 Apr 1999: Dante Bichette #10 of the Colorado Rockies swings at the ball during the game against the Atlanta Braves at the Coors Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Braves 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport
17 Apr 1999: Dante Bichette #10 of the Colorado Rockies swings at the ball during the game against the Atlanta Braves at the Coors Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Braves 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport /

On October 30, 1999, newly signed General Manager Dan O’Dowd traded Colorado Rockies fan favorite Dante Bichette to the Cincinnati Reds for Jeffrey Hammonds and Stan Belinda.

As many Colorado Rockies fans remember, the fan reactions on the return was mixed and many fans were upset over the value of what was returned from Cincinnati. The city of Denver and the Rocky Mountain Region was attached sentimentally to Bichette, and truly expressed their distaste for the lack of of value given in the player being dealt away. Bichette had made his mark on the city, the organization, and the league as an expansion member of the Colorado Rockies organization.

On November 17, 1992, Bichette was trade by the Milwaukee Brewers to the Colorado Rockies for Kevin Reimer, a left fielder and designated hitter who never really developed as a long-term Major League Baseball player.

Bichette, however, transformed into a four-time All-Star, MVP Runner-Up, and fixture in the middle of the Colorado Rockies lineup. He was also introduced to the public as one of the original members of the Blake Street Bombers in 1995.

Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies /

Colorado Rockies

Starting in 1993, Bichette established his offensive capabilities by rapping 167 hits, scoring 93 runs, clubbing 43 doubles, 5 triples, 21 home runs, and 89 runs batted in. Bichette also showed off his mobility, stealing 14 bases with many more to come. When it was all said and done, Bichette’s season ending slash line of .310/.348/.526 was one of the best seasons among expansion clubs in baseball hisotry.

At seasons end, Bichette would score the first run, drive in the first run, and hit the franchise’s first home run on April 7, 1993

In 1994, Bichette would earn the first of his four All-Star appearances during the strike-shortened season. In 1994, Bichette would produce a .304/.335/.548 slash line to include 33 doubles, two triples, 27 home runs, 90 runs batted in, and 21 stolen bases, with 147 hits, and 74 runs scored over the course of 116 games.

When converted to a traditional 162-game season, you would be staring at a 205 hits, 103 runs, 46 doubles, three triples, 38 home runs, 126 runs batted in, and 29 stolen bases.

In 1995, he became an All-Star, and was the MVP runner-up to Barry Larkin after crushing a league-high 40 home runs, and driving in 128 RBI. He also led baseball with 197 hits, and ranked in the top 10 in runs scored, doubles, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. His accolades included the franchise’s first walk-off win at Coors Field on Opening Day when he hit a home run.

His 1995 season, as well as the offensive outbursts of fellow teammates Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla, Larry Walker – and later on, Ellis Burks – created a coined catch phrase for the group hitting home runs at the corner of 20th and Blake, the Blake Street Bombers.

In 1996, Dante Bichette would join Ellis Burks, as the organization’s first players to reach the highly coveted 30-30 (30 home runs-30 stolen bases) club. The two accomplished the feat in a season where the Rockies organization became the first to hit 200 home runs and steal 200 bases in the same season.

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As the organization entered the 1997 Major League Baseball season, Bichette had established himself as the permanent left fielder, following his third All-Star appearance in four seasons. That created a steady line of consistency and expectations both fans and the front office expected to see. Rightfully so, Bichette would go about his business and slash a .308/.343/.510 line with 31 doubles, two triples, 26 homeruns, and 118 runs batted in. While those numbers were consistent with the rest of his time in Colorado, the stolen bases numbers dropped dramatically, and age and speed began to show, as he would only steal six bases.

The 1998 season, following three solid seasons by the young organization, would create a world of issues for the franchise. The Colorado Rockies went out and signed former Houston Astros ace Darryl Kile to the largest deal for a pitcher at the time. In the process, they promoted top prospect Todd Helton to man first base, as they let Galarraga walk as a free agent. The club, coming off its third consecutive winning season, still had high expectations.

Unfortunately, the 1998 Colorado Rockies produced one of the franchise’s worst seasons. The team finished with a 77-85 regular season record. Despite all the things that went wrong, Bichette continued to hit. This time around, he posted a .331/.357/.509 slash line with 219 hits, 97 runs, 48 doubles, two triples, 22 home runs, and 122 runs batted in. He regained his speed, and swiped 14 bags en route to his fourth and final All-Star appearance.

One amazing memory came on June 11, 1998, when Bichette added to his long list of franchise accolades by hitting for the cycle in a 9-8 win over the Texas Rangers. At the conclusion of the 1998 regular season, the front office terminated the late expansion franchise’s first manager, Don Baylor.

He would be replaced for the 1999 Major League Baseball season with Florida Marlins World Series manager Jim Leyland. The Front Office believed Leyland could inspire some new fire and take better ownership of the ball club. Instead, the ballclub floundered. Pitchers like Kile, Bobby Jones, and John Thomson struggled to find their holding early and, by midseason, the Rockies found themselves out of contention.

While the rotation struggled, the offense flourished. Bichette among the many who kept moving things forward at 20th & Blake. Bichette batted .298/.354/.528 with 177 hits, 104 runs, 38 doubles, two triples, 34 home runs, and drove in 133 runs batted in. As the season wore on, so to did the toll Coors Field took on his body. His defense stalled, and his legs began giving out.

At season’s end, following another disappointing finish, Rockies owner Jerry McMorris decided to infuse new blood. Leyland stepped down and Dan O’Dowd took over as GM.

The first move O’Dowd made was to hire a new manager. He hired Buddy Bell to take over the managing responsibilities for the Colorado Rockies during the 2000 season. Soon after, he followed it up with the trade of an expansion favorite, and eventually the entire dismantling of the Blake Street Bombers .

His plan: Prevent runs from happening, with better speed in the outfield, stronger defense on the corners, and veteran improvements in the starting rotation.

The addition of Hammonds in left field, for at least one season proved valuable to the organization. Hammonds would go onto post a .335/.395/.529 slash line with 152 hits, 94 runs scored, 24 doubles, two triples, 20 home runs, 106 runs batted, and 14 stolen bases. His biggest contribution was provided by his defense as he played all three outfield positions, settling most in left field, where he would only commit three errors, post a .991 fielding percentage and kick in eight outfield assists.

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After the 2000 season, Hammonds left Colorado to become a free agent. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, and his absence was felt by the replacements who could not produce the type of season he had produced in 2000. It left the organization void of a big bat, and thrills once provided by the Blake Street Bombers.