27 years ago today, the Colorado Rockies hosted their ever home game at Mile High Stadium…but not without a hiccup or two.
27 years ago today, the Colorado Rockies played their first game ever at Mile High Stadium as they played the Montreal Expos but it didn’t come without a few hiccups beforehand.
They had played two games in their franchise’s history and they were 0-2. They had faced the New York Mets in New York and lost by a score of 3-0 and 6-1 to Dwight Gooden and future Colorado Rockie Bret Saberhagen.
Prior to ever playing their first game there, the Rockies held a workout at Mile High Stadium. During that, they noticed that there were some areas that there wasn’t any grass.
Just 10 days prior to Opening Day, the Rockies offered to pay for part of the resodding of the field (they shared the facility with NFL’s Denver Broncos) but nothing happened. Rockies owner Jerry McMorris said that he was “not at all happy about it.”
Rockies manager Don Baylor said at the time that it was “a little strange” that they were about to be “opening a baseball season in Denver and you have grass that’s not even growing in certain spots…”
The Expos had their own issues heading into the game as future Rockie and future Hall of Famer Larry Walker suffered a strained hamstring in the Expos opening series in Cincinnati and Delino DeShields, among other players, had come down with chickenpox.
Even though they had only scored one run in their first two games, that didn’t mean that the Rockies offense wouldn’t wake up eventually. That would come in their first game at Mile High Stadium as they scored 11 runs in their 11-4 win against the Expos, which included four runs in the first inning.
Smith, who was 37 at the time, had pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals for the past three seasons and had been regulated largely to bullpen duty in 1992. This was partially because his lack of velocity (he could barely top 80 MPH with his fastball) but Baylor wanted a veteran presence on the mound in the club’s first game. Previously, Smith had been a starter for much of his 13-year career.
He was excellent that day for the Rockies as he pitched seven shutout innings where he scattered just six hits, walked none, and he struck out one batter.
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He only made four more starts for the Rockies, though, as he was not nearly as sharp in them. He made his final start and final MLB appearance on June 1, 1993.
Expos manager Felipe Alou had managed the Expos Triple-A team in 1981, which happened to be in Denver and at Mile High Stadium so he was familiar with the altitude. He decided to start Bottenfield because he had previous experience pitching at Mile High since he had played in the PCL. However, that did not pan out for the Expos.
The Rockies had a home run by Eric Young, an RBI single Dante Bichette, and a 2-run home run by Charlie Hayes in the first inning alone. They also scored via a run-scoring single by Alex Cole, a sacrifice fly by Bichette, RBI singles by Andres Galarraga (twice), Freddie Benavides, Young, and Dale Murphy.
The Rockies, however, traded for Bottenfield by the end of July.
The Rockies had that performance in front of more than 80,000 rabid Rockies fans, who had been waiting for Major League Baseball to come to Denver for years. They would average 55,350 fans in attendance for each game in 1993 and for years to come, many a game would be sold out at Mile High and later, at the corner of 20th and Blake.