Tuesday, May 22, 2012

20 Years of MLB in the Rocky Mountains

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Colorado Rockies 2012 season marks the 20th season of Major League Baseball in the "Mile High" city of Denver, the state of Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain region.

Despite the poor start to 2012 Rockies' fans have been able to celebrate 7 winning years (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2010), 3 playoff appearances (1995, 2007, 2009), and a National League pennant (2007) which led to the franchises' only World Series appearance.

The past 20 years represents the Major League years in Denver but prior to 1993 the region enjoyed minor league baseball since the turn of the 20th century. Denver fielded a Western League franchise during the first half of the 1900's which were interrupted 3 times (1900-1917, 1922-1932, 1947-1950).

The Denver Bears began the 20th century with a Western League pennant in 1900 and followed it up with three more pennants before WWI (1911-1913) after they changed their name to the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies went on hiatus after 1917 then returned to the Western League in 1922, withdrew again after the 1932 season, only to reappear as the Denver Bears again in 1947. In 1948 the Bears built their own stadium, aptly named, Bears Stadium near what is now Interstate 25. This stadium would become the infamous Mile High Stadium where Broncos' great John Elway made so many fourth quarter comebacks New seating were added to the stadium in the 1960's and 1970's.

Denver won the pennant again in 1952 before they joined the AAA American Association as the affiliate for the New York Yankees (1955-1958).

The 1957 team won the AA pennant and went on to take the Junior World Series (AAA Series).  In the late 1950's Denver was one of the cities selected to become a charter franchise in Brancy Rickey's new major league, the Continental League (CL) but the majors responded with expansion to eliminate any chance for the CL to gain a foothold and Denvers' hopes of becoming a major league city ended for now.

 The Bears became an American Association power until the league folded after the 1962 season. Denver moved to the Pacific Coast League for 6 seasons (1963-1968) before they rejoined the new American Association as one of six charter franchises.

The success of the Denver Broncos and Denver Bears franchises' between 1969-1992 helped convince the National League to approve Denver as a major league expansion team on July 5, 1991 just two months before the Bears won their final AA playoff title and another AAA World Series over the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.

In between 1969 and 1992 Denver became a dominant AAA market by winning 10 divisional titles, making the league finals 12 times and won 5 American Association playoff titles (1971, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1991).

Rockies' fans it may be tough now to watch this current 2012 team but Denver can still boast a rich tradition of professional baseball history over the past 100+ years.

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