Mile High City on high
World Series-bound Rockies have captivated Denver
Posted: Tuesday October 16, 2007 2:04AM; Updated: Tuesday October 16, 2007 12:48PM
DENVER -- It seemed inevitable: to the 50,000-plus who showed up at Coors Field on Monday night, waving those white towels and adjusting their ski caps and chanting "Too-Low!"; to the hundreds of thousands more around the city, giddy with anticipation, who wore purple blouses and purple ties and smiled at strangers, buzzed on communal belief; to the street vendors selling purple brooms for $5 at the corner of 19th and Blake; hell, even to the players and managers themselves. Before the game, there was Bob Melvin, Arizona's manager, quietly telling reporters, without much conviction, "We just have to find a way to win that first one," while Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was basking in his team's surreal run, saying, "This is one of those things where you get everybody back 10, 20 years down the road and you have a reunion gig."
So when it happened, when Troy Tulowitzki threw out Eric Byrnes at first to end a dramatic 6-4 win and give the Rockies a series sweep -- their second in a row in these playoffs -- no one seemed surprised. Ecstatic? Sure. Borderline crazed? Certainly, in the case of long-starved Rockies fans. But when a team wins 21 of 22 games, only a loss can come as a surprise. And, after weeks of trying to explain the streak, to rationalize it, it seems that all involved have given up trying. Arizona outfielder Byrnes tried discrediting the Rockies, television viewers tried ignoring them and some in the Colorado clubhouse tried invoking divine inspiration. But some things defy deconstruction. Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday might have put it best. "I don't think as baseball players we're the best at analyzation," he said at his locker last week. "Keep asking me, I don't think I can explain it any better."
No one in Denver cares why, only that it is happening. To stroll the city streets on Sunday night was to see Mardi Gras in October, only instead of beads people carried brooms. And it started early. At 6:30 p.m., two hours before game time, a rare group of Diamondbacks fans huddled at a bar table at Rialto Cafe, off 16th Street and Champa in downtown Denver. The three men, all outfitted in D'backs gear, had flown in from Phoenix on Sunday morning, and now they sipped mixed drinks while one of them, 31-year-old Brian Muellner, worked on a sign that read "Anybody, Anytime." Soon enough, a waitress walked over carrying a broom, two other employees in tow, and the three began sweeping in a circle around the D'backs fans, while the crowd chanted "Sweep! Sweep!" It was merely the continuation of a theme. Muellner and his friends had heard it all day: from the owner of a pawn shop who got on his PA and yelled "Go Rockies!" as they walked by, from the busboy at an outdoor café who hurried over to whisk his broom in their direction, to the homeless man on the mall who mocked them relentlessly, yelling, among other things, "Go Back to Oklahoma!" "Can you believe it?" Muellner said, "Getting killed by the homeless guy."
But hey, who can blame him? This is your moment, Rockies fans of Denver, indigent or otherwise, and you now have eight days to celebrate before the World Series. A team as hot as Colorado might not relish such a lengthy layoff, but its fans certainly will. That's plenty of time for zany radio personalities to record a Rockies rap, for every man, woman and child to purchase a 'Rocktober' T-shirt, for an opportunistic distillery to hurry out a Tulo-Whiskey. After all, this is the first time this city will host a World Series; the Rockies made the playoffs only once before, in 1995, but lost in the first round. And it's not as if the fans had time to prepare this fall. As late as mid-September the Rockies looked to be destined for a .500 finish and most in the metro area had turned their thoughts to the Broncos. To wit: For the first game of the win streak, Sept. 16 against the Marlins, only 19,121 showed up at Coors Field. To track the attendance numbers is to watch a city stir to life, from curiosity to hope to belief: 23,000 for the Dodgers, then 26,0000, then, after that magical 6-0 road trip, up to 46,000 for the final Arizona series and 48,000 for the one-game playoff versus San Diego. Bandwagon? Sure. But that's one hell of a bandwagon.
And now this: fireworks blasting into the sky on a cold October night at Coors Field above a pulsing, hugging populace, not a single one of whom cares that viewers on the East Coast have long since turned off the TV, or that it is nearly midnight on a work night. There are more pressing matters. The World Series is coming.