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Mile-High Madness

Posted: Tuesday October 23, 2007 12:42PM; Updated: Tuesday October 23, 2007 12:42PM
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A pair of horn-rimmed glasses marched up to me last week and said, "You're from Denver, right? Why didn't you people put a roof on Coors Field? This World Series is going to be freezing!"

The tips of my ears started to burn. My neck hair stood up. I actually had to put down my adult beverage.

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"How come we didn't build a roof on Coors Field?" I said, grabbing his lapel. "Gee, I don't know. How come Stevie Wonder never bought a camera?

"A roof on Coors Field? Do you even know the Colorado Rockies? Their season is usually over by July! I would've bet that Denver would host the World Surfing Championship before the World Series! Everyone in Denver is looking at each other and saying, 'What will we get next? Wimbledon?' "

Do you have any idea how bat-guano nuts all this is for us? Just a year ago my pal Two Down -- America's Most Avid Golf Gambler -- had his office broken into. I asked him what they took. He goes, "Nothing. But there were two Rockies tickets on my desk. They left two more."

Put a roof on Coors Field? We never even thought we'd get a team! Sure, minor league ball was enough for my mom -- "What's wrong with the Denver Bears?" she'd say -- but I'd fall asleep trying to listen to Jack Buck call Cardinals games on KMOX and dreaming of the real thing.

And it's not like we didn't try for the big leagues. We begged, we groveled, we wrote more letters than angry JetBlue passengers. We'd break minor league attendance records -- 65,666 at one game -- and Major League Baseball didn't so much as burp in our direction.

You think Cubs fans have suffered? Please. At least they had a team. Ours was the cruelest kind of suffering -- the hopeless kind. Our motto was: Maybe Next Century.

And then, finally, there were whispers we could have a team if we built a stadium... in Lower Downtown. LoDo, we all shouted, "God, not LoDo!"

LoDo was a dirty, dilapidated old business district, the kind of place gangbangers tiptoed through. When my mom would drag us to those Bears games, she'd reach across and lock our doors when we went through LoDo. It was full of druggies and brutes and three-toothed thieves. And those were the women.

One of the few decent joints in LoDo was run by a skinny saloon keeper named John Hickenlooper, whose Wynkoop Brewing Company was a place you hated to go to if you had a nice car. "I must've had rocks in my head," Hickenlooper remembers. It wasn't choice real estate. His rent was $1 per square foot per year.

And then it finally happened. We got a major league team in 1993, a very bad team, but a team. And we put on clean shirts and crammed into Mile High Stadium and screamed our fool heads off so that nobody would take it from us. If it had been a candy bar, we'd have licked it from one end to the other.

And when Coors Field arrived in 1995, right at the corner of Blake and 20th Street in LoDo, we cheered even louder. Not because the baseball was good. It wasn't. We had one good year, but mostly we led the league in two things: attendance and sucking. No, we whooped because baseball was saving our town. No city in America was transformed more by baseball than Denver. LoDo blossomed into a garden of restaurants and lofts and shops and 4,300 housing units.

And then, this September, after years of taking the bumbling Rockies for granite, when it seemed even our patience had run out, God looked down and said, "Oh, geez, are those people still believers? Send them a gift basket."

And suddenly we had our own Holliday. And our own Kaztrzemski. And guys with Hoover vacuums for gloves who broke the alltime team fielding record. All of a sudden our lovable, stumblebum Rockies developed this terrible allergy to losing. And just when you thought they'd peaked, they'd discover a new peak -- and we are a state that knows our peaks. But 21 of the last 22? Who climbs that high?

And now that skinny saloon keeper is Denver's mayor -- the most popular in memory -- and Mayor Hickenlooper must have Rockies in his head because he goes around grabbing people on the triceps and yelling, "We're in the Series! We're in the Series!"

And now it's October and nobody knows who the Broncos play next because we have this fearless young team that's still playing baseball in Denver, Colo., of all places, and for some reason, in the middle of all the celebrating, I really miss my mom.

And you want to put a roof on Coors Field, Mr. Horn-rims?

How would she watch?

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