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SI FOR KIDS
'It's not right for us to play'
Fatal school shooting forces Rockies, Nuggets to cancel games
Posted: Wednesday April 21, 1999 08:53 AM
McElroy was no longer a major league relief pitcher. He was simply an emotional father of two.
"I had tears in my eyes," McElroy said before the Rockies postponed Tuesday night's game between Colorado and the Montreal Expos. "I told the bullpen, 'You think you're pitching bad, just turn on the TV.' "
The shooting at Columbine High School in suburban Littleton also prompted the Denver Nuggets to postpone their game against the Portland Trail Blazers. General manager Dan Issel said the game likely will be rescheduled, probably on either April 27 or May 2.
The Montreal-Colorado game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader when the Expos return to Colorado for a three-games series Aug. 13-15.
"I couldn't have played," Expos third baseman Shane Andrews said. "I had a hard time just being on the field. Thinking about it makes me sick."
Rockies owner Jerry McMorris talked to baseball commissioner Bud Selig before deciding to postpone the game as horrifying details emerged about the shooting. Authorities said as many as 25 people were dead, including two young gunmen dressed in fatigues and black trench coats.
"You start thinking about life," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. "Players in here are sort of in our own little world, and this sort of opens your eyes a little bit to how important life is and how important kids are. That's the thing -- those are just kids in there."
McMorris, clearly troubled by the shooting, said he did not know if any Rockies employees had children who were killed or injured when the gunmen started opening fire at about 11:30 a.m. MDT.
"It's not right for us to play," McMorris said. "Our players don't want to play, and nobody in the organization wants to play. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families in that community."
Montreal manager Felipe Alou, who managed the Triple-A Denver Bears in 1981, supported the decision to postpone the game.
"We can't play," he said. "We can't even play cards tonight."
Brian Bohanon (2-0), Tuesday's scheduled starter for Colorado will pitch Wednesday. Montreal will skip Mike Thurman (0-1) in the rotation and stick with Wednesday's scheduled starter, Dustin Hermanson. (2-0).
Bohanon, who has five children, had no problem waiting another day to take the mound as he watched a scene that has become all too familiar at American schools.
Since 1997, 12 students have been killed in shootings at schools in Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Jonesboro, Ark.; and Springfield, Ore.
"It can happen to anyone," Bohanon said. "The way things are going nowadays, it's popping up all over the country. It's a tragedy. They're just kids."
Asked when he made the decision to seek league approval to call off the basketball game, Issel said: "It was pretty easy once we heard the extent of the tragedy. I mean, athletic contests hold little meaning after that. We decided to cancel it as soon as we heard how bad it was. It took us a little while because we had to get an OK from the league office and it took some time to run down people in New York who were high enough up to OK it."
Issel said he has a friend "who has two children attending Columbine High School, and at 3:30 he had heard from one of them but hadn't heard from the other. I don't know what you can even say."
Nuggets forward Eric Williams was stunned.
"Twenty-some people were murdered," Williams said. "Where can your kids be safe? On the streets?
"I have a son who is 4 years old back in New Jersey. I'm thinking that while he's in preschool, that's the least of my worries, that something like this might happen.
"I feel for those families. You send your kids away to school this morning on a peaceful note and come home to something tragic like this."
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