• Wed, October 24, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    To baseball fans, Fenway Park is a magnificent shrine. They speak with such reverence that when you approach this park a few blocks west of downtown Boston, you half-expect to see a structure that resembles the pyramids.

    The shock is how modest, how unpretentious, how lovably dumpy this old charmer is. The Rockies walk from their clubhouse to the dugout through a hallway that resembles a dungeon tunnel. It’s moldy and leaky. The paint, a gruesome off-white, is peeling.

    But that’s all part of the fun. At Fenway, the past lives. This is where Ted Williams and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson and Tony Conigliaro and Roger Clemens and Josh Beckett have ripped home runs and launched fastballs. This is a destination where yesterday and today meet.

    Coors Field is all about gleam. No doubt, it ranks as a grand urban ballpark, with terrific views of the mountains and downtown Denver.

    But there’s little heritage there. Everything is just so.

    Fenway is old, creaky and completely wonderful.

  • A state of converted doubters

    Thu, October 11, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    A confession:

    I doubted the Colorado Rockies.

    On Aug. 28, while sitting through a 5-1 loss to the Pirates at Coors Field, I typed, “Don’t trust this edition of the Colorado Rockies. Don’t make the mistake of seeing all that hitting power, all that youthful talent and believing this team is destined for the playoffs.”

    I was wrong.

    We all were wrong.

    I’ve yet to encounter a Colorado resident who said they believed in these Rockies in early September. On Aug. 28, the Rockies had lost nine of 14 while surrendering 71 runs. They looked doomed to, once again, miss the playoffs.

    Virtually no one expected – no one could have expected – the LoDo Miracle. Virtually no one could have predicted the Rockies, consistently inconsistent all season, would suddenly become the most reliable team in baseball. That’s the only way to describe a squad that won 17 of 18 games to earn a place in this week’s NL Championship Series.

    I appreciate the honesty of sports fans in our state. It would be easy for someone, for anyone, to say he or she always believed the Rockies would shock the baseball nation.

    But no one I’ve spoken with has said such a thing. That’s because it wouldn’t be true.

    This run has been one long, happy surprise.

  • The toughest fans in America?

    Wed, October 3, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    When Matt Holliday arrived at the plate for his first at-bat against the Philadelphia Phillies, fans greeted him with a thunder-like round of booing. Holliday had the gall to post a monster season and challenge the Phillies Jimmy Rollins for National League Most Valuable Player.

    “Overrated!” chanted the fans, who might be the most fearsome in all American sport.

    But opponents aren’t the only ones to feel the wrath of Phlly sports fans. They also turn on their own. Just ask Donovan McNabb. Or Charles Barkley.

    Or, especially, former Phillies star Mike Schmidt, the greatest third-baseman ever.

    In the mid-1980s, Schmidt struck out four straight times at a home game, and fans booed with gusto. On his fifth at bat in the bottom of the 12th, Schmidt smacked a home run. He raced through his home-run trot, sprinted to the locker room, grabbed his car keys and motored home in full uniform. He turned his car stereo up full blast to drown out the memories of all the booing he had endured.

    That wasn’t the worst moment. In 1983, Schmidt had the misfortune to hit .050 in the World Series. He came to bat 20 times. He got – count ‘em – one hit.

    A few weeks later, Schmidt was walking along a Philadelphia street, just minding his own business, when he came upon a stalled school bus filled with fourth-graders.

    And, yes, the school kids began booing him. Some grabbed their throats to let Schmidt know they believed him a choker. One of the greatest athletes ever to compete in Philadelphia was forced to scurry away.

    In 1995, a few days before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Schmidt described his feelings about Philly, by saying, “I don’t have much positive to say for a town that basically did nothing for me and made my life miserable while I was there.”

    The Rockies aren’t going to be feeling a lot of love in the City of Brotherly Love.

    This is one tough town.

  • One too many teams of destiny

    Wed, October 3, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Rockies-mania has returned to Colorado. After essentially ignoring their baseball team for five years, fans once again are madly in love with the Rockies. A month ago, Coors Field was a lonely destination, a great place to take an evening nap, but on Sunday and Monday thousands of loud, happy new friends packed the stadium.

    This is the team of destiny. This is the team that came from nowhere, refused to surrender and crafted one of those inspiring, too-good-to-be-true stories usually reserved for silly sports movies.

    The Philadelphia Phillies have folllowed the same script. They doggedly chased down the New York Mets, just as the Rockies chased down the San Diego Padres. They defied the odds. They romanced an entire region.

    Here’s the problem. One of these too-good-to-be-true stories is about to end.