Denver Forum President writes about the Padres-Rockies Playoff Game

By George Mitrovich
Denver Post guest commentary

October 12, 2007

I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.

– Walt Whitman

They played a baseball game Monday night at Coors Field in LoDo. As the great CBS sportscaster Dick Enberg might say, “Oh, my, what a game!”

What a game, indeed.

The hometown nine defeated the Padres, 9-8 in 13 innings, in one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Say what? No, seriously — one of the greatest games ever played!

The Dodgers-Giants at the Polo Ground in ’51, when Bobby Thomson hit his walkoff home run against Ralph Branca, almost always wins “greatest game” distinction. But that game was no better than the one played by the Colorado Rockies Monday for the wild card.

True, the game 56 years ago featured the Dodgers and Giants, with rosters that included some of baseball’s most famous names — Mays and Maglie, Dark and Stanky, Lockman and Irvin, Rigney and Jansen, Robinson and Furillo, Hodges and Reese, Snider and Campanella, Newcomb and Erskine (seven of whom would be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame). And it was played in the media capital of the world; played when baseball justly dominated the sports world; played when major league baseball was 16 teams, not 30 (and no team traveled further west than St. Louis); and played at a time when people hungered for an epiphany moment — when the power of truth triumphs over the enigma of fiction.

So how is that different from Monday night?

It was Denver, not New York; it was Coors Field, not the Polo Grounds; and the Padres-Rockies, not the Dodgers-Giants. The names were Gonzales and Green, Hoffman and Peavy, Atkins and Fogg, Tulowitzki and Matusi, Helton and Holiday. Those are not yet the names of baseball lore, but in every other way this game had the essentials from which legends are made.

And, when it finally ended with Matt Holliday’s head-first, can-you-believe-this-is-happening, safe-at-home slide, Coors went wild and Rockies fans and other lovers of baseball exulted over a game that would have strained the creative talents of America’s greatest fiction writers. This happens in the movies, but never in real life. Yet, it did.

But while there was bedlam in the Rocky Mountain West, half of America was already asleep (it was 12:17 a.m. in the East when Holiday scored), and many of the nation’s major newspapers had already gone to press.

In time, however, the Legend of LoDo will arise. In time, an audience greater than the crowd at Coors and TBS’s cable television audience will come to understand that something quite out of the ordinary occurred; that in a climatic game for the right to play in the postseason, two teams played a game for the ages. It was a game that, for ultimate drama, had everything a baseball game can have — and then some.

From the first inning to the 13th, the game was riveting. Whether watching at Coors or at home on television, it was a game that held your rapt attention — for all four hours and 40 minutes.

In was longest post-season baseball game ever played. Forty-four players saw action. There were 29 hits, 14 for extra bases, and 17 runs scored – the most ever. Fifteen pitchers were used, and they threw 427 pitches. There were 27 ground outs, and 23 fly ball outs.

And while statistics are the causation upon which serious baseball arguments ensue, they are, in the end, just that — statistics. They are lifeless unless placed in context — like Monday night’s game.

If there’s any equity in the world of sports reporting, any sense that there’s life beyond the Charles and Hudson rivers, then Monday’s game will in time receive the recognition it deserves as one of the greatest baseball games ever played. But here and now, in this town, let no true sports fan ever forget what happened. Clip the stories, keep the box score, and will them to those who will follow in your steps.

In 1956 Irving Stone wrote his magisterial, “Men to Match My Mountains.” Had Stone been at Coors Field Monday night he wouldn’t have been disappointed.

Let the Legend of LoDo live.