Colorado Rockies news: Colorado baseball history part 4: Miner Leaguers
With the lockout holding firm and the start of spring training and possibly the Rockies’ season opener on March 31 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers when in doubt, it’s hard to begin previewing the 2022 season. So instead of looking to the future, this series will look back to the vast and diverse history of baseball in Colorado. Part 1 watched 2022 Hall of Famer Bud Fowler and the changing color line. Part 2 examined the Denver Post Tournament and its role in integrating MLB. Part 3 looked at the Colorado Silver Bullets.
When the Rockies played their first game in 1993, the state‘s population was 3.56 million.
Twenty-nine seasons later, Colorado’s population has exploded to 5.81 million. Many of these people are fans who fill the seats and the roof of Coors Field to watch the baseball or the sunsets.
In 1860, the population of the Western Kansas Territory, which would become Colorado Territory a year later, was 34,277. Rumors of gold had brought many adventurers to the Rocky Mountains, but only small amounts of gold were found around Denver. Things changed in 1859 when the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush (later dubbed the Colorado Gold Rush) hit, prompting prospectors to wander the hills in hopes of getting rich.
Many came from the East Coast and brought baseball with them. It was a perfect game for people who didn’t have much. All you needed was a semi-flat playing field, a ball and a bat since gloves weren’t yet commonplace.
When mines popped up in Central City, Leadville, Silverton and beyond, populations grew from a few dozen to 10,000. Miners started playing in their spare time for fun and a break from their difficult and dangerous work. Baseball also built camaraderie.
As hundreds of mines opened with silver, lead, coal, copper and more, mining companies began sponsoring teams, purchasing uniforms and equipment, and even hiring former professional and semi-professional players, according to a 2021 “Miner Leaguers” exhibit from the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. in Leadville. As the Leadville Herald reported, players who were good ball players got easier jobs in the mine. Some players were so good they could have gone pro, but instead stayed underground as minors because they could make more money.
Baseball was growing in popularity across the country, with troops playing during the downtime of the Civil War. When the war ended, even more people headed west in search of a fresh start. In 1870, the transcontinental railroad finally arrived in Denver, making travel even easier. By 1880, Colorado had become a state and the population had reached 194,000.
All of this set the stage for the Leadville Blues, one of the best mining teams in Colorado history. In 1882, the team’s first year, they went 34-8-1 (.809 winning percentage) and won the state championship in part thanks to loanees from the Eastern leagues. Leadville built a stadium for the team and fans traveled to matches. This helped the Blues average 19 points per game in their first nine games of the season against other Leadville teams.
On a trip to Denver, the Blues beat the Denver Browns four times, including a 30-5 victory that led the Denver Tribune to write “Baseball ain’t really a game, anyway,” according to the Leadville Sports Hall of Fame. . Leadville beat the Colorado Springs Reds and beat the previously undefeated Buena Vista 42-1 – in a baseball game! They then traveled out of state, defeating teams from Iowa and Nebraska, but fell to Council Bluffs, who reportedly recruited several Chicago White Stockings players for the contest.
One of Leadville’s best players was Dave Foutz, a dominant pitcher who also played center field. After leading the Blues to the state title, Foutz was one of many minors to make the jump to professional ball. After spending 1883 in the Michigan miners, he signed with the St. Louis Browns where he played four years and won two pennants. He then played nine more years for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, finishing his professional career with a 2.84 ERA and .690 winning percentage in 251 appearances.
Foutz’s brother John remained in Leadville, leading the Blues to a Colorado State League championship in 1889. John was later elected mayor of Leadville and hosted a presidential visit from Benjamin Harrison in 1892, a year before the silver crash and the beginning of the end for many Colorado mining baseball teams.
Mining teams have elevated the game and encouraged many baseball fans along the way. Even though many mining operations have declined, many players have moved to Denver, Pueblo and beyond to play on dozens of semi-pro and pro teams.
Although it took another 100 years for an MLB team to arrive in Colorado, baseball was a thriving game even before Colorado gained statehood.
While MLB is playing games at the Field of Dreams in Iowa, another novelty game is set to be held in Leadville as a tribute to the Blues and other mining teams. Just imagine the commentary and circuit distances at an elevation of 10,151 feet. Ryan McMahon hit the Rockies’ longest homer of 2021 when he broke a two-run 478-foot homer at second level at Coors Field on May 15 against the Reds. How far would it fly at 10,000 feet?
In 2018, History Colorado presented the exhibit “Left on the Field: Colorado’s Pro and Amateur Baseball Teams”. Great stories chronicling several Colorado teams and their photos can still be found on its website.
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: Losing games in lockdown would be a ‘disastrous outcome’ | MLB.com
Despite the distance between MLB and MLBPA as long as Ryan McMahon’s 478-foot homer, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said optimistically Thursday he doesn’t believe there will be a delay early of the 2022 regular season. The lockout has already passed 70 days, making it the second-longest work stoppage in MLB history. No games have yet been canceled with the season openers scheduled for March 31. Manfred added that missing games would be “a disastrous outcome”. MLB will make a proposal to the MLBPA on Saturday when the two parties meet next.
What impact will the universal designated hitter have on the Rockies? | Denver Post ($)
Other news from Rob Manfred’s speech was that he expects universal DH and the elimination of draft pay to be part of the new collective bargaining agreement. In light of the unsurprising news, Patrick Saunders asked Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt about the Rockies’ plans for the Colorado DH. In another unsurprising response, Schmidt said the Rockies won’t bring in a free agent to serve as DH, but instead plan to rotate CJ Cron, Charlie Blackmon and other “in-house guys.” On the bright side, Schmidt hasn’t ruled out bringing in a free agent for other positions.
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