The link between the Montréal Expos and Colorado Rockies is substantial and will forever be strongest when discussing the relative impact of the recently elected Hall of Famer Larry Walker.
Considering the last active member of Montréal – Ian Desmond, a 2004 3rd round pick of Les Expos – plies his trade in the Centennial State, numerous connections between the two franchises abound.
One of the more under appreciated players who called home to both the 303 and the 514 area codes was John Vander Wal.
A 14-year veteran who never received over 300 plate appearances until his age-34 season, the first baseman and outfielder excelled at neither position. Rather, his expertise was as a pinch-hitter.
Seventh on the all-time list for pinch hits with 129, Vander Wal thrived in sitting around for the first two hours of a ballgame before entering late to make his impact whenever needed most.
In his first year donning purple pinstripes, he set the single-season record for most pinch hits (28) during a strike-shortened season that proved to be the Rockies first playoff appearance in 1995.
On May 18, 1996, Vander Wal faced Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to record his first pinch-hit walk-off home run during a 9-8 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
While John Mabry became the first player to hit for the cycle against the Rockies in that game, doing so in natural order (single, double, triple, home run), it was the oft-overlooked Vander Wal that stole the show for the 48,103 in attendance.
In 1993, Willie Blair pitched the first nine-inning incomplete game in franchise history during a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres in 11-innings. The strange occurrence, happening only six times in Colorado’s first 27 seasons, has not been seen since 2007 when Aaron Cook accomplished the rarity.
Larry Walker tripled to begin a 30-game home hitting streak, a team record, and starting pitcher Denny Stark hit the only home run of his career in the Rockies 7-2 victory over Atlanta in 2002.
In 2004, Jeremy Burnitz and Matt Holliday bashed back-to-back home runs twice in same game during an 8-3 win in Cincinnati.
Colorado turned the third triple play in franchise history in an 8-6 extra-inning defeat of San Diego. On a Carlos Quentin ground ball to third base, Nolan Arenado went around the horn to DJ LeMahieu, then to Justin Morneau to complete the unique feat in 2014.
Following a rainout on May 17, the Rockies played just their fourth interleague doubleheader and first one on the road, splitting with the Minnesota Twins in 2017.
In 2019, Brendan Rodgers’ singled for his first career hit during Colorado’s 2-1 loss at Philadelphia and began a streak of hits in seven-straight starts.
When the dust settled on this date in 1999, Cincinnati and Colorado set numerous records during a 24-12 Reds’ victory at Coors Field. The two clubs combined for most runs (36) and total bases (55) in a nine-inning Rockies game. Cincinnati also notched 15 extra-base hits and tied for second-most homers against Colorado pitching (6).
During the slugfest, Reds’ Jeffrey Hammonds became the third opponent with three homers against Colorado and remains the only man to play with the Rockies either before or after his trifecta.
Todd Helton becomes first player to record 2,000 hits entirely in purple during an 8-1 loss to Atlanta in 2009.
In only his seventh start of the season, 40-year-old Jason Giambi hammered three home runs, becoming the second-oldest player behind 41-year-old Stan Musial with a trifecta, and recorded all seven runs batted in during a 7-1 win in Philadelphia.
On This Date In Baseball History
In 1910, Cy Young wins the 500th game of his career as the Cleveland Naps beat the Washington Senators, 5 – 4, in 11 innings. The 43-year-old remains the only pitcher in major league history to ever reach this milestone and would finish with 511 the following season.