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  • Denver Bears

    I grew up about 30 miles from Denver, and during the time I lived in Colorado, the only pro baseball game in town was the Bears. They played AAA ball, but it was exciting. I lived near Denver from 1961-86 (with times away doing a hitch in the Marines, and attending college). I remember the evolution from the Bears to Zephyrs (which wasn't a popular switch). I watched the Bears change parent clubs time and again, which always kept the team interesting.

    When I first moved to Denver, the Bears were a farm team of the Tigers. Over the years they had the Braves, Twins, Senators, White Sox, Expos and a few other teams. My fondest memories were with the teams of the mid-late 60's, when I was a kid and absolutely loved baseball. The 1968 team had future major leaguers Graig Nettles at third, Bob Oliver and Pat Kelly in the outfield, George Mitterwald behind the plate, Ron Theobald at second, Rick Renick at short, and the ace was Jerry Crider. The relief specialist was Art Fowler, who spent nine years in the majors and won 54 games (all after age 31). The chunky WWII veteran was 46 when the season ended, but he was outstanding in relief. He was also the pitching coach.

    But the best thing about the 1968 Bears, was Billy Martin, the manager. What a character. Actually, Johnny Goryl was the manager at the beginning of the season, and the Bears got off to a dismal 7-28 start. The Twins replaced Goryl with Martin and the Bears went on a tear in the old PCL. They finished 75-73, thus, Martin's team went 68-45. Martin was a fan favorite, and on occasion, he'd get into the stands and chat with the fans. I remember one time, when the Padres (San Diego's last season in AAA ball) were clobbering the Bears 16-7. Martin was frustrated and a bunch of drunk Denverites were bombing him with comments the whole game. Finally, with nothing else to do, Billy hopped into the stands and shared a beer with the drunks - to the applause of the entire stadium.

    Good times. The Bears were usually very competitive and drew extremely well for a minor league team. And it didn't cost a whole lot to attend the games. Of course, AAA ball is a good brand of baseball. You see the stars on the way up - and those on the way down.

    Mile High Stadium was originally called Bears' Stadium. When Lou Saban became head coach of the Broncos and helped to orchestrate an expansion of the stadium, many thought it wasn't a good idea for the Broncos to play in a stadium named after a minor league team (even though, the old AFL Broncos played like one). Thus, the name Mile High was born.

    When the Rockies were just a thought, many a Denver fan wanted the name "Bears" to be the team name.

    I, of course, am a Cardinal fan by birthright (if Denver would have had MLB when I was a kid, I would probably be a fan - like I am with the Broncos). My AL team is the Orioles (nee St. Louis Browns - the organization my Grandfather played for).

    How many on the Rockies' board are former Denver Bear (Zephyr h , that name never caught on) fans?

  • #2
    I agree with Iron Jaw's assessment. I was raised on minor league baseball, first in Virginia, later in a (too short) residency in beautiful Colorado. Some of the most exciting baseball I have ever experienced was played in old Mile-High Stadium when the Bears were in town. 8 American Association pennants, a Junior World Series title, and a Triple-A Alliance championship helped to create a great baseball legacy in the Queen City.

    When the Rockies were born in 1993, the Denver Post ran a contest for the fans to "name the team". I believe there was about an 80% respondance to go with the traditional "Bears" nickname. I was always excited about the possibility of Denver getting a major league team. How many times did we get so close only to have our hearts broken? However, when it seemed assured the Oakland Athletics were sold to Denver oilman Marvin Davis in 1978, my thoughts were "Oh, no! They're going to call them the Denver Athletics." Likewise, when the Chicago White Sox and later the Pittsburgh Pirates were rumored in search of greener pastures and were considering Denver I was likewise turned off by a team with the name "Denver White Sox" or "Denver Pirates".

    I always hoped the city would hold out for an expansion franchise they could call their own, just KNOWING they would be called the Denver Bears. I was really disappointed in the new major league owners' attitude "To hell with the fans. We'll call them what we we want to call them and the fans can like it or lump it."

    I guess I'm too much of a traditionalist, but the name of a team has a lot to do with my fondness for that team. Unfortunately, I just have never been able to conjure up a lasting affection for the Rockies. I feel if the team's name was the Denver Bears, win or lose, I would have been a devoted fan for life.

    By the way, perhaps the owners are still saying "To hell with the fans." It's been 15 years and the Rockies still can't put together a winning team? The Florida Marlins, another expansion franchise born the same year as the Rockies have won two world championships, the first one in only their fifth year of existence. The Arizona Diamondbacks outdid even that, winning in only their fourth year. Even the woeful Mets, the worst expansion team in the history of baseball, won a World Series by their 8th year.

    Forgive my long rant here. I still have a great love for Colorado and wish the team would do well. But, please! Change the name back to the Denver Bears. I know some of that old Bear Magic would rub off and the Mile-High City would soon be celebrating a world championship team.
    WRD

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    • #3
      Right on !

      Denver has had a long and proud history as the Bears..and fielded
      some great AAA teams..The Tigers in the 50's used Denver as their
      AAA club, and later the Yankees..I think a cahnge to the Denver Bears,
      with the olde logo and more..should happen...strange that all these
      years as the Rockies, they haven't done SQUAT..where both the
      Marlins and Diamondbacks, have gotten to the top of the heap..
      and this year's Rockies team, is going NOWHERE FAST..to a 100 +
      loss season..The fans must be inna snit..and rightly so!

      Comment


      • #4
        I have many memories from Bears' Stadium (later Mile High).

        I remember in 1968 watching Graig Nettles hit a "grand slam" on errors against Tulsa. The bases were loaded, Nettles fanned, but the catcher missed the ball and it sailed to the backstop. Nettles advanced to first then tore for second. The catcher retreived the ball and chucked it over the second baseman's head into the outfield. The outfielder was out of position and the ball went deep. All four runners scored. At the time, the Bears had only one hit in the game, by Ron Theobald.

        Another time, was the 4th of July, 1979, and the stadium was packed for the fireworks display. However, the real display took place in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Bears were playing the Omaha Royals, and the Royals were pounding the Bears 14-7 after 8 1/2. With two outs in the 9th, the hitting began. Hit after hit. The Bears erased the Omaha lead. With the score 14-13, and two runners on, Jim Cox was the batter. Slugger Randy Bass, who sat the game out with a minor injury, was waiting in the on-deck circle to pinch hit. But he wasn't needed. Cox hit the ball into the left field seats and the Bears won 16-14. As far as I was concerned, that was the fireworks display.

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        • #5
          Great history of the Denver Bears. Where can I find the official information on the rosters of the 60's, rookies and other information?

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          • #6
            I followed the Denver Bears from afar while they were a Washington Senators affiliate-what was that now, 1970? (I'm not sure I want to know.)

            I remember some other team calling themselves the Colorado Rockies playing against the Washington Capitals in the NHL years ago-still have a Colorado Rockies pin amongst my sports memoribilia-before they packed up and left for New Jersey.
            "For the Washington Senators, the worst time of the year is the baseball season." Roger Kahn

            "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." Rogers Hornsby.

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            • #7
              If I had owned the Rockies when they had a big salary, I would have signed nothing but huge bats instead of throwing money at Mike Hampton. I can see it now:

              Colorado Rockies
              Runs Scored: 1679
              Runs Allowed: 983
              W-L Record: 113-49
              The Q: Can the Cubs hold a 6-5 lead with 2 outs and nobody on in the 9th?

              The A: No

              ***********My Rant on Bud Selig***********
              Selig is like a stray pigeon. Pigeons are too self-absorbed to care about anyone else. They poo on people they don't like; they poo on people they don't even know. The only real difference between Selig and a pigeon is that Selig intends to bury our heritage, our traditions, and our culture,

              Comment


              • #8
                Iron Jaw, thanks for the recap of the game. We were sitting here discussing going to a San Antonio Missions game and fireworks afterwords when I began telling my wife of that very game and that it is one of my most treasured memories. I was 10 at the time and we had just moved to Denver and were at the game with my grandparents who was visiting at the time. After telling the story I began googling to see if I could find the stats on that particular game and came across your story.

                Thanks again.


                Originally posted by Iron Jaw View Post
                I have many memories from Bears' Stadium (later Mile High).

                I remember in 1968 watching Graig Nettles hit a "grand slam" on errors against Tulsa. The bases were loaded, Nettles fanned, but the catcher missed the ball and it sailed to the backstop. Nettles advanced to first then tore for second. The catcher retreived the ball and chucked it over the second baseman's head into the outfield. The outfielder was out of position and the ball went deep. All four runners scored. At the time, the Bears had only one hit in the game, by Ron Theobald.

                Another time, was the 4th of July, 1979, and the stadium was packed for the fireworks display. However, the real display took place in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Bears were playing the Omaha Royals, and the Royals were pounding the Bears 14-7 after 8 1/2. With two outs in the 9th, the hitting began. Hit after hit. The Bears erased the Omaha lead. With the score 14-13, and two runners on, Jim Cox was the batter. Slugger Randy Bass, who sat the game out with a minor injury, was waiting in the on-deck circle to pinch hit. But he wasn't needed. Cox hit the ball into the left field seats and the Bears won 16-14. As far as I was concerned, that was the fireworks display.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I grew up in Colorado Springs and followed the Bears/Zyphers in the 70s as well. Mile High, may it RIP, was not a great place to watch a game, but we made the trek a few times. My fondest memory however is of listening to it on KOA. Anyone remember the play by play guy? I think it was Sandy Kluff when I was listening and he was really pretty good. No Vin Scully but better than some of what the Rockies have used.

                  My Dad is also a native of Denver and recalls seeing Dimaggio and the Yankee's play an exhibition game at Bears stadium in the 50s.
                  No, it's Colorado.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CarlCaranskiShift View Post
                    I grew up in Colorado Springs and followed the Bears/Zyphers in the 70s as well. Mile High, may it RIP, was not a great place to watch a game, but we made the trek a few times. My fondest memory however is of listening to it on KOA. Anyone remember the play by play guy? I think it was Sandy Kluff when I was listening and he was really pretty good. No Vin Scully but better than some of what the Rockies have used.

                    My Dad is also a native of Denver and recalls seeing Dimaggio and the Yankee's play an exhibition game at Bears stadium in the 50s.
                    I don't recall the later sportscasters but I do remember Don Cole and Jack Jolley calling the Bear games for years. And of course, ancient Fred Leo calling the games on TV (KWGN, Channel 2 used to show the Bear games).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      And I also recall reading that the Denver Bears did set the minor league single game attendance record (it was for one of their July 4th Fireworks nights I believe and the attendance was about 65,000 . . .)
                      I'll tell you one ******' thing, I hope we get ******' hotter than ****, just to stuff it up them 3,000 ******' people that show up every ******' day, because if they're the real Chicago ******' fans, they can kiss my ******' ass right downtown and PRINT IT! (excerpt from Lee Elia's post game rant 4/29/83)

                      1966 1970 1983
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                      1973 1974 1997 2014
                      1996 2012 2016


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