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On This Date in Sports April 26, 1995: Baseball Return with Drama at Coors

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Baseball is back as the delayed 1995 season gets underway. Across the game, there is much anger from fans after the strike wiped out the end of 1994. That anger is not exhibited in Denver as the Colorado Rockies host the New York Mets in the first game at Coors Field. The game turns into a back, and forth thriller won by Rockies 11-9 in 14 innings on a three-run walk-off home run by Dante Bichette.

The prolonged strike was over, and the players were back on the field—the strike which began on August 12, 1994. The strike led to the cancellation of the postseason, including the World Series. This led to a nuclear winter in baseball as players and owners continued their dispute. When Spring Training began, the owners tried to enforce their own deal on the players association as they opened camps with replacement players. 

The season was set to begin with the scabs until New York circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor granted an injunction and ruled that MLB had negotiated in bad faith. This ended the strike and put in place the old Collective Bargaining Agreement until a new one could be reached. Since the injunction was granted on March 31st, the start of the season was delayed giving the regular players an abbreviated spring to prepare for a 144-game season. Among the last scabs were those of the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies who played a pair of exhibition games at Coors Field as the injunction came down. 

While many teams faced a backlash from angry fans, the third-year Colorado Rockies were warmly welcomed back. After playing their first two seasons at Mile High Stadium, the Rockies now had a place of their own on Blake Street called Coors Field. Due to their high altitude in Denver, the fences at Coors Field were moved back, but this created wider gaps and helped become a hitter’s paradise. Fans would get a first-hand look at the Coors Field effect in the first game, and the New York Mets and Rockies played the day’s most entertaining game. 

Bill Swift made the start for Don Baylor and the Rockies, while Dallas Green chose Bobby Jones to make the start for the Mets. Walt Weiss leading off the first got the first hit at Coors Field and scored the first run on a double by Larry Walker, who was making his Colorado debut. The Rockies would add a second run when Joe Girard scored on a sacrifice fly by Dante Bichette. In the third inning, Walker doubled home Giradi to make it 3-0 in favor of the Rockies. The Mets got their first run in the fourth as Rico Borgna hit the first home run at Coors. In the fifth inning, the Rockies stretched their lead to 5-1 as Joe Girardi had an RBI double and scored on a single by Andres Galarraga to knock Jones from the game.

Down 5-1 in the sixth inning, the Mets made their comeback, as Todd Hundley hit a grand slam with two outs to send Swift to the showers. The Rockies scratched out a run in the bottom of the sixth to retake the lead as Jerry DiPoto loaded the bases and was replaced Eric Gunderson, as Colorado ran themselves out a bigger inning when Vinny Castilla tried to score from second base on a sacrifice fly by Eric Young Sr. The Mets would quickly tie the game in the seventh as Bobby Bonilla doubled home, Brett Butler. In the ninth, Bonilla had an RBI single, scoring Butler to give the Mets a 7-6 lead. However, Larry Walker had his third double of the game to tie the game 7-7 with two outs against John Franco. 

After three scoreless innings, the Mets again took the lead in the 13th when Jose Vizcaino singled home Brett Butler. However, with Mike Remlinger looking to earn the save for Blas Minor, the Rockies again tied the game on a double by Jim Tatum. In the top of the 14th, the Mets again took a 9-8 lead as Joe Orsulak doubled home, Ricky Otero, with Mark Thompson on the mound. Thompson limited the damage as Remlinger again staked to a one-run lead went to the mound to close the game out for New York. Joe Girardi, with his fourth hit of the game, led the inning off with a single. After Remlinger struck out Larry Walker, the Mets made a critical error as Tom Bogar booted a ball hit by Galarraga at third base, putting the winning run on base as Dante Bichette came to the plate with two on and one out. On a chilly night with 47,28 fans at the start of the game, it would be Bichette who sent most of them home happy as he hit a three-run bomb to win the game 11-9. 

The Mets would endure their fifth straight losing season in 1995, posting a record of 69-75, while the Rockies led by the Blake Street Bombers were the first National League Wild Card at 77-67, in just their third season.