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Rock-tober earns place in state's history


Colorado's baseball fans will remember the snapshot, frozen forever in their collective memory.

Todd Helton, stretched out from first base after completing the final out, glove and fist in the air, unleashing his own yell along with 50,000 others to begin the joyous Coors Field celebration.

Colorado Rockies, going to the World Series. Rockies, National League champions. Rockies, on a 21-1 run (also a 10-0 streak since Sept. 29) that suddenly is securing a special place among Major League Baseball's all-time incredible accomplishments.

One fan's sign said it all: "Is this heaven? No, it's Colorado."

Or, as Helton was saying after Monday night turned into Tuesday morning, "We're not done yet. We're gonna keep it going."

Actually, of course, the Rockies could by winning the World Series. Before that unfolds, let's address how this team already has stormed its way into the rarefied air of this state's most unforgettable mountaintop journeys.

In recording sports history, it's best to have two distinct categories: moments and stories.

Colorado's 6-4 victory against Arizona to wrap up the NL pennant, and the jubilation afterward, obviously becomes a sweet slice of instant history.

As moments go for Colorado, Oct. 15, 2007, makes the highest echelon, without question. From this view, it always has seemed inappropriate to rank that group. Either a moment is in or out. Here's part of the list:

Jan. 1, 1978. On a wintry day at Mile High Stadium, Denver knocks off defending NFL champion Oakland, 20-17, sending the Broncos to their first Super Bowl (XII, where they will lose to Dallas). As that Orange Crush season reaches its climax, fans stampede the field. Nothing like the first time for pure emotion.

Jan. 25, 1998. After 16 seasons pursuing one goal, John Elway finally takes the Broncos to the summit with a 31-24 conquest of Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII at San Diego. Team owner Pat Bowlen holds the Lombardi Trophy aloft and hands it to Elway, saying, "This one's for John."

Sept. 24, 1994. The Miracle at Michigan, as Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart launches the rocket pass carrying 70-plus yards that deflects into the arms of Michael Westbrook for a 27-26 victory on national TV. The thousand or so CU fans, surrounded by more than 100,000 silent Michigan faithful, are as delirious as the Buffs.

Jan. 11, 1987. Many Bronco fans would put The Drive at the top. Elway becomes a true superstar on this icy day at Cleveland, engineering the 98-yard drive that sends the AFC Championship Game into overtime, followed by Rich Karlis' field goal for a 23-20 victory and Elway's first Super Bowl berth.

April 9, 1993. First major-league game on Colorado soil, first batter to the plate for the Rockies, with 80,227 people crammed into Mile High, and Eric Young hits a home run. Utterly priceless.

There are more, such as the Avalanche's Joe Sakic handing the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque in 2001 and Elway's grand finale in Super Bowl XXXIII. The point is, Colorado making its first World Series certainly belongs.

As for the stories, again, using numbers to rank them does nothing but start arguments.

Up to now, though, this historian's personal file always started with Elway's saga, culminating in the two Super Bowls. It also includes the Avalanche pairing of that first Stanley Cup run in 1996 and the second one with Bourque in 2001. Let's not forget, either, CU football's run to the 1990 national title, after coming so close in 1989 following the death of quarterback Sal Aunese. Closer to home, it's appropriate to include Air Force's 12-1 seasons of 1985 and 1998, especially beating the likes of Notre Dame and Texas in '85.

But these Rockies and their 21-1 ride into history, one may easily determine, should not rank behind any sports story Colorado has ever seen. All the different heroes 12 of them with game-winning hits in the 21 victories, not to mention all the pitchers have made the tale more precious, because it isn't just one or two stars carrying the team.

At some point, too, manager Clint Hurdle has to receive his due for making all the right decisions, never losing his cool or humility, and now endearing himself to Denver and the state as much as any manager or coach ever has.

All that, and the World Series still ahead. One final chapter, one final set of memories, perhaps more of those indelible snapshots.

As wondrous as the Colorado Rockies' story has become, it's not finished yet.

Two big shows
World Series Game 1 is Oct. 24, same night as the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame banquet. With Colorado playing at Boston or Cleveland, the Hall of Fame crowd can watch on the World Arena's big screen until the program begins.

Trojan trauma
Southern Cal has bigger problems than losing to Stanford. Now the NCAA is getting proof of illegal aid to Reggie Bush's family, which likely will lead to stiff penalties.

See the headline?
Texas is starting random steroid testing of high school athletes, checking players at 400 schools this year with a 30-day suspension for a positive test or refusing to cooperate.

Prime timers
Broncos' next two games are at night, Sunday against Pittsburgh (6:15 p.m., NBC) and Monday, Oct. 29 vs. Green Bay (6:30 p.m., ESPN), both at home.

Major conflict
If the World Series goes to Game 5, it will be on Monday night, Oct. 29, at Coors Field, at the same time the Broncos are hosting Green Bay. Don't be surprised if the NFL tries to maneuver its schedule.

Ralph's picks
We gave you two good upsets last week, not even counting Kentucky over LSU and Oregon State over Cal. Let's try again. Week 8:
Upset specials
' Rutgers (taking 2) vs. South Florida
' Indiana (taking 8) vs. Penn State
' Texas Tech (taking 6) at Missouri

Against the spread
' Miss. State (taking 23) at West Virginia
' Navy (taking 3) vs. Wake Forest
' Kansas (giving 4) at Colorado
' Notre Dame (taking 21) vs. Southern Cal
' Kentucky (taking 6.5) vs. Florida

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