Noel: Celebrating Denver’s rich baseball history

From Tom Noel at the Denver Post on April 25, 2015:

The Rockies’ fast start this spring almost made history in the oldest sport played in Colorado. Ever since the 1860s, Denverites have found various ways to celebrate base hits. The Denver Athletic Club, for instance, inspired players with kegs of beer at each base. Ardent fans also showered DAC home-run hitters with gold pieces.

Incentives for better play also came in the form of new and better ball parks, more professional pay, and slowly evolving tolerance allowing athletes of all colors to play ball. Early city games were played at Denver Park at 32nd and Larimer before moving to River Front Park in the mid-1880s. River Front’s ball park came from John Brisben Walker, the ubiquitous developer behind Red Rocks and the Denver Mountain Parks system.

Walker constructed a ball field and bleachers near the junction of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek (today’s Commons Park and the rip-roaring Riverfront residential and retail development). To winning teams, Walker awarded cherry pies.

Another early venue, Broadway Grounds, lay at Colfax and Broadway. Denverites also dubbed that area Walter Scott Cheesman’s million-dollar cow pasture. Cheesman, the city’s leading real estate tycoon, put together the Union Station parcel and many other pricey, prime sites. On his pasture at Colfax and Broadway, he grazed a cow as evidence that it should be taxed as agricultural land. Perhaps the cow and the souvenirs it left on the field led to its replacement in 1889 by Broadway Park at Sixth Avenue and Broadway. That field would remain the home of Denver professional baseball until the 1920s.

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Originally published: April 27, 2015. Last Updated: April 27, 2015.