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Rockies painting the town purple

Rockies painting the town purple

DENVER -- There may have been a red sky over Boston last night, heralding Sox fans' delight, but as the Rockies took flight for the comforts of home, they chased a purple moon rising.

The city of Denver has taken on a new hue over the past week. It started small, as the "Sleeper" house, high on a hill beside I-70 heading into the mountains, was lit up in purple earlier in the month, the first time the distinctive landmark from Woody Allen's futuristic '70s comedy was illuminated as a means of sparking civic pride.

Slowly, the buildings in downtown Denver fell in line, and by the time the Rockies landed back in Colorado, Union Station was glowing beside their Coors Field home and the city's fan-in-chief, Mayor John Hickenlooper, had flipped the switch at the Denver City and County Building, lighting the crowning tower purple to show the city's support of the Rockies ongoing quest to claim the World Series title.

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"What's great about the Rockies is not just that they're winning, but how they're winning," Hickenlooper said earlier during their postseason surge. "These kids just don't quit. They never quit."

But lest anyone get the impression that Colorado's pride in the Rockies is only on the surface, folks inside these buildings are wearing their faith on their sleeves as well. Colorado's U.S. Senator Ken Salazar helped arrange for Manny Corpas, Sr. to get a visa on short notice so he could travel from Panama to see his son pitch in the World Series, while the Colorado state legislature's Speaker of the House, Andrew Romanoff, declared Friday as "Rockies Day," encouraging legislators to wear any Rockies gear they own and deck themselves in purple from head to toe.

It's the kind of behavior one expects from school kids, particularly at the start of a long, full-moon weekend that promises to extend itself clear to Halloween. That's what the Rockies have done to the region, captivating the attention of fans, young and old, and igniting a fevered spark of anxiety and anticipation as Coors Field prepares to host its first World Series game.

Appropriately enough, Jefferson County public schools have led the way, initiating "Purple Days" and spirit contests among the student body. At Ken Caryl Middle School, seventh-grader Austin Denike won a spirit contest by sporting a purple barrel bedecked with Rockies clippings, borrowing the time-tested fan favorite from the Bronco's well-known "Barrel Man." The school even temporarily lifted its ban on hats and caps -- as long as the hats of choice bore Rockies emblems.

And while the kids dressed up and the politicians made declarations, renaming streets in honor of baseball's mile-high miracle workers, the city teemed with energy as passersby on the streets became instant brethren by virtue of a T-shirt, jacket, cap or accessory bonding them together in support of the Rockies.

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At Coors Field, those lucky enough to score the hottest ticket ever sold in the city lined up at the box office to pick them up, reveling in the 70-degree weather as their team prepared to play a rain-soaked game at Fenway. They were the long-enduring faithful, fans who had supported the Rockies as season ticket holders from the team's inception, and the Rockies ride to the World Series had life-changing effects on some of them.

One woman, a retiree who's hardly missed a game in 15 years as an usher at the park and a season ticket holder herself, was preparing to follow through on a bet she made with her children: if the Rockies went to the World Series, she would give up her 50-year smoking habit. No small task, but she was determined to keep her word -- after the Series ended.

"I clapped so hard and so long in the 13-inning tiebreaker against the Padres, when I got home, my hands were bleeding," she said, before picking up her tickets and heading to the team store to update her gear with some World Series merchandise.

The region's other heroes proved they were not immune to Rocktober fever, with Denver icon John Elway showing up at Rockies games and providing a videotaped rally call played over the scoreboard's jumbo screen, urging fans to cheer the Rockies on.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, a college teammate of Todd Helton's at the University of Tennessee -- where he started his career as Helton's backup quarterback -- wished his old friend the best, admitting to staying up late to keep up with the Rockies' historic run to the World Series.

"What the Rockies have done has been nothing short of phenomenal," Manning said last week after Colorado clinched its first pennant.

Musicians playing concerts in Colorado made sure to give a Rockies cheer, with everyone from Paolo Nutini and Loudon Wainwright to Stevie Wonder and Queen Latifah proclaiming purple as their true color.

Local favorites from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Jimmy Ibbottson -- "I'm walking on air" -- to Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman -- "I'm a hardcore Rockies fans" -- to Sam Bush -- "Boy, am I glad Todd Helton chose baseball" -- are brimming with enthusiasm for the resurgent Rockies, as eager as anyone to root the Rockies on to a title.


"What's great about the Rockies is not just that they're winning, but how they're winning. These kids just don't quit. They never quit."
-- Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper

Famed sports artist and Denver native Malcolm Farley, known for his "live" action paintings at marquee events ranging from Super Bowls to the Olympics, from Triple Crown horse races to World Series classics, has been commissioned by Major League Baseball to capture a series of memorable moments from the Rockies run, including paintings of Troy Tulowitzki flashing leather, Matt Holliday tearing the cover off the ball and Todd Helton hitting the walk-off homer against the Dodgers that set fire to the pennant race and endures as the signature moment of the spectacular September.

Too often it takes cataclysmic events of an entirely different nature to bring a city together like this, but the Rockies are a club that has consistently reached out to its own community and beyond, embracing the youth of the area, making time to lift the spirits of the less fortunate, building fields across the state and even generating some elbow grease, picking up hammer and nail to build homes with Habitat for Humanity for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. You can bank on the empathy these Rox feel for the Padres team they vanquished in the Wild Card tiebreaker, lending their hearts to San Diego as that city comes together in the wake of the devastating wildfires.

Denver is a city is full of heartwarming stories this week, of fans selflessly sacrificing coveted World Series tickets so their friends and family can share the experience, of students earning the right to break dress code and wear their Rockies gear by donating money to the family of Mike Coolbaugh, the Rockies Double-A Tulsa Drillers coach who died in July after being hit by a foul ball in the first-base coach's box, of the Downtown Denver Partnership's donation of a big screen television so that Rockies fans can gather at Skyline Park on the 16th Street Mall to watch the World Series games together, and of Clint Hurdle's Fenway Park shout-out to Children's Hospital in Denver.

There's a camaraderie that springs uniquely to life in a World Series city passionate about its team. The city is on the same page, dialed into the same familiar voices on their radio, collectively holding their breaths with each anxious moment of the Fall Classic. A trip to the coffee shop turns into a giddy gabfest, part highlight reel and part exhilarated exhale, and the supermarket is a festive celebration of fans stocking up to hunker down with their team.

When that beloved team is a team of character like the Colorado Rockies, it's hard to hide the pride. Like the "purple mountain majesties" of Colorado that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write "America the Beautiful," the Mile High City and all of the Rocky Mountain West are aglow with passion, welcoming their world class Rox home and waiting like kids on Christmas morning, eager to share the gift of their miraculous team as the eyes of the world fall on the new home of the Fall Classic.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["world_series" ] }
{"content":["world_series" ] }