Jerry McMorris had visions of being just a fan of Denver’s new major league baseball team. As the process continued toward the National League’s expansion by two teams, McMorris had done his part to keep Denver in the mix. The competition was stiff for the two expansion teams, with strong proposals coming from Miami, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Washington D.C. and Phoenix.
However, just before an important presentation to baseball’s expansion committee in 1990, Denver’s ownership potential was in question. Gov. Roy Romer quickly named a committee to seek ownership possibilities from Denver’s business community. McMorris agreed to become a member of the Limited Partner segment of a proposed ownership group and pledged money to meet an expansion fee of $95 million.
But on a Saturday in late July of 1992, with Denver already picked for an expansion franchise, McMorris received a phone call, resulting in a change of roles. Instead of being just a fan, he started down a path that led to running the day-to-day operations of a major league baseball team.
McMorris learned that the General Partner side of the team’s projected ownership was disappearing, taking with it a major portion of the collateral backing for the $95 million fee.
“Pressure was bearing down on us in terms of major league baseball’s schedule and quite frankly there was going to be a large amount of money due within a short time,” McMorris said. “I thought maybe the Colorado partners in the ownership could fix it. I think baseball would say that it was important that somebody stepped up and preferably people from Colorado.”
There was some urgency involved because the ownership’s note of credit to the National League was due to be converted to cash within a few weeks.
McMorris had not wanted to be part of the day-to-day operation of the Colorado Rockies. However, he contacted some of the other partners to see if any were willing to increase their stake in the franchise. He found Charlie Monfort and the late Oren Benton to be willing to join him in making up the $20 million shortfall left by the departure of the General Partner members.
“It seemed like the right thing to do at the time and I still think so,” McMorris said later. “We had a lot of decisions to make. We were in the middle of putting details together for Coors Field. The previous owners had made a commitment to Bob Gebhard to be our general manager and I didn’t have any second thoughts. I felt he was the right man for the job. We also were finalizing our plans to have our spring training site in Tucson.”
McMorris proudly traces the history. “I originally thought I’d be involved for about 10 years,” McMorris said. “I was involved for 12 years. I’ll never forget the experience of going to spring training for the first time. Then, there was our first opening day against the Mets in New York. We came back to Denver for our first home game and Eric Young hit the home run in leading off the bottom of the first inning. The home run and the great crowd were huge. Then fast forward to the opening game in Coors Field, making the playoffs in 1995 and our All-Star game in 2000. All of those things were great for Denver. There’s a great sense of accomplishment.”
On May 8, 2012, McMorris passed away due to pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
I think baseball would say that it was important that somebody stepped up and preferably people from Colorado.