Career numbers alone were enough to land Todd Helton in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. When Helton retired at the end of the 2013 season, he was one of just two players in baseball history to log at least 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 350 home runs and a career batting average of .315 or higher. Stan “The Man” Musial is the only other player to meet that criteria. Helton’s wife, Christy, put it best: “When Todd was on top of his game, he remained humble,” she said last October when Helton ended his 17-year career in a Colorado uniform. “When the Rockies offered him his contract, Todd was honored. When the Rockies were losing, he remained loyal.”
“When Todd was hurting, he didn’t complain or make excuses. When Todd received accolades, he shyly accepted them with a wave or a tip of his cap. When he made mistakes, Todd stood and apologized.”
“What makes me the most proud of Todd over the years is not a moment or a stat or a record, but how he dealt with the life of baseball. The consistent support of the fans has been a huge blessing to Todd — because I know in my heart he gave it all he had — for them.”
Helton arrived in Colorado as a baby-faced kid from Tennessee, making his big-league debut on August 2, 1997, at age 23. He retired at age 40, his trademark goatee forever cemented in the memories of Rockies fans.
A .316 career batter, Helton owns almost every major career hitting mark in the Rockies’ record book: 2,519 hits, 998 extra-base hits, 592 doubles and 369 home runs. One of the best-fielding first baseman of all time, Helton won three Gold Gloves (2001, 2002, 2004), and probably deserved more.
Todd Helton got his 2,519 hits off 818 different pitchers. He earned their respect for keen eye, tenacity and his ability to flat out wear them out. “I was never afraid of a hitter when I stepped up on the mound. But I never, ever felt comfortable when Todd was at the plate” said Curt Schilling, who won 216 games while pitching for five teams.
Helton went to the playoffs just twice, and never won a World Series ring, but his two-out, two-strike, two-run walkoff homer off Los Angeles Dodgers closer Takashi Saito ignited Rocktober as the Rockies won 21 of 22 games on their impossible dream ride to the 2007 Fall Classic.
Prior to his final big-league game, the 2,247th of his career, Helton was hailed by another legend as he took the field at Dodger Stadium. “Todd, I know I am a bit presumptuous when I speak for the Dodger organization, for all of the fans in Southern California and, for that matter, all the fans who love baseball, to wish you well,” said longtime Dodgers announcer Vin Scully via a video message on the outfield scoreboards. “On behalf of all of those Dodger pitchers whom you mistreated for so many years, have a wonderful life after baseball.”
Tarring a highway in 90-degree heat is hard work. This is baseball. Something I love.