By Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
Everyone simply calls him “Geb.”
He’s a baseball man ever since he grew up in the small farming town of Lamberton in southwest Minnesota.
At age 77, Bob Gebhard remains a full-time baseball guru for the St. Louis Cardinals with the senior, special assistant to the president of baseball operations.
Gebhard has worn many hats during 55 years in professional baseball — pitcher, coach, front-office guru, scout — but he made his biggest impact as the first general manager in Colorado Rockies history.
Geb cobbled together the 1993 expansion team with a total payroll of $8 million and a $300,000 budget for the scouting department.
That first Rockies team won just 67 games, but it avoided 100 losses and drew an astonishing 4,483,350 fans to the old Mile High Stadium.
In 1995, Geb’s Rockies made the playoffs as a National League wild-card team, making the postseason faster than any expansion team in modern baseball history.
He also had the foresight to hire Don Baylor as the Rockies’ first manager.
Gebhard also left an indelible mark on Coors Field, which opened in 1995. That signature pine forest, pond, rock waterfalls and fountains beyond center field? That was Gebhard’s baby. When Coors first opened, the area was a sod farm, but Gebhard was instrumental in turning it into showpiece in 1996. Gebhard left the Rockies in 1999, but he still lives in the Denver area with his wife, Nancy.
“Ever since we got here, we’ve thought of Colorado as home and we knew we would stay here,” he said. “We just love it here and all three of our children and our eight grandchildren are 10 minutes from our house.”
Gebhard was a strong, 6-2, 210 pounds when he graduated from Lamberton High School in 1961. By the time he received his diploma, he had earned 16 varsity letters in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball. He accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Iowa.
His front-office career began with the Montreal Expos in 1976 as the field director of minor-league operations and roving pitching coach at age 33. He was a coach on the Expos’ big-league staff in 1982, and then served as the club’s farm director from 1983–86.
He returned to Minnesota as an assistant general manager under Andy MacPhail, helping shape the Twins’ World Series championship teams of 1987 and ’91. In September 1991,
Gebhard was hired by the Rockies to be the architect of the expansion franchise.
Gebhard’s most notable achievement was creating the “Field of Dreams” program, which builds baseball fields or refurbishes existing fields, and financing the project through discretionary community money written into the contracts of Rockies players. The Field of Dreams Program has 55 fields spread around the Denver area, the Front Range, the Western Slope and Wyoming.
Ever since we got here, we’ve thought of Colorado as home and we knew we would stay here