Two cousins, Flash-Frozen Ice Cream, and Todd Helton
Back in the days when Home Runs flew and nobody knew what they were really doing to make them fly and keep flying, we all just sat, watched, and cheered. We watched two power hitters fight over an unbreakable record that had stood for decades. The newspaper ran story after story, and even in my small Montana town, when the record was broken, it was front page news. I was ten years old when the record fell, and less than a year away from seeing my first big league game in person.
My first games were the 4th and 5th of June, 1999 at Coors Field. The Rockies and Brewers teed off and combined for 40 runs over two games. Jim Abbott started the first game for Milwaukee and somehow made it through 6 innings, only giving up 4 on 9 hits. Larry Walker hit a homer in each game and Vinny Castilla hit 3 in the second game. We also got to see Hideo Nomo, a few years removed from his most dominant seasons. This is all a story for another time, the real story here happened a year later. The real story is a tale of two cousins, Dippin’ Dots, the Mile High seats and Todd Helton. It has been almost twenty years since then. I’ve done a good bit of self-inflicted brain cell killin’ over the last ten of them so the details may be a bit off, but this is the story as I remember it.
In July 2000, we took a trip back to Coors Field for two games. I was the old pro at this point, decked out with fanny pack full of pens, markers and cards, should an autograph opportunity present itself. My cousin also had his cards and markers, but no fanny pack…he was and to this day is a little cooler than me. The Rockies were playing the Padres and this was the height of Trevor Hoffman’s dominance. When we saw what looked like a pack of kid’s gathered around on a player the third base side, about 50 feet from the dugout in left field foul territory, we sprinted down, skipping rows of steps along the way. At this point I was losing my mind, but I kept it together long enough to get my card signed. My cousin got his signed and we sprinted back up to our dads.
We were wandering around towards the home dugout and my cousin suddenly got uncharacteristically excited. He made a direct course for a brightly colored concession stand and told me I had to try this. We both asked our dads for money and made our selections. They were called Dippin’ Dots and they were fantastic. I had never tasted anything quite like it. As we finished our icy treat, one of us noticed another pack of kids gathering around someone on the field. We quickly changed gears and ran for the field. Before us stood Todd Helton, who in his third full season, was setting the baseball world on fire. He was also on his way to becoming the second Rockies player in as many years to hit over .370. This is where it goes sideways.
It started out ok as we patiently waited our turn in the ever-growing line. As I moved to the front of the line, I shuffled through my fanny pack for the perfect card and marker. I got my card signed and moved out of the way. My cousin moved in to get his autograph. Or so he thought. We both heard it, but it only crushed one of us. “I already signed for you, kid.” My cousin tried to protest for a second, but Helton had already moved on.
We didn’t talk much about it after that and spent the rest of the game wandering around, doing the stuff kids do. We made the climb up to the mile high line of seats and spent most of the game talking baseball with some drunk guys about our dads’ age. Sometime after the 7th inning stretch we made our way back to our not-drunk dads. We would return to Coors Field one final time, in 2001, but for my cousin it was never the same.
(Not Todd Helton, but Kirt Manwaring. For some reason my favorite player as a kid. He won a gold glove in 1993, but only hit .246 with 21 HRs over 13 years.)
Several months ago, I saw my cousin for the first time in years. We spent the evening telling old stories and laughing. When we got to one particular story, one of us didn’t laugh. I’ll just leave it like this. Since July 22nd, 2000, I’ve been a big fan of Todd Helton and treasured this autographed card. (side note: I think at some point I tried to fix the smudge on the left side of the signature).
Since, July 22nd, 2000, my cousin has been the opposite of that and has not treasured his un-autographed card. I have included an example below of what his card may have looked like. I’m sure the original was turned into some kind of Todd Helton voodoo doll, stuck in some dirt bike spokes, and tossed in a burning dumpster.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Keep an eye out for more baseball stories, box breaks, and the Baseball Card Central podcast.