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The wait is over! Rockies' Todd Helton elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Colorado icon reaches Cooperstown in sixth year on ballot
Hall of Fame Baseball
Posted at 4:20 PM, Jan 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 11:45:58-05

DENVER — For 17 years, Todd Helton played for the Colorado Rockies. His career a quilt of breathtaking moments, stunning accomplishments, and mind-bending statistics.

Tuesday, he walked from Coors Field into the arms of immortality. On his sixth year on the ballot, Helton was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He received 79.7 percent from the 384 voters, crossing the required threshold of 75 percent. He will be joined in the Hall of Fame by Adrian Beltre (95.1) and Joe Mauer (76.1) in the Class of 2024.

The wait, agonizing after missing by 11 votes last January, is over.

The wait is over: Rockies legend Todd Helton elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Up with Purple. The greatest player in Rockies history, the face of the franchise, is headed to his rightful place in Cooperstown.

Helton refused to discuss his candidacy much publicly in recent days, admitting going down memory lane would only upset him if he was not elected. Make no mistake this mattered to Helton, who joins Larry Walker, elected in 2020, as the only Rockies in the Hall of Fame.

"I would use the word validate. I was talking to my wife (Christy) and said everything I have done, this really did happen. And it was good enough to make the Hall of Fame," Helton said Tuesday night. "My dad (Jerry) was hard on me. He would say after I thought I had a bad day that 1-for-3 would get me in the Hall of Fame. He said things like that that helped me. It wasn't the reason I played. But I am very happy I made it."

Helton, 50, grew up learning to hit from his father Jerry, a former minor leaguer. He played baseball like a football player, with athleticism, aggressiveness and a drive to win the sport’s individual matchups on both sides of the ball.

“He was never happy unless he beat you. It didn’t matter what it was,” former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He wasn’t going to smile until he beat your (bleep).”

Helton became victorious Tuesday because, in the end, his numbers were impossible to ignore despite a lingering Coors Field bias. In his first year on the ballot in 2019, Helton garnered 16.5% of the vote. He made a gradual climb as his road numbers began to take on more significance, especially this year. Helton's career road OPS of .855 ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Jim Rice (.854), Reggie Jackson (.846), Carl Yastrzemski (.841) Dave Winfield (.841) and Eddie Murray (.841). Helton boasted a .296 average with a .395 on-base percentage with more walks than strikeouts on the road during his 10-year peak.

He burst onto the scene, finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

“It is an honor to be part of his career and be a teammate and small piece of it,” former Rockies Rookie of the Year pitcher Jason Jennings said. “As I get older, I am 45 now, you look back at the good times and the bad times. A lot of good times. Playing with Todd will always be one of my best memories.”

Helton put up numbers that widen eyes and create pause. He is a career .316 hitter with 369 home runs and 2,519 hits. There is only player who batted at least .300 with 300 home runs and 2,500 hits not in the Hall of Fame – Manny Ramirez. And Ramirez failed multiple tests for performance-enhancing drugs.

“When Todd got to the big leagues you saw a big leaguer. And when he started to hit balls with his hitting group, he had 'it.' Sometimes it’s hard to define 'it,' but you know it when you see ‘it.’ He hit two home runs in his first three games (in Pittsburgh),” Hurdle said. “The same kid I saw grow up before my eyes arrived in the big leagues and put his foot down and was going to be an elite player. There was nothing less than that in Todd’s mind of where he was headed and what he was going to do.”

Helton brought an icy glare to the plate and sported a scowl in the dugout. He would have loved his on-field play to reflect his dry wit. But he could not succeed without an almost unhealthy focus and work ethic.

“I wished I could have had a smile on my face and played well. But I knew what worked for me and I had to focus 100% and bear down and that didn’t include smiling and looking like I was on a Sunday stroll,” said Helton, who took a call from Broncos Hall of Famer and former Tennessee teammate Peyton Manning not long after the annoucement. “But that’s not to say I didn’t love it. I did.”

Helton played his entire 17-year career with the Rockies. He reluctantly agreed to a trade to the Red Sox before the 2007 season, but it fizzled over pitchers coming back in the deal. Helton was relieved, and this day considers the 2007 season his favorite as the Rockies won 21 of 22 games to reach the World Series.

"We ended up playing the Red Sox in the World Series and they throttled us (in a sweep), but I think making it with the team I struggled with and watched and helped build and put my heart and soul into for all those years," Helton said, "losing in the World Series meant more than winning it somewhere else."

Helton delivered two seasons with 100 extra-base hits. In 2000, he batted .372 with 49 home runs and 405 total bases. Helton made the game so important, the matchup with the pitcher so personal, we rarely saw his teeth.

“I truly respect that. There were some days I was borderline scared of Todd. I didn’t want to screw up because this guy was going to get on me but in a good way. In a leader-type way,” Jennings said. “He was that way from day one.”

His career began with a blast. It ends with a plaque. Welcome to Cooperstown, Todd Helton. Make yourself at home.