Jerry McMorris, ex-Rockies Co-Owner And CEO, Dead At 71

DENVER, CO: Sun sets on downtown Denver as see from Coors Field in LoDo as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Colorado Rockies 13-9 at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. Turbulent weather moved in as wind, rain, hail and lightning halted the game for one hour and nine minutes in the eighth inning. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Jerry McMorris, one of the Colorado Rockies' original owners and the franchise's CEO from 1993 through 2002, died Tuesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

Originally, the Rockies' principal owners were a couple of Youngstown, Ohio residents, operating as partners. But when one of them was charged with embezzlement and both were forced to pull out of the ownership group, there was a financial shortfall and suddenly the franchise looked endangered. Until McMorris took charge.

Patrick Saunders (via The Denver Post):

McMorris, one of the Rockies' original investors who paid $7 million of the $95 million expansion fee Major League Baseball required, stepped up to the plate. He pledged half of the money toward the $20 million shortfall and raised the the rest of the money to cover the shortfall from the late Oren Benton and the Monfort family, whose Greeley based meat-packing plant was one of the nation's largest.

After the Monus-Antonucci collapse, Major League Baseball considered pulling its expansion franchise from Colorado until McMorris stepped up.

"One hundred percent true," Charlie Monfort said. "I remember I was in my backyard when Jerry came walking up. This was after the Monus deal. He said, 'We've got a problem. We've got to step up or we're going to lose this franchise.'

"He said, 'What can you do?' I said, 'I'm in.' But he's the one who led the charge."

McMorris later told The Denver Post: "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."

With the financial crisis averted, the Rockies began play on schedule.

One wonders what MLB's backup plan might have been; surely they weren't going to cancel expansion altogether, considering the Marlins were scheduled to begin playing in 1993, too.

Regardless, the Rockies opened on schedule in 1993, and McMorris also helped guide the process whereby the franchise moved into Coors Field, which still stands as one of Major League Baseball's top venues.

In 2005, McMorris sold his ownership stake in the Rockies.

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