Arriving only in 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks have enjoyed a short but intriguing history that, amongst other things, includes one of the most memorable World Series championships in the history of the sport. Coming close again in 2007, they are still eagerly awaiting their second World Series victory.
A club is born
Jerry Colangelo was the man with the vision to bring the Arizona Diamondbacks into existence. He was already the owner of the Phoenix Suns, so was not new to the game, and in 1993 he put together an ownership group with the intention of introducing the first MLB team into Arizona.
The planned club was immediately popular before it had even been founded, with the people of Arizona desperate for their own team to support. The fans were very much involved from the beginning, and were invited to enter a competition to provide a name for the team, with the winner getting a pair of lifetime season tickets.
‘The Diamondbacks’ was the eventual winner, and the team was officially born.
March 9th, 1995 marked the day that the group was finally given a franchise, giving them three years to prepare for entry into the 1998 season.
These early preparations included the introduction of Buck Showalter as the manager to bring in some much needed experience. Having won the American League Manager of the Year award in 1994 with the New York Yankees, it was hoped that he could get them off to a winning start.
History was made on March 3rd, 1998, as they finally got going in the National League West Division against their first rivals, the Colorado Rockies, at Bank One Ballpark in front of 50,179 excited fans.
There were high expectations, with all the tickets for their opening game selling out before midday, highlighting the popularity of the team before they had even struck a ball. It had been a long-anticipated debut, and everyone wanted to see their team succeed early on.
However, the Rockies were in no mood to let the D-Backs, as they were widely becoming called, have an easy ride, and they spoiled the party for the home fans by taking the game 9-2.
Despite the loss, the Diamondbacks were up and running and the fans were certain that it would not be long before they secured their first Major League success.
They eventually managed a win a month later on April 4th, beating the San Francisco Giants 3-2. It was a cause for celebration, as was their seven-game winning streak in August of the same year.
However, their record in their first season was a far from spectacular 65-97, placing them last in the National League West. It was a disappointing end to the season, but all had to acknowledge that it was only their first year.
Second season success
During the second season the club saw no less than four of their players take part in the All-Star game, which was more than any other team had to offer. It was a sign of how much the team had progressed, and they did not disappoint when they went on to take the NL West, accumulating 100 winning games in the process.
It was a great achievement for such a new team, and hopes were high when they went to take part in the NLDS (National League Division Series). However, despite putting up a good fight, they lost 1-3 to their opponents the New York Mets, putting an end to the dream.
The remarkable happens
The 2000 season was unspectacular, as the team failed to live up to expectations and came in third place with a record of 85-77. This disappointing performance led to the departure of Showalter, as it was decided a new face was needed for the team to reach new heights.
His successor was announced as Bob Brenly, and he would go on to make an immediate impact at the club in a way that no one could have ever predicted.
With the formidable pitching combination of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the Diamondbacks went on to record a phenomenal season which led them to first place in the NL West once again.
This time their opponents in the NLDS were the St Louis Cardinals, who put up a strong fight to take the series to a decisive fifth game. However, the Diamondbacks were the ones to pull through on the day by winning 3-2.
This took them to the NLCS (National League Championship Series) against the Atlanta Braves, in a game that would see the winner go through to the World Series. This proved more one sided than the last series, and they took it 4-1 to book their place in the World Series for the first time in their short history.
For them even to reach the World Series was a triumph after only three years in existence, so in a way they had already won.
However, although the New York Yankees were the hot favourites to win, the Diamondbacks pulled off an incredible feat and took the series in a nail-biting 4-3 victory, coming back from 2-1 down at one point, to shock the world of baseball and delight the loyal fans.
After only four seasons, they had become the youngest ever team to win the World Series, and had ended the dominance of the Yankees at the same time.
It was a success for the entire state, who had never won a major championship in any sport, and the victory parade was cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people. The Diamondbacks had, at such a young age, already written their name into the record books.
The fall from grace
Although success had come swiftly, it was not to last. Following their phenomenal early success the bubble burst and, by 2004, they had slumped to an all time low of 111 losses in a season, a new and undesirable record for Major League Baseball. This led to Brenly’s departure midway through the season, and the arrival of Al Pedrique in his place.
Off the field, things were not going too well either. The financial stability of the club was under threat, forcing Colangelo to give up his post. A group of investors led by Jeff Morad and Ken Kendrick then took over the club, which had been left $150 million in debt by some huge signings by Colangelo.
The new owners decided to bring in Wally Backman as the manager, but his tenure was short and unsuccessful. After the discovery of some undisclosed legal problems that Backman had, he was fired after just 10 days, leading to the promotion of the former bench coach, Bob Melvin.
Things had to change soon, and the new owners were quick to introduce a period of heavy spending on free agents. The tactic worked, leading to a second-place finish in the 2005 season, even with a 75-85 losing record.
Although their division was noticeably weak, the Diamondbacks could still only manage a fourth place the following season. However, the team did manage to include some exceptional performances by individual players.
Both Orlando Hudson and Brandon Webb won the Gold Glove Award and the Cy Young Award respectively, with the latter being included in his first All-Star team that same year. But despite these individual successes, it was largely a year to forget.
The new season saw some big changes for the club. The first major change was their uniform, which was changed from purple, copper and turquoise to red. It was received with mixed reactions by the fans, most of them negative. The logo, however, only underwent minor changes to remain largely the same.
Despite the new look, the season saw the exodus of numerous older players, so no one was quite sure how it would progress. However, the mainly young players put in some incredible performances to score 90 wins against 72 losses, the best finish for any team that year.
They managed to book a place in the playoffs by beating the Colorado Rockies but, due to the result of an entirely different game when the Padres lost to the Milwaukee Brewers, they became the National League West champions anyway.
It was back to the NLDS for the Diamondbacks where they would face the Chicago Cubs in the first playoff. It turned into a very one sided affair, and they took all three games to book themselves a spot in the NLCS.
They were one step away from reaching their second World Series, but the Colorado Rockies were too good on the day, and ended up beating them by a disappointing 4-0.
World Series Titles
National League Pennants
National League West Division Titles
- 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007
Projected Line-up for 2008-02-26
- CF: Chris Young
- 2B: Orlando Hunson
- LF: Eric Byrnes
- 3B: Mark Reynolds
- 1B: Conor Jackson
- SS: Stephen Drew
- RF: Justin Upton
- C: Chris Snyder
Below is a list of the All-Star Players for the Diamondbacks:
- Jay Bell (IF) – 1999
- Steve Finley (OF) – 2000
- Luis Gonzalez (OF) – 1999, 2001, 02, 03, 05
- Randy Johnson (LHP) – 1999, 2000, 01, 02, 04
- Byung-Hyun Kim (RHP) – 2002
- Damian Miller (C) – 2002
- Curt Schilling (RHP) – 2001/2
- Junior Spivey (IF) – 2002
- Brandon Webb (P) – 2006
- Devon White (OF) – 1998
- Matt Williams (IF) – 1999