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Timeline 25: Remembering the biggest Colorado sports stories of 2010

On March 6, 1995, The Fan was born. In the 25 years since, a lot has transpired on the fields, courts and ice in Colorado, giving the hosts and listeners who’ve been part of the station during that time plenty to talk about and debate.

During the course of the next few weeks, we’ll take a look back at that history, remembering the good times and the bad, the winners and the losers, the successes and the failures. It’s a series we’re calling “Timeline 25” and it continues today with a look back at one of the most-bizarre years in Colorado sports history – 2010:

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A (Half) Season for the Ages

The Rockies have had a lot of great players during the history of the franchise. Most, however, have excelled at the plate or in the field. Few have shined while on the mound.

But in 2010, Colorado had a pitcher turn in a performance for the ages. That season, Ubaldo Jimenez was simply dazzling.

He came out of the gates hot, winning five games in April to earn National League Pitcher of the Month honors. In the process, he made team history.

On April 17, Jimenez was on the bump in Atlanta. He stymied the Braves all night, giving up no runs and no hits en route to a 4-0 victory. It was the first no-hitter in Rockies history.

The greatness didn’t end there, however. Jimenez won 11 of his first 12 starts, recording a 0.93 ERA along the way. His only loss came in Los Angeles, when he surrendered just two hits and one run to the Dodgers.

By the All-Star break, the pitcher had amassed a 15-1 record. Not surprisingly, he was tabbed to start for the National League in the Midsummer Classic.

After that game, Jimenez sputtered a bit, only managing to go 4-7 down the stretch. Nonetheless, his 19-8 record and 2.88 ERA remains the gold standard for a Rockies starting pitcher.

The slide wasn’t all on Jimenez. He didn’t get a lot of help in several games, losing 1-0 at the Mets on August 10, 3-1 at Arizona just 11 days later, 2-1 at the Giants on September 1 and 3-1 against the Dodgers on September 27.

Despite that lack of run support, he had a chance to become the Rockies first-ever 20-game winner when he took the mound on October 2 at St. Louis. But once again, the pitcher got no help.

That day, Jimenez looked the like the pitcher who dominated opponents early in the year. In eight innings of work, he gave up just three hits and zero runs, while striking out 10 Cardinals. The Rockies, however, couldn’t muster any runs, eventually losing 1-0 in 11 innings.

Jimenez would never match his 2010 performance. Midway through the next season, he’d be traded to the Indians. But for one special summer, he was masterful, delivering the best pitching season in the history of the franchise.

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Derailed

When the 2009 NBA Playoffs came to an end, the Nuggets were seen as a team that would be a contender for years to come. They had just taken the eventual champion Lakers to the brink, losing in the Western Conference Finals in six games. They boasted a young star, as Carmelo Anthony was blossoming into one of the best scorers in the league. And they had added Chauncey Billups, a veteran with postseason experience and success on his résumé.

So when Denver came out of the gates strong in 2010-11, it was a huge surprise. Denver was 12-4 at Thanksgiving, 20-9 heading into Christmas and 32-15 by the end of January. As a result, George Karl was tabbed to lead the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game.

Days later, however, the season would be derailed. On February 16, Karl announced that he’d be taking a leave of absence, as the head coach was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer. Assistant coach Adrian Dantley would take over, but things were never the same.

The roster was filled with strong personalities, which quickly became an issue. Without their leader, the Nuggets floundered.

Denver finished the season 53-29 and atop the Northwest Division for the second-straight season. But after competing with the Lakers for the No. 1 seed most of the season, the Nuggets finished fourth in the conference.

In the playoffs, the struggles continued. After winning Game 1 against Utah, Denver lost the second game of the series at Pepsi Center. That defeat became their undoing, as the Nuggets lost in six games to the Jazz.

Karl would recover and return, but the Nuggets were never the same. Anthony was traded midway through the next season and after a fourth-straight first-round playoff exit, the head coach would be shown the door after a 57-win season.

It all started to unravel in early 2010. That’s when an unexpected illness derailed a promising season and changed the course of the franchise.

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The Blowout

Most Broncos fans believe Josh McDaniels got fired for one reason. And it’s not what most people think.

Yes, the fact that the head coach went 5-17 during his final 22 games at the helm didn’t help. And granted, getting caught videotaping the 49ers walk-through practice the day before a game in London was a black eye for the organization. But those are the reason why McDaniels was shown a door.

Rather, the coach’s fate was sealed on October 31, 2010, some six weeks before he was eventually shown the door at Dove Valley for one final time. That was the day the Broncos suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of the franchise.

The Raiders were town, as the long-standing rivalry between the two original American Football League franchises continued. And Oakland dominated Denver.

Midway through the second quarter, the score was 38-0. At the end of the third, it was 59-14, which would mercifully be the final score, as the Raiders called off the dogs once things got totally out of hand.

It was the worst loss for the Broncos since Super Bowl XIV, when the 49ers handed Denver a 55-10 defeat. And it was the most points surrendered by the franchise since 1963, when they lost 59-7 to the Chiefs.

There were a lot of reasons why McDaniels had to go. He traded away good players, butted heads with seemingly everyone in the organization and got caught cheating. But those things pale in comparison to his biggest blunder.

59-14. That final score was what ultimately did in the head coach. He couldn’t survive getting blown out, in front of the Broncos home crowd, at the hands of the franchise’s archenemy.

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A Star is Born

When the 2010 season began, Carlos Gonzalez wasn’t an everyday starter. Dexter Fowler was the Rockies centerfielder, while Brad Hawpe was entrenched in right and Seth Smith was projected to start most days in left.

This made sense, as Cargo had struggled during his first season in Colorado. After being acquired from the A’s in the Matt Holliday trade, the outfielder hit just .202 during the first half to the season. As a result, he spent a lot of time in triple-A, getting his swing back during a stint in Colorado Springs.

But there were certainly signs that he was destined for stardom. In the second half of the season, Gonzalez hit .320 and belted 12 home runs. He also shined in the postseason, racking up 10 hits in the Rockies loss to the Phillies in the NLDS.

All that said, it was a bit of a surprise when Jim Tracy penciled Cargo in the starting lineup on opening day. But he made his manager look like a genius, going 4-for-5 on the day to help the Rockies to a 5-3 win over the Brewers.

After that, Gonzalez didn’t look back. By season’s end, he led the Rockies in games played (145), at-bats (587), hits (197), batting average (.336), home runs (34) and RBIs (117), firmly establishing himself as the best hitter on the team.

This was reinforced in dramatic fashion on July 31. In front of a packed house at Coors Field, Colorado went into the bottom of the ninth tied 5-5 with Chicago, with Cargo set to lead off the inning. It didn’t take long for him to send Cubs fans home unhappy, as he hit the first pitch he saw deep to right field for a walk-off home run, a hit that completed the cycle for Gonzalez in dramatic fashion.

In 2010, a new star was born in Colorado. He’d go on to become a three-time All-Star and one of the best players in franchise history.

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A Total Collapse

During his four-plus seasons at Colorado, there were many low points for Dan Hawkins. But none of them could come close to his final game as the Buffaloes head coach.

On November 6, 2010, CU traveled to Kansas, hoping to end their 16-game road losing streak. With 11:05 to play in the game, it looked like the Buffs would get it down, as they held a commanding 45-17 lead over the Jayhawks.

Inexplicably, however, Colorado continued to throw the ball. There was speculation that Hawkins was trying to make sure his son, Cody, would become the program’s all-time leading passer, hoping the quarterback would rack up some yards during the final moments of a blowout win. Instead, incompletions kept stopping the clock, which gave KU a chance to get back into the game.

In the end, the Jayhawks would close the game on a 35-0 run, giving them a 52-45 victory. It was the largest collapse in the 117-year history of CU football.

The loss was the end of Hawkins’ time in Boulder. Three days later, he was fired as Colorado’s head coach, finishing with a disappointing 19-39 record.