Rockies to retire number 17 in honor of first baseman Todd Helton's 17-year career

DENVER - The Colorado Rockies announced Thursday that number 17 will be retired to honor the career of first baseman Todd Helton.

Helton played his entire baseball career for the Rockies -- 17 years serving the team and fans at Coors Field. In 2000, Helton told the New York Times that he chose his uniform number as a tribute to the Chicago Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, who retired from baseball in 2003.

After announcing his retirement in Sept. 2013, 40-year-old Helton was honored in a ceremony before the second-to-last game of the season against the Boston Red Sox.

Helton’s batting average started out at .280 in 1997, his first season playing in the major leagues. He was 24 years old. Three years later he had the highest batting average in the majors at .372.

In 2008, Helton was diagnosed with a back injury that kept his spine from handling the physical stress of baseball and caused significant pain in his lower back. Still, his success in the game continued and he hit his 500th career double the following season.

The team plans to commemorate Helton’s career during the 2014 season. Ticket holders for Rockies games during the weekend of Aug. 15-17 will have a chance to grab a Todd Helton “Farewell” bobblehead doll, a collectible jersey or both, depending on which game they attend.

Only one other team has ever retired number 17. The St. Louis Cardinals retired the uniform number in 1974 after the death of their previous pitcher, Dizzy Dean.

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