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In 1997, Major League Baseball finally arrived in Phoenix with the creation of the Arizona Diamondbacks. While just an expansion franchise, the ballclub soon established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the National League West. In just their second season, the ‘99 team turned heads across the league by winning 100 games and earning a trip to the playoffs. No other expansion franchise had ever made it to October as quickly as the D-Backs.
The early success of the Diamondbacks can primarily be chalked up to the dominance of pitcher Randy Johnson. After joining the team in 1999, the Big Unit proceeded to win four straight National League Cy Young Awards and would go on to set franchise records for wins, strikeouts, and shutouts. During this time, he also tied the major league record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game with 20, and in 2004, he tossed a perfect game versus the Atlanta Braves.
By 2001, the team was truly firing on all cylinders. Pitcher Curt Schilling won 20 games for the Diamondbacks that year, and on offense, they were driven by outfielder Luis Gonzalez. “Gonzo” smacked a career-high 57 home runs and 142 runs batted in; his biggest contribution was an RBI single in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the New York Yankees. Gonzalez’s heroics at the plate brought Arizona its first world championship, making them the fastest expansion franchise ever to capture the title.
The D-Backs reached the playoffs the following year, but a host of injuries and setbacks would keep the team out of the postseason for several years after that. In 2007, the franchise shed its former team colors of teal and purple in favor of a more desert-appropriate red and tan. The new look proved to be good luck as Arizona captured the National League West division title and made its first postseason appearance since 2002.
Much like they stunned the crowd in ‘99 with their first playoff appearance, the 2011 Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world as they hustled and grinded their way to a fifth NL West divisional title. In his first season as manager, former big leaguer Kirk Gibson oversaw the transformation that led the team from last to first, and for his efforts was named Baseball Writer’s Association of America’s Manager of the Year.
Despite the ups and downs, the city of Phoenix has shown itself to be a passionate baseball town -- so much so, that even notorious shock rocker Alice Cooper has gotten in on the action. His baseball-themed restaurant, appropriately named Alice Cooper’stown, is located mere minutes away from the ballpark. There, fans gather to celebrate breathtaking victories and crushing defeats alike.
Since opening in 2005, Chase Field has emerged as one of the most unique ballparks around, thanks to a state-of-the-art retractable roof and the league’s only pool and hot tub. Located in center field, they let fans cool off in the water while cheering for a big win from their Diamondbacks.