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Moments of Glory

The most important events in Denver sporting history.

May 1973: Denver Racquets win Team Tennis championship. Conventional wisdom holds that the city's first pro-sports title was a bolt from the blue. In June 1996, the city's brand-new National Hockey League team, the Colorado Avalanche, swept the Florida Panthers four straight to win the Stanley Cup, hockey's biggest prize. Denver's newly minted hockey fans, many of whom didn't know high-sticking from High Street, were delighted and astonished by the Avs' unexpected gift, especially those who had also suffered through the Broncos' indignities for so many years: The Avs' downtown victory parade was an unprecedented outpouring of affection for a team which, for years earlier, had been plying its trade in hockey-savvy Quebec. As irony would have it, it took a move to Denver, which had failed to support an earlier NHL club (also called Colorado Rockies, now the New Jersey Devils), to win the Cup. But the Avs were not the city's first pro champs. In the early 1970s, the Denver Racquets, led by team captain Tony Roche, outslugged clubs like the New York Sets and (one of the great team names in sports history) the Boston Lobsters, to win the U.S. Team Tennis League's first-ever championship. Up in the stands, you could hear the hot-dog man slathering on the mustard, so ill-attended were the doomed team's matches.

June 13, 1960: Dow Finsterwald picks up the dinner check at Cherry Hills while Julius Boros dawdles in the bar. Okay, okay. So maybe something of slightly greater import unfolded on that sun-kissed Denver afternoon almost forty years ago. Something like the eruption of professional golf as a major television attraction. And the emergence of a plainspoken, pants-hitching pro from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as a major American hero. At the start of the final round of the 1960 United States Open, Arnold Palmer found himself seven strokes behind tournament leader Mike Souchak and down the leader board from fourteen players -- including legends like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. Fueled by courage and aggression, Palmer took driver in hand on the 346-yard first hole, smashed the ball straight onto the green and two-putted for a birdie. Elated, he charged onto the second hole and birdied it, too. In fact, he birdied six of the first seven holes. By the tenth, he was tied with Souchak, and by the nineteenth, where the gin and tonics are poured, he was the Open champion. Arnie's Army was born, and his famous charge at Cherry Hills became the stuff of golf legend. Between 1960 and 1963, Palmer won 31 more tournaments, became the first million-dollar golfer in history and one of the game's most beloved figures.

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