Jerry McMorris

DENVER (AP) — Jerry McMorris, one of the instrumental figures in bringing the Colorado Rockies to town, has died, the team said in a statement.

The team said that McMorris died Tuesday in Denver of cancer. He was 71.

McMorris was part of a group that purchased a controlling interest in the club in 1992, a year before the team started play. He served as chairman, president and CEO of the team until 2001. He was part of the team's ownership group until 2005.

"I believe it is fair to say without the efforts of Jerry, there may have never been Major League Baseball in Denver," Rockies owner and CEO Dick Monfort said.

McMorris was a limited partner when the original ownership group was formed. He stepped up when members of the original group in the deal for the expansion team ran into financial and legal trouble. McMorris assisted in making up a $20 million shortfall on the $95 million expansion fee. He also garnered other support for the team, bringing on board Charles Monfort and the late Oren Benton.

Major league owners approved Denver and South Florida as two new members on July 5, 1991. The Rockies played their first home game on April 9, 1993, when a crowd of 80,227 packed into old Mile High for an 11-4 win over Montreal.

"I don't think you can say enough about him, what he's meant to this organization," longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said in a recent interview.

Commissioner Bud Selig echoed those feelings.

"I am very saddened by the loss of my friend Jerry McMorris, whose efforts were integral to bringing Major League Baseball to Colorado in 1993," Selig said in a statement. "Under Jerry's leadership, the Rockies attracted more than three million fans in each of the club's first nine years and became a first-class franchise in a wonderful ballpark.

"Jerry quickly established himself as a leader within our industry, playing a key role on a number of our committees and serving not only the Rockies franchise but all of Major League Baseball very well."

McMorris served on MLB's executive council and chaired its legislative committee. He also took a prominent role among owners during the 1994-95 labor negotiations, holding secret talks with union head Donald Fehr.

In 2001, McMorris relinquished control as club president, paving the way for the late Keli McGregor to take over the position.

McMorris ended up selling his shares of the team to the Monforts four years later.

Away from the field, McMorris worked closely with the Western Stock Show Association, serving as chairman for six years and on the executive committee for 18 years.

"Jerry McMorris was one of the great leaders of our time. It was an honor to learn from Jerry and witness his passion for the Western way of life and the values we at Stock Show represent," President and CEO Paul Andrews said. "He will be sorely missed."

McMorris is survived by his wife, Mary, two children and five grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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