By Aaron Cheris
Rod Nichols has seen his share of good, bad, and ugly days in Colorado Springs.
Now the pitching coach for the Iowa Cubs, Nichols spent parts of four seasons with the Sky Sox from 1988-92 when they were the Triple-A affiliate for the Cleveland Indians.
Over those four seasons, Nichols compiled a 25-19 record with a 5.00 ERA in 51 games for the Sky Sox in the days before a humidor was introduced.
“I was 22 or 23 when I first came here,” Nichols said. “It was fun being here.”
In the days before the humidor, it was difficult to be a pitcher in Colorado Springs, but Nichols said that experience helped him grow as a pitcher.
“I definitely learned how to pitch here, I know that,” he recalled. “The secret here is to not walk people. If you walk people, that isn’t good.”
While Nichols did his best on the mound to keep the Sky Sox in games, sometimes it seemed like he had little control.
“I remember driving up to the stadium and looking at the flags and seeing which way they were blowing,” he said. “If they were blowing out, it didn’t matter what kind of stuff you had, you were going to get hit hard.”
“I lost all my hair here,” he joked.
With difficulty, Nichols also recalls a start for the record books.
“I pitched a couple really good games here. In 1989, I threw a game against Las Vegas here, and I won 2-0,” Nichols recalled. “I want to say the game was an hour and 39 minutes. That’s got to be a record.”
According to Sky Sox records, the game took place on July 4, 1989. Nichols threw a four-hit shutout as the Sky Sox beat the Las Vegas Stars, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, 2-0 at Sky Sox Stadium. The game took an hour and 52 minutes.
Nichols was a part of the Sky Sox team that won the club’s first Pacific Coast League title in 1992, but he was in the Major Leagues with the Indians when the Sky Sox finished off their playoff run in September. He said he never received a ring for that season, and he is ,”Still bitter about that,” he said jokingly.
Over his career, Nichols pitched in 100 Major League games for the Indians, Dodgers, and Braves. He finished his big league career in 1995 with a career record of 11-34 with a 4.43 ERA and 214 strikeouts.