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Colorado Rockies: The Greatest Sports Underdog Ever?

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CNBC.com

The Rockies completed the sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks and are now into the World Series, having won 21 of the last 22 games. Today’s water cooler talk likely is going to be centered around just how good of a story the Rockies are.

Well, consider the fact that some sports books had the Rockies at 125-to-1 to open the season. How much of a longshot does that make them? Well, that same sports book only had three teams with longer odds - the Pittsburgh Pirates (150 to 1), the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (200 to 1) and the Washington Nationals (225 to 1).

The Pirates finished 68-94, the Devil Rays finished 66-96 and the Nationals finished 73-89. So for the most part, the bookmakers had that right.

But they obviously never thought the Rockies had a chance. At one sports book, a $10,000 bet on the Rockies on April 5, would have yielded a $330,000. (As a reference point, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki is pulling in $381,000 this year).

What makes the Rockies different from other against all odds teams I’ve watched in the past is that the odds of them winning--because of the big end-of-the-season comeback--were still low as the season drew to a close. Normally as big underdogs start to have a chance, the odds of winning increase, thus lowering the potential payout. But the Rockies were 75-to-1 odds on September 21st.

Now let’s look at how this compares to other underdogs. The data from 40 years ago isn’t that great, but as far as I can tell from what has been written, the 1969 New York Mets were 100-to-1 odds.

The greatest longshot in Kentucky Derby history to win it all was Donerail, which won its bettors $185 on a $2 bet in 1913, thanks to the 91-to-1 odds. There’s a much bigger field obviously in baseball, so it’s a bit different than one boxer fighting against another, but Buster Douglas was a 42-to-1 underdog against Mike Tyson in 1990.

And looking forward to the future. Many can’t stop talking about how crazy it is that South Florida is now No. 2 in the polls and the BCS Standings. Well, before the season, South Florida was only 100-to-1 to win the BCS National Championship.

UPDATE: Those of you who know me, know that I'm a crazy Northwestern grad and fan. So you might have found it strange that I didn't include the odds of my Northwestern Wildcats winning the Rose Bowl in 1995. The reason I didn't include it is because I couldn't find what the odds are.

But my ESPN friend and fellow Northwestern grad Willie Weinbaum (who was there for a four-year stretch when the team won one game) sent me an article from the Chicago Sun-Times--written in 1995. Before the season, oddsmakers put the the Wildcats as 300-to-1 odds to win the Rose Bowl. The team of course won the Big Ten Championship, went to the Rose Bowl, and lost to Keyshawn Johnson and USC, 41-32.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com