Updated July 10: Brent Doeden, known as Captain Earthman, has died. His wife made the announcement on his Facebook page. Our original story continues below.
If you’ve been to Coors Field or Red Rocks over the last few decades and ordered a drink or a snack in the stands, there’s a good chance you’ve run into a guy with a colorful beard and a green space monster on his ballcap.
That’s Captain Earthman, an institution of summertime entertainment in Colorado.
Earthman, 61, whose real name is Brent Doeden, has been telling people for years that he’s from another planet and that one day the mothership will come and take him away.
That day will be coming sooner than he and his family had expected. Earthman has brain cancer, and his loved ones are saying their goodbyes one baseball game and concert at a time.
“Emotions go up and down, said Beth Scharfenberg, Earthman’s step daughter, whom he formally adopted last December. “I hate the word cancer,” she said “But I live one day at a time.”
Folks like Earthman who ply their trade in the stands and shout “beer, here!” come rain or shine are part of the soundtrack of Rockies games. Beer-barking Coors Field vendor Vince Di Lorenzo has been working those games for decades. He’s known Earthman even longer.
“He’s one of the last dozen nice people in America,” Di Lorenzo said. “I’m serious. He really likes people. It’s not fake. It’s really what it is.”
Becky Scharfenberg, Earthman’s wife of 29 years, described her husband earning his nickname less for his far out personality than for his appreciation of ... earthy things.
“Him and a bunch of his friends were sitting around and they handed something to him,” Scharfenberg said. “And he said, ‘If it comes from the earth, man, I’ll smoke it.’”
He became a hit with sports fans and concert-goers years ago when he would hand out business cards with his phone number and have people text him whenever they needed a beer.
And he loved to entertain kids. His daughter Shannon Doeden says her dad would often use licorice ropes to tie up children.
“There are still people that come up to him here, or I’ve been at Red Rocks shows with him, that are like, ‘Oh my God, I remember you tying me to a handrail at Coors Field with red licorice rope when I was 5 and now I’m buying a beer from you.’ So yeah, it’s definitely interesting. He’s definitely well-known,” she said.
On the day CPR visited Coors Field, June 18, Father’s Day, the Rockies beat the San Francisco Giants. Earthman’s wife knew it would be her husband’s last Father’s Day, and perhaps last Rockies game.
“There’s been a lot of lasts lately. We just had possibly his last birthday. We just had possibly his last Memorial Day party. We probably just had our last anniversary. So there’s a lot of lasts and we try to get through each one of them as best we can and celebrate him being here.”
Earthman has to let others speak for him now. Once playful and flamboyant, the inoperable tumor with which he was diagnosed last August has left him frail and barely able to communicate; simple answers to questions are the order of the day. Doctors only gave him up to a year and a half to live.
Earthman’s health has declined substantially since Father’s Day. He’s now in hospice care, sleeps 20 hours of the day, and his family sees the change in the once-vibrant Coors Field icon, Becky Scharfenberg says.
“We’re just trying to be there for him,” said Paige Wilcoxson, Earthman’s granddaughter. “He’s an outstanding person and if you met him, you’re truly lucky. There’s no one else like him in whole universe.”
On the Sunday after Father’s Day, the family celebrated another “last,” with Earthman’s final chance to see one of his favorite bands, Widespread Panic. At the Red Rocks show, the band played a song called “Pilgrims.” A line from the song goes, “They spent our souls, maybe, but they didn’t take our smiles.”
Earthman has smiled through life’s ups and downs. And he probably will keep smiling when the mother ship arrives to take him away.