The Miami Marlins have had a very interesting first 22 years of existence. The franchise has had plenty of down years, only making the playoffs twice, but those two years in the postseason were extremely special. In 1997 and 2003 the Marlins were wild card playoff teams. Both times they advanced to the World Series, defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games in ’97 and the New York Yankees in six games in ’03 to claim the team’s two world championships.
While the majority of the most memorable Marlins moments have come during those title years, there are several others that will stand out in most fans memories. With that in mind, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of the better times in Florida/Miami Marlins history.
Alex Gonzalez hits walk-off home run in Game 4 of World Series
After an unexpected win in Game 1 of the 2003 World Series the Marlins dropped the next two games to fall behind in the series two games to one. A loss in Game 4 would’ve been catastrophic for the Marlins as a team can’t be expected to overcome a 3-1 deficit in back-to-back playoff series’. After the Yankees scored twice in the top of the ninth to send the game to extra innings, the momentum was squarely on the visiting teams shoulders.
That was until the bottom of the 12th when shortstop Alex Gonzalez led off the inning for the Marlins. Yankees reliever Jeff Weaver threw Gonzalez three straight sinkers, and Gonzo pulled the third one down the left field line in then-Pro Player Stadium. The ball hooked into the corner and looked like anything but a home run, but the ball stayed up and cleared the short outfield wall to give the Marlins the walk-off win. Florida wouldn’t lose another game in the series, winning three straight to claim the franchise’s second world championship.
Pudge Rodriguez’ has a pair of magic moments in the ’03 NLDS
The Florida Marlins faced the San Francisco Giants in the 2003 NLDS, splitting the first two games played on the west coast. Game 3 would be crucial in the best-of-five series, and Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez did everything he could to get the Marlins the win. He hit a first inning home run that gave Florida a 2-0 lead but the Giants tied the game with two runs in the sixth and that’s how the score would remain through ten innings. In the eleventh the Giants took a 3-2 lead and appeared to have the victory in hand. Pudge came up with two on and two out and was down to his last strike when he poked a single to right field, scoring both runners and giving the Marlins a big 4-3 win.
One day later the Marlins were hoping to end the series and advance to their second LCS. Once again Florida jumped out to an early lead, going up 5-1 in the fourth inning. The Giants tied the game with four runs in the sixth, but the Marlins appeared to have the series in their grasp when Miguel Cabrera singled in two runs in the bottom of the eighth. The Giants didn’t go quietly though, drawing within one run after a leadoff double and an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Two outs later San Francisco had the tying run on second base and after a single to left field, it looked like the Giants would be tying the game. Jeff Conine came up firing and threw a laser to Rodriguez behind the plate. Pudge caught the ball and braced himself as the Giants’ J.T. Snow came barreling into the Marlins catcher, but Rodriguez held on to the ball for one of the most exciting endings you’ll ever see to a playoff series.
Marlins go on huge 8th inning rally in Game 6 of ’03 NLCS
Things were not looking good for the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS. After taking Game 1 at Wrigley Field, Florida lost the next three games and found themselves on the brink of elimination. Josh Beckett pitched a gem in Game 5 at Pro Player Stadium, sending the Marlins back to Chicago needing a pair of wins against Cubs starters Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in Game’s 6 and 7 to advance to the World Series. No team had beaten Chicago in consecutive games that Prior and Wood started during the entire 2003 season, but the Marlins changed that.
The Cubs appeared on their way to the fall classic for the first time since 1945, holding a 3-0 lead in Game 6 with five outs to go. That’s when the Marlins started a hit parade, with a little help from a diehard Cubs fan named Steve Bartman. Florida took the lead and kept piling on the runs, scoring eight times before Chicago finally recorded the third out of the inning. The Marlins come from behind victory sent the series to a deciding seventh game, where they would once again fall behind early before capturing the game and the series, sending the franchise to its second World Series.
Rookie Livan Hernandez strikes out 15 Braves in the ’97 NLCS
In a game that has been remembered as much for umpire Eric Gregg’s massive strike zone as it was for Hernandez’s pitching effort, the Marlins and Braves battled for a decisive 3-2 lead in the 1997 NLCS. It was a great pitching matchup from start to finish, with Atlanta’s Greg Maddux also having a very strong outing striking out nine Marlins in his seven innings of work.
For Florida, Hernandez wasn’t even supposed to start Game 5 but was thrust into the role after scheduled starter Kevin Brown fell ill earlier in the day. Each team scored an early run and the Marlins took a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning after a Bobby Bonilla double and a Jeff Conine RBI single. That would be all the run support that Hernandez needed, finishing off the Braves in a complete game, three hit shutout.
Five no-hitters in 22 years…not too shabby
For a franchise that’s relatively young, the Florida/Miami Marlins have come away with a handful of no-hitters. The first one came in 1996 when a 30-year-old Al Leiter no-hit the Colorado Rockies at Pro Player Stadium in an 11-0 win. The following year saw Marlins ace Kevin Brown go out west and no-hit the San Francisco Giants. Brown would’ve had a perfect game if not for hitting the Giants’ Marvin Bernard in the eighth inning.
The third no-hitter in Marlins history came in 2001 when a young A.J. Burnett shut down the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium. It was a unique no-no because Burnett walked nine (yes, nine) Padres during the game. It was the second-most free passes in a no-hitter during the live-ball era, behind Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney who issued ten walks during a game in 1965. Five years after Burnett did it, the Marlins got another no-hitter courtesy of then-rookie Anibal Sanchez in 2006. Sanchez no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks in early September while the Marlins were fighting for a wild card spot, making the 2-0 win that much more dramatic.
The fifth no-hitter came at the end of the Miami Marlins’ 2013 season, a year that most Marlins fans would like to forget. That team finished dead last in almost every offensive category, and their inability to score runs almost cost Henderson Alvarez the no-no. Alvarez held the Detroit Tigers without a hit through nine innings, getting a lot of great defensive help from his teammates, but the Marlins had yet to score a run. Miami had one final chance to reward their pitcher for his amazing effort in the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases and with Alvarez standing in the on-deck circle, a wild pitch allowed Giancarlo Stanton to score from third and end the game, keeping the no-hitter intact.
Josh Beckett’s complete game clinches the 2003 World Series
At the end of the Marlins improbable run to the 2003 World Series was Josh Beckett standing on the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium. The series had just shifted back to New York from Miami, where the Marlins had won two of the three games at home after splitting the first two in the Bronx. Marlins manager Jack McKeon made the decision to start Beckett on three days rest instead of a struggling Mark Redman, and boy oh boy did Trader Jack make the right move.
Beckett held the Yankees in check all night, only allowing five hits and two walks while striking out nine. It was the first time that someone pitched a complete game shutout in the final game of the World Series since Jack Morris did it with the Minnesota Twins in 1991. The Marlins became the first National League team since the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series without having home field advantage.
Miguel Cabrera turns intentional ball into game winning RBI single
There wasn’t anything memorable about a mid-summer game between the Marlins and Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore until the game reached the eighth inning tied at one. The unexciting ballgame took a turn for the worse for Marlins fans as the Orioles put up four runs to take a 5-1 lead into the ninth.
Florida picked up a run after a couple of singles and a sac fly but the team found themselves in trouble, down by three with two outs and a man on first. That changed very quickly as the next two Marlins batters, Joe Borchard and Wes Helms, hit homers to tie game at five. The game would end up going to extra innings.
In the top of the tenth the Marlins had Hanley Ramirez on second with one out when Miguel Cabrera came to the plate. Baltimore didn’t want to take a chance pitching to one of the best young hitters in baseball and elected to intentionally walk Cabrera. Orioles reliever Todd Williams floated an intentional ball a little too close to home plate and Cabrera reached out and poked a single to center field, scoring Ramirez from second. The Marlins scored two more runs in the inning off of an error by Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada but the Cabrera RBI single proved to be the game-winning hit.
Baseball officially comes to South Florida in 1993
If we’re talking about the best moments in Marlins history then it would be wrong to leave out the franchise’s very first baseball memory. On a spring day in 1993 the Florida Marlins played their first game in front of 42,334 fans at Joe Robbie Stadium. Veteran Charlie Hough threw the first pitch in team history, a knuckleball strike, and the Marlins went on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3. Leading the way for Florida was a young man named Jeff Conine who went 4-for-4 from the plate, scoring two runs. Hough got the win and Bryan Harvey recorded the first save in Marlins history.
Edgar Renteria hits a walk-off single in Game 7 of the ’97 World Series
As far as Marlins memories go, nothing stands above Edgar Renteria’s game-winning single in the bottom of the eleventh inning during Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. It was the Marlins first trip into the postseason and the team got all the way to the World Series, battling the Cleveland Indians in a very entertaining seven-game series.
The teams traded wins after Florida captured Game 1, setting up one final winner-take-all contest at Pro Player Stadium. Cleveland appeared to be in the driver’s seat, holding a 2-0 lead through six innings and keeping the Marlins offense pretty quiet. That was until the bottom of the seventh when Bobby Bonilla led off the inning by taking the first pitch he saw and sending it into the right field stands. As was the case throughout the season, Florida would need some late-inning heroics and the Marlins did not disappoint. Rookie Craig Counsell hit a sac fly in the bottom of the ninth that scored Moises Alou from third, tying the game at two and sending it into extra innings.
The Marlins got busy in the bottom of the eleventh, eventually loading the bases with two outs. Edgar Renteria strolled to the plate in a situation that was all-too-familiar as he led the team with five game-winning RBI’s, including a walk off single in Game 1 of the NLDS. Renteria sent an 0-1 pitch off the tippy top of pitcher Charles Nagy’s glove and into center field, scoring Counsell from third and clinching the Marlins first world championship.
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