Playing the sport of baseball for 12 years of my life, it was not hard for me to fall in love with the Florida (now Miami) Marlins at an early age. Now I know they have not been the best team in recent years, but I am happy to say that I was alive during both their World Series runs in 1997 and 2003.
Making the playoffs only twice in franchise history as a wild card team both times, the Marlins are 2/2 when it comes to winning in October. To celebrate these two marvelous postseasons, I thought it would be entertaining to write about my top five playoff moments for the franchise. Without further adieu, let us look at the greatest moments in Florida Marlins playoff history!
The year was 2003 and the Florida Marlins were leading the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series. The Marlins had a 2-1 series lead, and just needed to close this game out at home to get to the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.
With two outs in the top of the ninth and the Marlins up 7-6 , Giants outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds strode to the plate with J.T. Snow representing the tying run on second base. Against Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina, Hammonds hit the first pitch he saw into left field.
The ball dropped in front of left fielder Jeff Conine, and Snow was rounding third as Conine threw a bullet towards home plate. Catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was waiting for the throw and caught it just seconds before Snow reached the plate. In a last ditch effort to tie the game, Snow lowered his shoulder and plowed into Rodriguez at the plate.
Pudge took the hit and fell onto the ground with the ball still in his hand. Snow was out and the Florida Marlins were going to the NLCS! Urbina and a few other teammates gave Pudge no time to catch his breath as they mobbed him while he still lied on the ground. When he arose to his feet, Pudge showed the ball to the fans to let them all know that they had a brick wall catching behind the plate.
#4 Bartman Reaches Out
(Dark sweatshirt in middle)
After reaching the National League Championship Series, the Florida Marlins quickly went down three games to one in the series to the Chicago Cubs. One more win and the Chicago Cubs would break a 95-year World Series drought!
After Josh Beckett out-dueled Carlos Zambrano in Game 5 in Miami to send the series back to Chicago, the Marlins still had a tall hill to climb. Down 3-0 in the eighth inning with Mark Prior throwing an absolute gem, the Fish looked dead in the water. With one out and Juan Pierre on second base, Luis Castillo fouled a 3-2 pitch down the left field line. Left fielder Moises Alou ran over towards the stands and looked like he had a good chance to catch the ball.
However, a fan named Steve Bartman reached his hands out and interfered with Alou's potential catch. Alou slammed his glove down in frustration and Cubs fans did not make a big deal of the incident at that point. Castillo drew a walk on a wild pitch that allowed Pierre to reach third base. With runners on third and first, Pudge Rodriguez lined a single into left field to score Pierre and make it 3-1.
Runners were on first and second now as rookie Miguel Cabrera dug into the box. He hit a bouncing ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez that Gonzalez could have at least thrown to second base for the second out (a double play was out of the question due to the nature of the hit and Cabrera's speed). Gonzalez, however, bobbled the ball and everyone was safe.
Now with the bases loaded, first baseman Derek Lee came up and smoked the first pitch he saw down the line for a double. The game was now tied at three all with Cabrera on third and Lee on second. Prior was removed from the game for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. The next batter, Mike Lowell, would be walked to load the bases.
With the bases loaded again, Jeff Conine came up and hit a sac-fly to right field to score Cabrera and give the Marlins the lead! With two outs now, Todd Hollandsworth was walked to load the bases for the THIRD time in the inning and bring up Mike Mordecai. With the count 2-1, Mordecai unloaded on a fastball down the middle to clear the bases and stretch the lead to 7-3. He would subsequently score on a Juan Pierre single to push the lead to 8-3.
The Cubs' momentum was gone and Game 6 went to the Marlins. After such an exhilarating comeback win, the Marlins knew that the series was theirs to win. They came out in Game 7 behind a solid outing from starter Brad Penny to win the game 9-6 and advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.
Cubs fans want to blame Bartman for this loss, but doing so is completely irrational. Alex Gonzalez bobbled a ball and used an outfield glove in the infield. There was a Game 7 the very next day that the Cubs were winning at one point. Dusty Baker could have taken Prior out sooner. This list could go on and on.
The bottom line is that there were many factors that contributed to the Game 6 loss. To blame a fan who simply wanted to catch a foul ball (which is every baseball fan's dream) is a testament to just how much a history of constant losing can affect a fan base.
#3 Alex Gonzalez Goes Yard
After surviving a wild NLCS, the Marlins were set to do battle with the fearsome and highly favorited New York Yankees. Not many people gave the Marlins a chance to win even a game in the World Series.
Down 2-1 in the series with Game 4 set in Miami, the Marlins knew that this game would be a key turning point in the series. After Ugueth Urbina blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning, extra innings would be needed to decide a winner in this pivotal game.
The stage was set for shortstop Alex Gonzalez. In the bottom of the 12th inning with the count 3-2, Gonzalez drilled a line drive walk off home run that barely cleared the left field fence to give the Marlins a 4-3 win and knot the series up at two games. The Marlins would win Game 5 and set the stage for the No. 2 moment on my list.
#2 Beckett Shuts Down the Yanks
In Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, the underdog Florida Marlins entered Yankee Stadium just one win away from their second ever World Series title. On the mound was 23-year-old Josh Beckett working off of three days of rest.
What ensued is regarded as one of the greatest pitching performances in franchise history. Beckett struck out nine Yankees as he threw a complete game shutout to win the World Series for the Marlins. He even took matters into his own hands for the final out as he fielded a slow roller and tagged out batter Jorge Posada to secure the 2-0 victory and the championship! I will never forget celebrating after Beckett made this final out!
Beckett would be named World Series MVP for going 1-1 in the World Series while giving up 2 earned runs in over 16 1⁄3 innings pitched and notching 19 strikeouts.
#1 Edgar Renteria Walks Off
Coming in at No.1 is one of the greatest World Series moments in baseball history. After being established in 1993, the Florida Marlins quickly found themselves in the 1997 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland had not won a World Series since 1948 and was looking to end a drought of its own against this upstart team from Miami.
It was an epic series as the Marlins and Indians exchanged wins to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in Miami. After rallying to tie the game 2-2 with a sac-fly in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Marlins and Indians would play deep into the night to determine the champion of the 1997 season.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, a young Edgar Renteria came to bat with two outs and the bases loaded. The World Series-winning run was just 90 feet away! After being fooled by a curveball on the first pitch, Renteria buckled down and hit the exact same pitch up the middle to end the game and bring the Marlins their first World Series title in franchise history!
Renteria had not just immortalized himself in Marlins' lore, but in baseball lore as well! It was a fitting ending to what had been an incredible game.
I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! Obviously the Marlins have been pretty mediocre since winning these two World Series, so it is good to go back and reminisce on how good the franchise once was. It is these moments that make me proud to be a Marlins fan and give me hope that the Fish may reach the promise land again some day.
*All stats accredited to Wikipedia.com
*All photos accredited to members.tripod.com, theguardian.com, bleacherreport.com, nbcmiami.com, & nytimes.com