By: Andy Kent
History of the Miami Marlins professional baseball team.
Considering that Florida has been a hotbed for baseball’s spring training going all the way back to the days of Babe Ruth, it’s amazing that it took until 1993 for a Major League Baseball franchise to begin play in the Sunshine State. That’s the year the Miami Marlins (known then as the Florida Marlins) took the field for the first time, with the Marlins and then owner Wayne Huizenga sharing a stadium with the Miami Dolphins.
Following in the footsteps of Huizenga’s young professional sports franchise, the NHL’s Florida Panthers, the Marlins made a meteoric rise early on, winning the World Series in 1997 in seven games over the Cleveland Indians with veteran manager Jim Leyland calling the shots from the dugout. That ball club boasted an All-Star lineup that included Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Jeff Conine, Cliff Floyd and pitchers Kevin Brown and Livan Hernandez, drawing passionate crowds to what was then known as Pro Player Stadium.
Shortly after capturing baseball’s most coveted trophy, Huizenga dismantled the roster in a payroll dump that angered Marlins fans, but just six years later and under the new ownership of Jeffrey Loria, the team was back in the World Series. They faced the vaunted New York Yankees and behind the young and brash pitching ace Josh Beckett, came out on top yet again with the 2003 crown behind the guidance of another cagey veteran manager in Jack McKeon.
In between those two championships, the Marlins and Pro Player Stadium played host to some memorable games, including a late three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998. That’s when Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire belted four homes runs in two nights – numbers 56, 57, 58 and 59 – to inch closer to the single-season home run mark of 61 held by the Yankees’ Roger Maris since 1961.
The Marlins have had their fair share of high-profile players and managers, with some of the players like Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez enjoying more of their success after leaving for other teams. But by signing young slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the largest contract in all of baseball in 2015 and then bringing Don Mattingly onboard as manager prior to the 2016 seasons, it appeared that the club finally was making a full-blown commitment to putting a winner on the diamond and makinganother playoff push.
After almost two decades in Miami Gardens playing in one of the few remaining dual-purpose stadiums in the country, the Marlins moved into the sparkling new Marlins Park on the footprint of the old Orange Bowl prior to the 2012 season. The stadium features a retractable roof, a necessary feature in South Florida, especially during the summer rainy season. This feature eliminates the problem of rain delays and also has proven beneficial as a concert venue for popular recording artists.
Marlins Park hosted the 2013 World Baseball Classic and college football’s 2015 Miami Beach Bowl and is slated to again host the 2017 World Baseball Classic and the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.
Among the unique features at the ballpark are the iconic Clevelander bar and swimming pool in left field, a live fish tank behind home plate and the unique homerun sculpture in left field that lights up whenever a home run is hit and the marlin leaps like one of those traditional carnival games. For more information or to buy tickets call 1-877-MARLINS or go to the official team website at miami.marlins.mlb.com.
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