26 Greatest Moments in Miami Marlins' Franchise History

Gregory John VitaleContributor IIINovember 4, 2013

26 Greatest Moments in Miami Marlins' Franchise History

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    Billy the Marlin during a home game against the Brewers in 2005. Back then, the Florida Marlins, now called Miami Marlins, played at Dolphins Stadium, now called Sun Life Stadium.
    Billy the Marlin during a home game against the Brewers in 2005. Back then, the Florida Marlins, now called Miami Marlins, played at Dolphins Stadium, now called Sun Life Stadium.

    I find the Marlins a fascinating organization.

    They were the quickest franchise ever to win a World Series, achieving the feat in just their fifth year (1993, 1997). They entered the playoffs that year as the NL Wild Card. As fate would have it, in 2003, they won the World Series again on the heels of the NL Wild Card.

    The Marlins organization, therefore, has won every World Series they have ever been in...on the same note, their only two winning seasons during their first 11 years as an organization were their two World Series-winning seasons.

    They've been pretty all-or-nothing as a franchise.

    Since that 2003 season, the Marlins have been owned by Jeffrey Loria, who has been perhaps the worst owner in the major leagues. He was owner when the Marlins won the World Series, but did virtually no work to deserve it; that team was built by now-Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry.

    Following their second World Series title, Loria proceeded to sell the entire team.

    Eleven years, one name change, one new stadium and another fire-sale later, the state of the "Miami" Marlins is bleak. The novelty of the new park has worn off, Mike Stanton and Jose Fernandez are about the only players worth watching and, worse still, Loria doesn't look like he cares.

    Right now, it looks like the best thing Marlins fans can do is look to the past, because after all, neither the present or the immediate future look all that bright.

    Here are the 26 most memorable moments in Marlins history, according to me, a lifelong fan.

26. Marlins Open New Stadium

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    Think this should be ranked higher? So do I.

    However, the sheer fact that the stadium represents everything greedy and back-handed about this Marlins ownership makes me discredit it as a "memorable" event. 

    After all, my favorite thing to happen in that ballpark was when Giancarlo Stanton destroyed a part of it.

    There sure was a lot of buzz surrounding the park back before it opened to start the 2012 season: a view of downtown, a retractable roof, air-conditioning, local food. It looked great on paper, but I can tell you first-hand, it feels more like some Art Deco wannabe than a baseball stadium.

    Still, the move was momentous for the organization and Miami as a city, so it deserves to make the list.

25. Conine Wins 1995 All-Star Game MVP

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    Jeff Conine comes in at No. 25 for his efforts in the 1995 All-Star Game. He made it to the Midsummer Classic the year before but didn't get to play. This time around he made his sole opportunity worth it, as his pinch-hit home run in the 8th would wind up being the difference in the game.

    This was one of Conine's earliest and most memorable heroics in a Marlins uniform. It would later serve as one of the many reasons he is now called "Mr. Marlin." Conine is the only Marlin to have played in the inaugural season (1993) and both World Series (1997, 2003).

24. Cabrera Hits Attempt at Intentional Walk for Game-Winning RBI Single

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    In a game against the Baltimore Orioles during the 2006 season, Miguel Cabrera did something I have never seen repeated in the majors: he singled off an intentional walk attempt.

    If the single wasn't impressive enough, the hit brought in Hanley Ramirez from second as the go-ahead run. The RBI hit would be the difference in the game. I guess this is one of those moments baseball analysts will look back on as a sign of Cabrera's amazing bat control and perhaps a sign of things to come.

23. Hermida's Debuts with a Grand Slam

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    Can you think of a better way to start your career than hitting a home run? What about a grand slam?

    Back in 2005, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeremy Hermida hit a grand slam in his very first at-bat in the majors, memorable to say the least. You can see a smirk on his face as he rounds first at 0:51.

22. Hernandez's NLCS-Record 15 Strikeouts

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    Home plate umpire Eric Gregg really opened up the strike zone for Game 5 of the NLCS. The Marlins' starting pitcher Livan Hernandez really took advantage of the fact, striking out an NLCS-record 15 batters in the game. And, as the video above illustrates, Atlanta Braves hitters were speechless.

    At 0:47, Hernandez strikes out the last hitter of the game on what was probably the worst call of them all: a curveball that probably would have hit a right-handed batter. Catcher Charles Johnson is also visibly surprised, as he was clearly going to a knee to throw the ball back to Hernandez when Gregg called strike three.

21. Wild Card Clinch 2003

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    You have to love Juan Pierre's reaction at 0:07 after catching the final out in the deepest part of Sun Life Stadium (then called Pro Player Stadium). It's not like they won anything. They merely made it to the playoffs.

    I think the reaction was deserved, however, because no one had this team on their playoff radar, and the team wasn't really giving anyone a reason to. They were 10 games under .500 during the month of May.

    It was an established improbability, but, as the announcer stated in the video above, "A team that so few believed in, believed in themselves."

20. Clinching First Playoff Berth

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    I mean...just look how nonchalant and business like the 1997 team was when they did the exact same thing six years earlier. A little more memorable since it was their first.

19. Castillo's 35-Game Hitting Streak

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    During the 2002 season, Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo established the longest hitting streak by a second baseman, later tied when the Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley hit in 35 straight in 2006. Only Jimmy Rollins has had a longer streak (38) during the 2000s.

    He also became the first foreign-born player to have a hit streak of 35 games or more.

18. Pudge's NLDS Walk-off Single

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    Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez's clutch single in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 3 of the 2003 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants scored Alex Gonzalez and Juan Pierre to win the game in walk-off fashion.

    The moment was a sign of things to come for the Marlins and Pudge.

17. Alvarez's No-Hitter

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    Just a perfect example of the Marlins' anemic offense this year. Your pitcher throws a no-hitter and you can't scratch a run across.

    However, it did result in one of the most unique situations to celebrate a no-hitter.

    Henderson Alvarez was standing on deck with two outs and the bases loaded...so essentially he is on deck for no reason other than to be out there (an out ends the inning and anything else ends the game). After a passed ball scored Giancarlo Stanton, Alvarez and the Marlins celebrated the no-no.

    Probably one of the few times you will ever see a no-hitter celebrated by a pitcher with a helmet on and a bat in his hands.

16. Sanchez's No-Hitter

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    Anibal Sanchez was a rookie when he threw the Marlin's fourth no-hitter.
    Anibal Sanchez was a rookie when he threw the Marlin's fourth no-hitter.J. Meric/Getty Images

    In 2006, Marlins rookie pitcher Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was just his 13th MLB start. It also marked the first no-hitter thrown since Randy Johnson's perfect game in May 2004.

15. Burnett's No-Hitter

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    Tossing the third no-hitter in Marlins history was A.J. Burnett, who no-hit the San Diego Padres in 2001.

    Burnett managed to walk nine hitters during the game, second-most in the live-ball era only behind Jim Maloney's no-no in 1965 that saw 10 free passes. It may not have even been Burnett's best outing of the year, but on that day his defense was in solid form (see video above).

    Burnett was able to walk just enough to avoid giving up a hit, but not too many where his pitch count got ridiculous (he ended with 129). After all, it was just his second start of the season.

14. Brown's No-Hitter

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    Brown celebrates his no-hitter with catcher Charles Johnson with Conine eager to join in the background.
    Brown celebrates his no-hitter with catcher Charles Johnson with Conine eager to join in the background.

    If not for hitting Marvin Benard in the 8th inning, Kevin Brown would have had himself a perfect game. Still, he walked away with the Marlins' second no-hitter in franchise history.

    The game itself was not exciting (the Marlins beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0), but Brown's masterful performance and dominating sinker were worth the price of admission.

13. Leiter's No-Hitter

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    The first no-hitter in Marlins' history came in 1996 when Al Leiter threw a gem against the Colorado Rockies. The final was 11-0, and the 30-year-old Leiter would forever hold a place in Marlins' history.

    On a related note, hopefully you've noticed who has been catching in three of the five no-hitters: the Marlins' all-time leading catcher (582 games) Charles Johnson.

12. Marlins Hire Jack McKeon

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    McKeon shakes hands with Yankees manager Joe Torre at the start of Game 1 of the 2003 World Series.
    McKeon shakes hands with Yankees manager Joe Torre at the start of Game 1 of the 2003 World Series.Al Bello/Getty Images

    After just 38 games into the 2003 season, the Marlins front office made a coaching change that would eventually lead them to their second World Series title.

    The team was 16-22 under Jeff Torborg who had coached the club for the entirety of the 2002 season (finished fourth in the NL East with a 79-83 record). Cue Jack McKeon, a 72-year-old manager whose first head coaching job came in 1973 with the Kansas City Royals.

    The Marlins were 75-49 under McKeon on their way toward clinching the NL Wild Card. McKeon would win the World Series that year, becoming the oldest manager in baseball history to do so.

11. Lowell Pinch-Hit Home Run in NLCS

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    Mike Lowell hadn't had an at-bat in over a month (broken hand), but Jack McKeon felt the Marlins' regular season third baseman was ready in the 11th inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs.

    Lowell made McKeon look like a genius when he hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead home run that would eventually be the game winner, making Lowell the hero of Game 1.

    Lowell would be limited from his injury for the rest of the playoffs, only managing nine hits during the entirety of the 2003 postseason, but that home run will remain a major moment in Marlins history.

10. Cabrera Hits Walk-off in Debut Game

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    So who filled in for Lowell when he went down with that broken hand in 2003?

    Introducing Miguel Cabrera...

    Cabrera hit a walk-off home run in his first game in the MLB. He wore number 20 back then and was a whole lot skinnier, but scouts and pitchers alike would soon find out this kid was for real.

    Now he's a multi-million-dollar-earning, Triple-Crown-winning All-Star, but he was an innocent rookie who just smacked the biggest hit of his life back in 2003. He would later hit cleanup for the Marlins in the World Series that very same year.

9. MLB's First Infield to Have 25+ Home Runs in a Season

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    Although the Marlins finished the 2008 season with an 84-77 record (fourth place in the NL East), the team managed to hit a franchise-record 208 home runs.

    Breaking a franchise record isn't all-that cool, but breaking a MLB record sure is.

    That same year, the Marlins' became the first team in history to have each of their infielders hit 25+ home runs on the season: first baseman Mike Jacobs (finished with 32), second baseman Dan Uggla (finished with 32), shortstop Hanley Ramirez (33) and third baseman Jorge Cantu (finished with 29).

    The feat was accomplished in September when Cantu became the last and final member to hit his 25th.

8. Sheffield Robs Thome in Game 3

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    Known for having a great bat and a solid arm in right field, Gary Sheffield probably wasn't the guy most people would expect to have robbed a home run during the 1997 World Series. During Game 3, however, he did just that.

    The catch came in the seventh inning, and prevented the Indians from breaking the 7-7 tie.

    The game itself may go down as one of the best World Series games ever, since the ninth inning saw the teams go on to score seven and four, respectively (Final: Marlins 14, Indians 11). If Sheffield doesn't make that catch, you may be looking at a completely different ballgame.

    In 2004, ESPN.com named the catch No. 8 in its list of the "Top 10 World Series catches." Bob Costas called it "the play of the World Series" in the video above.

7. Inaugural Season

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    Baseball officially came to South Florida on April 5, 1993 when the Florida Marlins threw their first pitch in franchise history. It was thrown by Charlie Hough and it was a strike.

    Jeff Conine went 4-4 in the game, making him an immediate fan favorite.

6. Pierre, Castillo, Rodriguez Combo Strikes

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    From left to right: Catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, right fielder Juan Encarnacion, second baseman Luis Castillo and center fielder Juan Pierre.
    From left to right: Catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, right fielder Juan Encarnacion, second baseman Luis Castillo and center fielder Juan Pierre.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    In the first game of the 2003 World Series against the New York Yankees, the Marlins' 1-2-3 batters showed Yankees' starter David Wells just why they were one of the most dangerous line-ups in the league. It took them just five pitches to score a run.

    Juan Pierre began the game with a drag bunt and, well...

    "Small ball" does not even begin to do it justice. The quick-striking ability of the Marlins offense shocked the fans of Yankee stadium and had to have been frustrating for Wells who essentially had a run on the board, by no conceivable fault of anyone's.

    Here is how Baseball-Almanac.com summarized what happened:

    Starting pitcher David Wells had surrendered a run in the first inning after Florida's Juan Pierre laid down a perfect bunt single that was followed by Luis Castillo's flare single to right, putting runners at the corners. Ivan Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Pierre and giving him a playoff-best seventeen runs batted in.

    An honorable mention from this very game was Pudge's pick-off of Nick Johnson at third. It was a rare feat and, of course, memorable.

    Here was the New York Daily News' take on the play:

    Later, he would make a snap throw, an amazing throw, to third, and pick off Nick Johnson and end a Yankee inning. You can watch 100 baseball games or more and not see anybody picked off third by a catcher.

5. The 8th Inning in Chicago

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    Do we really need words for this?

    I assumed we all remember Bartman and the 8th inning. It looked like a sure thing for the Cubs, but one questionable play in the stands, one uncharacteristic error and eight runs later, the Curse of the Billy Goat looked alive and well.

4. Gonzalez Walk-off Home Run Game 4

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    Hitting a walk-off home run in a World Series game. Does it get much better than that?

    Marlins' shortstop Alex Gonzalez was known for his stellar defense, definitely not his bat, especially not during the playoffs that year. Up to that at-bat, Gonzalez was hitting an abysmal .100 during postseason play.

    But, as history would have it, he came up big when it counted.

    In the 12th inning of Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, Gonzalez hit a home run that went about 331 feet, just clearing the left field wall of Pro Player Stadium. The line-drive home run off of Yankees' pitcher Jeff Weaver tied the series at two games apiece.

3. Conine to Pudge, Collision at Home to Win NLDS

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    Marlins' left fielder Jeff Conine sure did not have the best arm in the league, but on October 3, 2003, he was quick and he was just accurate enough.

    Conine's throw was slightly to the left of Marlins' catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, so he had to leave his position in front of the plate for a split second. The Giants' J.T. Snow was barreling down the third base line for home and saw the out of position Pudge coming back to block the plate.

    What ensued can best be described as epic.

    The collision between the two marked the first time a postseason series had ended on a potential game-tying run being thrown out at home. Pudge was immediately tackled by closer Ugueth Urbina in celebration, but the catcher knew he had to show the ball to prove possession...and show the ball he did.

2. Beckett Complete Game Shutout to Win 2003 World Series

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    Beckett was masterful in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series and fittingly made the last out of the game himself. Manager Jack McKeon started Beckett instead of Mark Redman who had struggled in his start in Game 2.

    The decision to start Beckett on only three days rest proved to be a fortuitous one, winning the Marlins their second World Series in 10 years.

1. Renteria Walk-off Single to Win 1997 World Series

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    The last few moments of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series plays on repeat in the memories of Marlins fans. It was our moment in the sun.

    Counsell rolling up his sleeves in anticipation as Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy got ready to deliver a slider low and away to Edgar Renteria.

    Renteria's swing that got just enough of the pitch to send it past Nagy's glove and between shortstop Omar Vizquel and second baseman Tony Fernandez. Counsell using home plate like a trampoline, jumping into the air, arms outstretched.

    The sheer joy and pride in manager Jim Leyland's face as he looks to the 60,000+ that came to watch their team win their first-ever World Series. The players and coaches jogging around the confines of Pro Player, drinking in a once-in-a-lifetime moment.