A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away there Lived One of the Greatest Marlins Fans of All Time. OF ALL TIME!
My parents and older sister grew up in the Chicago area, and yet somehow, in the fall of 1977, I was born in Memphis, TN. We then promptly moved to the Atlanta suburbs when I was about three months old. I tell everyone that I am from Chicago – because it is just easier to explain when the people here ask me why I don’t sound like them (no southern drawl for me!). I did grow up an Atlanta Braves fan, since the Marlins did not yet exist and living in such close proximity (about 20 minutes give or take) to Atlanta Fulton County Stadium why wouldn’t I? I do fondly remember the 1980s when the Braves pretty much sucked, but going to games was fun. Seeing Braves greats like Bob Horner and Dale Murphy was always a treat and we could sit in the family section and be waited on hand and foot for what seemed like only a few bucks. The stadium was mostly empty, probably similar to how Sun Life Stadium is now during Marlins games, but it made the whole experience better because you were with the fans who cared for the team just as much as you did.
Thank You Braves Fans for Making Me the Marlins Fan that I Am Today.
I survived the punk rocker craziness that was the 1980s and moved on into the grungy mung hole that was the 1990s when, all of the sudden, the Braves start playing well. New Braves fans started coming out of the woodwork in droves. Only these fans were different, they weren’t the “hardcore” Braves fans I had come to know, no, these were “casual” Braves fans. They didn’t really care about the team, they just wanted to ride the bandwagon. It was now considered “hip” to be a Braves fan. Like typical hipsters they multiplied like rabbits all the while pretending like they had always been Braves fans all their lives and it really got on my nerves (WHAT ARROGANCE!). You see, up until this point, I had considered myself to be a diehard Braves fan but it didn’t matter anymore. Now, I was just another Braves fan in a crowd of “fake” Braves fans. These were the same fans that as soon as the team started playing badly they would run for the hills and badmouth the team now pretending like they had never been fans to begin with.
I became jaded. I realize now that all teams have crappy fans like this but this was my first experience with this, and it set the tone and lit a fire within me. Plus, I have never really been one to follow the crowd so I needed something different. I needed a way to express my individuality, without resorting to the dark Gothic weirdness that a lot of teenagers were resorting to in the 1990s just to get attention. I needed something I could stand behind, I needed a symbol, and no, not like Prince.
My Friend the Klepto.
I spent the majority of my time during the Summer of 1992 hanging out in a local Atlanta amusement park with a friend of mine who, unbeknownst to me, had a little kleptomania problem. He apparently used his “talent” to snag a Marlins hat and a pair of Marlins boxer shorts rather stealthily (like a ninja!) from one of the street vendors in the park. I did not know until much later how these items came to be in his possession but he gave the Marlins hat to me. Up until that point, I had no idea that Florida was getting a professional baseball team of it’s own. But, at long last, I had found my symbol, and it looked like a silver Ghostbusters logo with a teal swordfish instead of a ghost.
My Grandparents and the First Marlins Spring Training in 1993.
I did not watch the expansion draft. I was a teenager and had other things to do like be awkward and attempt to get girls to notice me. I did ask for and receive my first authentic Marlins jersey as a gift from my dad for Christmas in 1992. It was the grey away jersey with “Florida” across the chest. I still have it and wear it occasionally. This jersey impressed many at the Cocoa Expo, the spring training home of the Marlins during their inaugural 1993 season. When people would ask me where I got the jersey it was fun to see their reaction when I responded with “Atlanta.” I was there for the first Marlins spring training game ever when the fish defeated the Houston Astros, who were still wearing those awful rainbow uniforms, by a score of 12-3.
I often stayed with my grandparents, who lived in Melbourne, FL, who contributed a lot to my Marlins fandom. My Nana, in particular, heavily influenced my love for the Marlins. Right before I would come down to visit them, Nana would take baseballs with her to the Marlins spring training complex and get them signed by Marlins players for me. She would also send me various newspaper clippings about the Marlins in the mail. I spent many springs in Melbourne watching Marlins games, at the Cocoa Expo in 1993 and then subsequent years at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL, now the spring training home of the Washington Nationals. The Marlins vacated Space Coast Stadium in 2002 after Jeffery Loria bought the team. Someday I hope to have an opportunity to visit Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL, the Marlins’ spring training home since 2002.
Marlins vs. Braves: The Rivalry
The Braves have been a thorn in my side ever since I became a Marlins fan. And nothing makes me happier that when the Marlins beat them. I vowed after experiencing the whole Braves fair weather fan fiasco that I would follow the Marlins no matter how they played. A vow that has been tested to it’s limits on multiple occasions (cough, 1998 fire sale, cough, cough). I am happy to be able to tell people with utmost confidence and pride that I have been a loyal Marlins fan since before they were even a team and no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather Marlins fan. I was in attendance, in all of my teal glory, in April 1993 as Jack Armstrong beat the Braves in the first ever regular season series meeting between the two teams at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. I’ve mentioned this before but the Marlins swept that two-game series. I would have loved to have been in attendance when Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez was high-fiving fans behind the Marlins dugout at Turner Field in celebration of their NLCS victory over the Atlanta Braves in 1997, but alas, I was away at college and had to settle for watching it and their first World Series championship on TV. It would have been great had I still been in high school (I had just graduated in 1996) at that time just so I could have gone to class that very next day and rubbed it in the faces of all my classmates who had given me such crap for being a Marlins fan (SUCK IT, HATERS!).
The, “MAN OF TEAL!”
I forgot to mention that I drove a 1972 VW Beetle all through high school and college that I had painted in teal to match the Marlins jacket I was wearing at that time. I also painted my bedroom teal in high school and I also painted the basement teal in my current home. I have been asked more times than I can count why I am a Marlins fan, and I always give the quick and easy answer, “because my grandparents lived in Florida, and I spent a lot of time down there” while that is partially true I always stop short of telling the whole story because, well, it’s a long story. I still live in the Atlanta suburbs with my beautiful wife and two young children who I am molding to become the next generation of fine Marlins fans. I do try to get to as many Marlins games here in Atlanta as I can and I’ve been to Miami to see a couple of games as well. I cannot wait to go down to see a game in the new stadium either, that stadium has been a long time coming. I proudly wear my various Marlins jerseys and t-shirts as often as I can around town as any true fan would. I have the Braves and their fans, my thieving friend, and my grandparents (particularly my Nana) to thank for making me the hardcore Marlins fan that I am today. Now you know the true, complete, and epic story of how I became the Man Of Teal.
NOTE: All photos, except the one of my car, are courtesy of Google.
Tune in next week as I continue my old school trek down memory lane as I explore the revolving door that is Marlins management……