Aug 4, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Former Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon (left) catcher Ivan Rodriguez (center) during the tenth anniversary celebration of the 2003 World Series Championship before a game against the Cleveland Indians at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Marlins Twitter account sent out a pleasant little memory this morning with a .gif of Ivan Rodriguez tagging out the San Francisco Giant J.T. Snow at the plate to advance to the NLCS in 2003, but don’t take my word for it.
The Marlins had been in this situation before. In fact, they won the 1997 World Series as a Wild Card in a thrilling extra-inning game 7. Despite only 6 years previous, those players were long gone and a new group of Fish were making their own charge. Many forget though, the playoffs seemed like a long shot for Florida considering they underwent a manager change midway through the season when they dismissed Jeff Torborg with Jack McKeon. McKeon and his cigar brought the magic and turned the season around.
They still weren’t close to winning a division title, as the Atlanta Braves again ran away with the division winning 101 games, ironically the same number that they did in 1997 when Florida won it all. Also this year, the Giants were the Marlins first victim winning the N.L. West again. After sweeping San Fran 6 years prior, The Fish found themselves up 2 games to 1 with a 1 run lead in the 9th inning. A loss would send the series back to San Fran for the decided game, an outcome the Fish were desperate to avoid.
Ugueth Urbina, coming in a midseason trade, had become the Marlins closer and was on the mound. Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine had returned from Baltimore midseason and taken up residence in left field, and Ivan Rodriguez had joined the Fish at the start of the season through free agency.
On the play, Conine charge and while some players surely would have tried to dive to make the game ending catch, the veteran Conine knew his limitations. He was catching the ball on a bounce the whole way. The throw wasn’t his greatest, but it was close enough. Pudge made a great play to catch the ball, get in front of the runner, and absorb the contact.
As the raucous crowd went crazy, Pudge held the ball up and let out a primal scream while being mobbed by teammates. It is a photo that would live on in the hearts of Marlins fans everywhere.