Kicking off our Today in Marlins History series, we take you back to Opening Day 1998- the first of four Opening Days in team history to not fall in April on the calendar. Every day of the season will contain a brief blurb of notable moments, and we’ll do our best to cue you in to those on social media as well. Barring a miraculously blessed date, we’ll focus on one day in particular. Which brings us back to 1998, and one of the more bizarre openers for any club in sports history.
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Five months ago, the Florida Marlins and their fans were on top of the world, having just secured their first world championship in just their fifth year of existence. Of course, by the time Opening Day rolled around, there were a few notable subtractions from the roster. Moises Alou and Al Leiter were long gone, and Kevin Brown was not failing to make his third straight Opening Day start on account of another bout of the flu.
That said, for one day at least of what would go on to be the worst season in franchise history at 54-108, the Marlins did look impressive.
Their World Series MVP took the mound an pitched well enough to earn the win, although in a harbinger of the season to come, it would be in extremely ugly fashion with 5 ER allowed. The position players fared much better, as fan favorite Gary Sheffield opened the scoring with a 3-run homer in his first at-bat of the season.
That blast would key a six-run first inning that holds the record to date for most runs ever scored in the first inning of a season opener by the Fish.
Charles Johnson would homer as well, and Craig Counsell (featured above) would go 3 for 5. All three would be gone before the All-Star Break, with only Edgar Renteria and Livan hanging around from the cast of ’97 heroes for the bulk of the season.
But for one day, fans could rest easy, and enjoy their 11-6 rout of the Chicago Cubs.
Some bonus stats follow from other years, just to float your boat.
3/31/03- I-Rod homers in first game, 8-5 loss.
3/31/08- First hit of season a Josh Willingham HR, which made sense as the 2008 squad would finish third in the majors in homers.
3/31/14- Jose wins first, and only, Opening Day start. 9 Ks- nice.