If you’ve ever been around baseball longer than a minute, there are distinct years that hark back to something special in the baseball mind. Whether it’s Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the missed “Mookie’ ball that dribbled past Bill Bucker in Game Six of the ’86 Series or Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run against the A’s in 1988, fans will always hold onto memories of great World Series contests.
The 2003 World Series win for the Miami Marlins was the second time they won as a wild card team.
For Miami Marlins (then Florida Marlins) fans, who can easily forget the 2003 World Series against the ‘evil empire” New York Yankees? For the Miami Marlins, just getting to the Fall Classic built up a back-story with their NLCS win over the Chicago Cubs in seven games. The drama still haunts Cubs fans and because of Steve Bartman (who became possibly the most reviled man in Chicago history that night, poor guy) the Miami Marlins clinched an unlikely NL pennant win. The Miami Marlins brought in veteran manager Jack McKeon to essentially clean up the Marlins clubhouse after a dismal start to the 2003 season. Who would have known this would be an unlikely catalyst to fire up the Marlins to claim their second World Series title?
The New York Yankees entered the 2003 World Series in a similarly dramatic fashion with an emotional win over the Boston Red Sox in Game Seven of the ALCS with another walk-off home run by now Yankees manager Aaron Boone. While many baseball fans around the country were probably looking for a historic Cubs-Red Sox matchup in the World Series to allow one of these teams to finally break their collective “curse,” the baseball gods favored the Yankees and the upstart Miami Marlins in 2003. For the New York Yankees, this was the sixth World Series appearance in eight years and part of the Jeter-era “dynasty”. For the Miami Marlins, this was the second World Series appearance in their short franchise history and the second time they earned a spot as a wild card team.
Because the American League won the 2003 All-Star game, the New York Yankees became the home team and as the stars aligned, the Marlins ended up winning the Series with a win on the road at venerable Yankee Stadium. In Game Six on the road in New York, Miami Marlins manager Jack McKeon went with starting pitcher Josh Beckett. This gamble paid off as McKeon did not want to face the New York Yankees in the Bronx in a dreaded Game Seven as the emotional pendulum would clearly swing in favor of the Yankees. In a similarly dramatic fashion as the NLCS, the Miami Marlins pulled over an improbable shutout win over the Yankees and were able to clinch their second World Championship in only 11 years of existence.
Despite the accolades that the improbable Miami Marlins earned in defeating the Yankee dynasty (this was Joe Torre’s swan song as the Yankees skipper and his last World Series with them) the Marlins are forever tied to another term known in sports: fire sale. Just as the Marlins ownership did after the 1997 World Series win, the team front office traded away within the next two seasons some of the leading Marlins including Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez among many others. The Marlins have been noticeably absent from the Fall Classic since 2003 and as this season continually unfolds, fans can only hope for a better season in 2023.