BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
When you talk about the cliché time flies, it definitely applies to what I’ll be reflecting on today.
On Saturday, October 4, 2003, I got a call from My Editor from the Detroit Monitor that I was covering the Florida Marlins vs the San Francisco Giants at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens.
It was just 30 minutes before game time. I actually asked him if he was kidding, but he said he wasn’t. I’m thinking great, will I actually be able to make this game?
This was Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
My editor credentialed me on October 3, 2003 but I didn’t know about that.
At any rate, the mad dash to get to the stadium was on.
I got my work bag and then used the Florida Turnpike as my racetrack.
My Jeep Cherokee looked like a sports car and I hit speeds in the 80’s and changed lanes quite a bit weaving in and out of traffic.
If that’s what it took to see Barry Bonds, Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera then so be it.
I’m not going to get into too many specifics about this game.
Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins blew a 5-1 advantage before Cabrera, a rookie, helped them regain the lead in the eighth with an RBI single.
Rodriguez scored the go-ahead run, jarring the ball loose from Catcher Yorvit Torrealba. When it scooted away, another run scored.
But the defending NL Champion Giants weren’t done. They scored once in the ninth against closer Ugueth Urbina and had runners at first and second with two out when Jeffrey Hammonds singled to left.
A charging Jeff Conine fielded the ball on one bounce and threw to Rodriguez. Bearing down on Rodriguez was J.T. Snow, son of a former NFL receiver.
Snow bowled over the catcher nicknamed “Pudge” but Rodriguez held the ball.
The Marlins won the game 7-6 and Rodriguez rose and was tackled again by a jubilant Urbina. The scene accompanied by the roar of 65,464 was unforgettable!
Carl Pavano was the winning pitcher and he went 2-0 in the Giants series. Dusty Baker was skipper for San Francisco.
After the game, I had a decision to make.
Do I listen and try to get a question for Bonds press conference or go into the Marlins clubhouse?
This was a no brainer.
I have never been able to stomach Bonds arrogant attitude. Forget the steroid allegations. This guy is a complete jerk.
I’m actually glad that he never won a World Series Ring. The Giants went on to win three titles without him.
I’m also glad that this cheater hasn’t been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and feel that the all-time HR Record (762), previously held by Hank Aaron should have an asterisk.
I made the smart and obvious choice. I went into the Marlins clubhouse. I celebrated with the team and got soaked with champagne. I also spent time with an old friend, who was the Marlins pitching coach.
When I worked with the Texas Rangers Class A Affiliate in Gastonia, NC in the South Atlantic League, one of our best pitchers on a 90 loss team which produced 12 major league players, was Wayne Rosenthal. We hung out, celebrated and talked about the past.
The Marlins would go on and win the 2003 World Series defeating the New York Yankees in six games, 4-2. Jack McKeon was the skipper for the Marlins while Joe Torre piloted the Yankees.
After that last World Series title, the Marlins returned to the playoffs last year ending a 17-year drought.
When I looked at games to cover this year, the Giants vs the Marlins was my top priority.
Thankfully, I got my first Covid-19 vaccine two weeks ago so I felt more comfortable coming down here, though I probably would have covered the game anyways.
I’ve covered my fair share of sporting events and the teams have been great with all the prescreening and social distancing.
Only this time, the situation would be much different.
Instead of writing for the Detroit Monitor with George Eichorn handling the credential request, I took care of it myself representing my own publication, The South Florida Tribune.
Instead of a multi-purpose football stadium, I’m sitting in a beautiful ballpark, loanDepot (Marlins Park) on the site of the former Orange Bowl. The Marlins changed their name to Miami and replacing Florida.
There would be no race down a highway to get here on time. My credential request was approved 48 hours in advance.
The only mistake that I made getting here was taking the airport exit not 836 West.
But I gave myself plenty of time to get here and joked around with the Marlins Media Relations staff and my colleagues, who quipped that it’s happened to them.
With minimal traffic, from Deerfield Beach to the ballpark is about 50 minutes using I-95 South and taking the tolls express lanes.
The extra time gave me a chance to figure out where the proper Parking Garage is as well as the Media Entrance.
To add a little intrigue to this game, former Marlins President David Samson appeared on the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz Thursday and said Bonds hire as a hitting coach “was a complete disaster.”
The managerial matchup was Gabe Kapler for the Giants and Don Mattingly for the Marlins.
Since I talked about the pitchers and catcher for the Marlins in the playoffs, it’s worth mentioning them here for Miami. Sandy Alcantara was on the hill and Jorje Alfaro was behind the plate.
How would this Saturday, April 17, game end up?
It would be decided by the quirky extra inning rule which has a man on second base that was unimaginable in 2003. This is the first time I’ve seen it in person.
By the same 7-6 score in 2003 and the Marlins won it in unbelievable walk-off fashion as Alfaro doubled to deep left field. Jazz Chisholm and Adam Duvall scored. Alfaro had three RBI’s on the evening.
You couldn’t have scripted this out any better as Rodriguez was the catcher who was the hero against the Giants.
Alcantara gave the Marlins six strong innings, but the seventh inning is where he ran into trouble yielding four runs in a Giants five run outburst to take a 5-3 lead.
He would get a no decision and closer Yimi Garcia earned the win in the 10th inning improving his record to 2-1.
The Marlins scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 5-5. One of those RBI came from Alfaro while Starling Marte had the other.
Corey Dickerson had a four hit evening.
For two teams that don’t play in the same division, you could easily see the intense nature of this game.
The Marlins had three players that were hit by pitches. Jazz Chisholm was hit in the first inning.
But the seventh inning got even more intense has Giants Catcher Buster Posey was hit and walked slowly to first base.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Miguel Rojas and Garrett Cooper had painful complimentary passes to first base. But there would be no bench clearing brawls. Cooler heads prevailed.
The Marlins improved their record to 7-7 while the Giants dropped to 8-6. The game produced a combine 13 runs and 25 hits. A crowd of 6,014 was on hand and there was a tremendous amount of energy in the building. This was a good crowd since the capacity is limited because of Covid-19.
It’s hard to believe that at one point that Miami began the season at 1-6, but as their character has shown, they’re no stranger to overcoming adversity.
But what an unbelievable night at a stadium where I have witnessed a no-hitter, went to the 2017 All-Star Weekend and saw one opening day vs The Detroit Tigers.
The Baseball Gods came out this evening and it had a Hollywood, CA, feel to it as both games were decided by identical 7-6 scores, had a catcher as a hero and ended on the last play of the game. Also, both games were played on a Saturday.
As I took the drive home that night, I heard the words of Jack Buck when he was calling a World Series that said, “I can’t believe what I just saw.” I better believe it because each of these scores are in the record books so it’s not my imagination.
Scott Morganroth can can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth and subscribe to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.