Tuesday, October 28th, 2003
It wasn't impossible, but it was highly improbable. The Florida Marlins'
path to the 2003 World Series Championship was as great a story to hit the
sporting world as any other over the past decade. The only thing wrong was
that it had to come to an end.
Just days after the completion of one of the great Octobers in recent memory,
the dark, dreary fall days don't seem quite as easy to get through. There's
less to look forward to. It's like coming to the end of a great book, approaching
the final straightaway on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, or watching
the credits roll after a tear-jerker of a movie. Everything has to come to
an end, but when it does, sometimes it's difficult to accept, at least initially.
For a sports journalist like me who often has to resort to rooting for "the
story," this team was easy to pull for. They were the story.
These Marlins simply had it all:
The grandpa manager, Jack McKeon, who when hired a month-and-a-half into
the season took over for a Florida team that stood 10 games below .500.
The youngsters -- Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and Brad
The veterans -- Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Conine, and Ugueth Urbina.
The speed on the basepaths -- Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, and Juan Encarnacion.
Even the unlikely heroes, namely shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who hit the
game-winning homerun down the left-field line in 12 innings to tie the series
Most of these players entered the postseason this October relatively unknown
and without much fanfare. The common fan knew of Pierre's tremendous speed,
the incredible abilities of Rodriguez behind the plate, and the arrival of
this Willis kid who started the season at Double-A. Few knew anything about
Now, each and every one of these Marlins have become household names for
baseball fans across America.
Who could forget all the ever-lasting memories they provided this postseason?
The throw home from Conine, a late-season acquisition, to Pudge, the $10
million offseason pickup who caught the ball and stood his ground, to knock
out the Giants in game four.
The miracle comeback when facing a 3-0 deficit, elimination, and Mark Prior
against the Cubbies in Game 6. The fan interference play. The incredible
game-ender by Gonzalez off of Yankee long-reliever Jeff Weaver in the
And, more than anything else, the unbelievable outing by Beckett -- a complete
game, five-hit shutout in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium to end the series and
give the Marlins their second championship in 11 seasons of existence. The
fact that Beckett just turned 23 in May and was working on three days rest
make the feat all the more incredible.
It's been an October that will be remembered and referred to forever as one
of the best months of baseball in the sport's history. The playoffs had a
little bit of everything. The early exits from powerhouse teams in San Francisco
and Atlanta. The thrilling rise and excruciating fall of both the Red Sox
and Cubs. The tradition of the Yankees and the raw emotion brought out because
All that, and none of it was more incredible than the improbable run of the
Florida Marlins, who proved it was possible.