The1997 World Seriesfeatured the Cleveland Indians, who were playing in their second World Series in three years. Their opponents were theFlorida Marlins, who had set a record by reaching the Series in only their fifth season. The Marlins wereunderdogs, but they capped a stunning season by beating the Indians in seven games, becoming the first everwild cardteam to win the Series. The final of Game 7 was decided in extra innings on anEdgar Rentería single.
This was the only World Series that Paul Beeston would preside over as CEO of Major League Baseball. The previous four World Series had been presided over jointly by the league presidents (first Dr. Bobby Brown and then Gene Budig for the American League,Leonard Coleman for the National League)
Saturday, October 18, 1997 atPro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida
The first World Series game in the state of Florida, Game 1 featured a youngster and a veteran facing each other on the mound. Fresh off his NLCS MVP performance,Liván Hernándeztook the hillfor the Marlins and quickly gave up a run in the first thanks to a double by leadoff man Bip Roberts and an RBI single by David Justice. Indian starter Orel Hershiser got by the first two innings unscathed. However, after the Marlins tied the game in the third, they scored four runs in the fourth. The inning climaxed when Moisés Alou and Charles Johnson hit back-to-back homers (Alou's was a three-runshotoff the left field foul pole). The Marlins added two in the fifth to knock Orel out of the game. The Indians crept back in the game slowly thanks to solo shots by Manny Ramírez and Jim Thomeand entered the ninth inning down only 7–4. Florida closer Robb Nen came in and was able to get out of a jamb striking out Sandy Alomar, Jr.and Thome with two men aboard.
Sunday, October 19, 1997 atPro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida
Game 2 matched up Florida ace Kevin Brown against little known Chad Ogea, who had lost two games in the ALCS. Both teams scored in the first, thanks to RBI singles by Justice for the Indians and Jeff Conine for the Marlins. Ogea barely escaped further damage when Alou got under a hanging curveball, but merely flied out to the warning track, missing his second three-run homer in as many nights by inches. After that, Ogea settled in and did not allow any more runs. Brown pitched well until the fifth when the Indians strung together three straight singles byMatt Williams,Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Marquis Grissom. Later in the inning, with runners on second and third, Bip Roberts drove in a pair of runs with a single up the middle giving the Tribe a 4–1 lead. The three-run lead ballooned to five when Alomar hit a laser into the left field stands for a two-run homer in the sixth.
Tuesday, October 21, 1997 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
Game 3 was a wild affair that ended with the Marlins grabbing a 2–1 series lead. Both teams were greeted by snow during batting practice and freezing temperatures throughout this contest. The official game time temperature of 38°F (3.3°C) remains as of 2008 the coldest recorded in World Series history, while as the game progressed media outlets reportedwind chillreadings as low as 15°F (-9.5°C). In the top of the first,Gary Sheffieldstarted the scoring with a solo shot to left. In the bottom half, the Indians retaliated with two runs thanks to two broken bat RBI singles by Matt Williams and Sandy Alomar. Florida took the lead 3–2 on aDarren Daultonhomer in the third and four walks allowed by Indians starter Charles Nagy in the fourth. However, the Indians got a gift in the bottom of the fourth, when they drew four consecutive free passes from Marlins starterAl Leiter, and then a throwing error by third baseman Bobby Bonilla allowed two more runs to score. The Tribe went up 7–3 on Jim Thome's two-run blast to right in the fifth inning. His home run was nullified in the sixth byJim Eisenreich's two-run homer that cut the lead to 7–5. In the seventh, the Marlins finished their comeback with Edgar Rentería and Sheffield each driving in a run, making the score 7–7. In the ninth, it all fell apart for Cleveland thanks to three errors and seemingly one hit after another by the Marlins, with Bonilla and Sheffield driving in a pair of runs each. When the carnage was over the Marlins led 14–7. Even though the Indians came back with four runs of their own in the ninth, it was not enough.
Wednesday, October 22, 1997 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
This back-and-forth World Series continued that way in Game 4. Two rookies opposed each other on the mound this night; Jaret Wright for the Indians and Tony Saunders for the Marlins. The Indians stormed out of the gate with three runs in the first, highlighted by Manny Ramírez's opposite field two-run homer. The Indians got three runs in the third inning as well and never looked back. Matt Williams turned out to be the offensive hero by reaching base six times, which included a two-run blast in the eighth to close the scoring.
Thursday, October 23, 1997 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
Game 5 was a rematch of Game 1's starting pitchers Liván Hernández and Orel Hershiser. The Marlins jumped out to a quick 2–1 lead heading into the third. Indians catcher Sandy Alomar then turned the game around by launching a towering three-runbomb. It remained 4–2 until the sixth, when Moisés Alou hit his second three-run homer off Hershiser in as many games and his third home run of the Series. Livan pitched terrifically in the middle innings, not allowing any runs until the ninth. Florida scored what seemed at the time to be two meaningless runs late in the game to extend their lead to 8–4 (Alou scored one and drove in the other). However, the ninth inning was a nailbiter with Livan and Robb Nen struggling to hold the lead. Omar Vizquel drove in one run with a hit, then Justice drove in another with a single up the middle. Jim Thome smashed a double in the left-center field gap to drive in Justice and make the score 8–7. With Thome at second, Alomar came up, having already driven in twenty RBIs throughout the playoffs and four in the game. Sandy flied out to right field to end the game thus giving the Fish a 3–2 Series lead.
Saturday, October 25, 1997 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida
Game 6's attendance of 67,498 was the highest single-game attendance for the World Series since Game 5 of the 1959 World Series, when 92,706 people filled the football-oriented Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Series returned to the warmer climate of Miami for Game 6. Kevin Brown opposed Chad Ogea again and again Brown inexplicably struggled while Ogea flourished. Chad himself drove in the first two runs with a bases loaded single in the second, and Manny Ramírez hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth and the sixth. With the Tribe leading 4–1 in the sixth, Ogea ran into serious trouble. The Marlins put runners on second and third with two out as reliever Mike Jackson replaced Ogea. Marlins catcher Charles Johnson stepped to the plate and proceeded to hit a sharp grounder that was headed for left field. Indians gold glove shortstop Omar Vizquel dove for the ball, grabbed it, sprung to his feet, and hurled a perfect strike to first base just before Johnson arrived. The play ended the threat and broke the Marlins spirits. In the ninth, closer Jose Mesa wrapped up the win, tying the Series at 3–3.
Sunday, October 26, 1997 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida
The bottom of the eleventh began with a leadoff single by Bobby Bonilla off Game 3 starter Charles Nagy. Gregg Zaun lined to Nagy after two failed bunt attempts for the first out, and Bonilla was able to beat the throw back to first. Counsell then hit a roller between first and second. Fernandez moved in and to his left to field the ball, but it skipped under his glove for an error. As the ball headed for right field, Bonilla scampered to third. A necessary intentional walk filled the bases with one out. Devon White then hit into a fielder's choice, forcing Bonilla out at home for the second out of the inning. The next batter was Edgar Rentería, who had come through all season long for Florida in clutch situations, notching five walk-off hits in extra-innings situations. With the count at 0–1, Renteria lined a Nagy slider over the pitcher's head. The ball appeared to graze off Nagy's outstretched glove before bouncing past second baseman Fernandez into center field for a hit. Counsell charged to home plate with both fists raised in the air as the Marlins won the Series and the Championship.
Game 7turned out to be a classic World Series seventh game with the Marlins capturing the Crown. Cleveland drew first blood in this game when in the third inning, starter Al Leiter allowed a walk to Jim Thome and a hit by Marquis Grissom. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third and with two outs Tony Fernández laced a two-run single to center. Indians starter Jaret Wright was dominant for six innings, holding the 2–0 lead. But in the seventh, Bobby Bonilla blasted a titanic home run from Wright cutting the lead to 2–1. The Indians blew a golden chance for insurance in the top of the ninth, when with one out and Alomar on third, Grissom grounded to short. With the infield drawn in, shortstop Edgar Rentería fired home to catcher Charles Johnson who tagged out Alomar trying to score. In the bottom of the ninth,Jose Mesawas brought in to close out the series and bring Cleveland its first title since 1948.Moisés Alouled off the inning with a single. With one out, Charles Johnson lined a single to right that advanced Alou to third base. Then,Craig Counsellhit a sacrifice fly to right that tied the score at two, sending the contest into extra frames.
After Game 7, the trophy presentation, usually taking place in the winning team's locker room regardless of venue, took place on the field before the crowd of 67,204. It was presided over by then-Chairman of the Executive CommitteeBud Selig, who first did the honors in1995and would officially becomeCommissioner of Baseballin1998. This is now a standard procedure whenever the champions are the home team of the deciding game (the only exception being1999when theNew York Yankeeschose to celebrate in their locker room).
Liván Hernándezwas named the Most Valuable Player of the 1997 World Series. Chad Ogea became the first pitcher sinceMickey Lolichin1968to have at least two hits and two RBIs in a World Series.
Soon after Game 7 was complete, rumors on the internet started to spread that the1989(four years before the Florida Marlins made their debut) filmBack to the Future Part IIaccurately predicted their 1997 World Series victory. In reality, the movie stated that, in 2015, a Miami team with an alligator mascot would lose to theChicago Cubs.
On October 31, 1997, most of the fan favorites of the 1997 Marlins were traded, includingMoisés Alou, who was traded to theHouston Astros, andAl Leiterto the New York Mets, in afire saleso infamous that it has come to synonymize the term in the baseball world. World Series MVP hurler Liván Hernández, however, stayed with the team for two more years. The Marlins had a record of 54–108 in1998, the worst performance ever by a defending World Series champion.
Jim Leyland, responding to reports that he would retire if the Marlins won the World Series, told NBC during the celebration, "My wife doesn't like me that much. I can't retire." However, he quit in the wake of their pitiful performance in 1998. He managed theColorado Rockiesin1999, then scouted for several years before joining theDetroit Tigersas manager in2006and taking them to theWorld Seriesand losing in 5 games.
Marlins ownerH. Wayne Huizenga, who dodged questions about selling the team during the on-field celebration, ultimately sold the team toJohn W. Henryafter the 1998 season. Henry in turn sold it to formerMontreal ExposownerJeffrey Loriain 2001 as part of a deal to purchase theBoston Red Sox.
Loria would return the team to a World Series victory in2003. That season started with only one of the 1997 World Series players left on the roster: pitcherRick Helling. Helling was traded mid-season to theTexas Rangers. However, the team traded with theBaltimore OriolesforJeff Conine. Conine would be the only 1997 Marlin to participate in the 2003 World Series victory.
Huizenga continued to be the team's landlord at what is nowSun Life Stadiumuntil 2008, when he sold it with theMiami DolphinstoStephen M. Ross.
The Indians have not made it back to the World Series since 1997. The closest they came in recent years was in2007, when they led theRed Soxthree games to one in theALCS, before losing in seven games.
The failure ofJosé Mesato save Game 7 ultimately ignited a heated feud with teammateOmar Vizquel. In Vizquel's autobiography, the veteran shortstop called Mesa a "choker." The two men ended their longtime friendship. Mesa later vowed to "...hit him every time" he faced him, and also stated that he wanted to kill Vizquel. Though Mesa did not actually bean Vizquel every time he subsequently faced him, he did hit him with pitches at least twice.
Game 7 also caused a scheduledChicago Bears-Miami Dolphins game to be postponed toMonday night. It was seen onABCin theChicagoandMiamimarkets, and was intended to air onFox. The rest of the nation received the scheduledGreen Bay Packers-New England Patriotsgame, the only time a rematch of aprevious season's Super Bowlaired on ABC.
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- 1959 World Series, 1997 World Series, Bobby Bonilla, Chad Ogea, Charles Johnson, Charles Nagy, Craig Counsell, Devon White, Edgar Renteria, Gary Sheffield, Gregg Zaun, Jacobs Field, Jim Thome, Jose Mesa, Kevin Brown, Livan Hernandez, Manny Ramirez, Matt Williams, Mike Jackson, Omar Vizquel, Orel Hershiser, Robb Nen, Sandy Alomar