- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

The Florida Marlins didn’t just win a World Series when Josh Beckett beat the New York Yankees in Game6 Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

They eased the pain of those long-suffering Marlins fans who had not seen their team in a World Series since 1997.

“Our fans have been incredible,” said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who endured four years as an owner before winning his first World Series, and two of those years he had been banished to another country — owning the Montreal Expos. “They have been behind us the whole way and they deserve this.”

Yes, they have, all 16,000 of them for each home game during the regular season.

These Florida players made the great ones who came before them and wore the Marlins uniform — players like Junior Felix, Chuck Carr, Eddie Zosky and Gus Polidor — proud. There may not be a Monument Park at Pro Player Stadium, but somewhere in the file cabinets of the team offices, the names of these and other Marlins are enshrined forever.

In the battle of franchise icons, Babe and the boys came in second place to the great Orestes Destrade and company.

“This was who we wanted to beat because [the Yankees] are who they are,” Beckett said. “They have got all those championships and we wanted to come in there and beat them because if you are going to beat somebody, why not beat the best?”

The weight, the enormity of these Marlins and others — let us not forget the long and illustrious careers of such greats as Bobby Bonilla and Kevin Brown who led the Marlins to the 1997 World Series title and then were gone quicker than a Ronin Tynan rendition of “God Bless America” — did not crush the current batch of players who were lucky enough to wear a uniform with a fish on it.

Pudge Rodriguez, with his one-year contract now up in Florida, will take his place alongside those greats that make up the rich history of the Marlins.

“We were on a mission,” said Florida manager Jack McKeon.

The school of fish that took the field this year were up to the task, despite all of the legacy and lore that surrounded this franchise. First the curse of Bucky Dent (the Marlins held their first tryout camp at the Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray Beach); then the curse of the Billy Goat (the Erie Sailors, the first Marlins minor league team, were swept in the New York-Penn League championship series by the Geneva Cubs), and of course, the curse we have lived with for 31 years now — the curse of the Senators (Miami was picked over Washington in the 1991 expansion bid).

They will write songs about this Marlins team one day — maybe something like “Everybody’s doing the Fish again, yeah, yeah, yeah.” They may write a play about this franchise — maybe even call it, “Those Darn Marlins,” or “The Old Man and the Fish,” in deference to their manager, the 72-year-old McKeon.

“This is a great story, maybe the story of the century,” McKeon said.

So in the first three years of the 21st century, there is a place for the story of the Florida Marlins among the great tales of the century. It is the story of Marlins tradition.

“What is Marlins tradition? It is a work in progress,” Mr. Marlin himself, former Oriole Jeff Conine — who played on both historic Marlins championship teams — told reporters. “Two World Series in 11 years is a pretty good way to start building it.”

Maybe the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox should be taking notes.

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