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20-year Marliniversary: Several Marlins miss contest to join Elián González protests

The immigration controversy in 2000 crossed into the sports world, especially for those in South Florida.

Arnaldo Alverez Holds Up A Sign... Photo By Miami Herald/Getty Images

In late April of 2000, South Florida was the center for major headlines. That however, had little to do with the Florida Marlins.

In Miami, Cuban Americans were calling for a work stoppage in response to the case of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. A defector from Cuba, the young Elian was taken from his great uncle’s South Florida home by the U.S. government and returned to his father in communist Cuba.

In a display of solidarity with the locals, several Florida players, coaches and members of the front office elected to miss a home game against the San Francisco Giants at Pro Player Stadium on April 25, 2000.

Third baseman Mike Lowell was the most notable Marlin to miss the contest, but pitchers Vladimir Núñez, Alex Fernández, Antonio Alfonseca, Jesús Sánchez and Michael Tejera elected to be absent. Outfielder Danny Bautista also elected to sit out. Two San Francisco Giants of Cuban heritage elected not to show, including former Florida pitcher and 1997 World Series MVP Liván Hernández.

In what was the opener of a two-game set, the contest went 11 innings. The Giants ultimately prevailed, 6-4, as Florida was handicapped by a limited bench and bullpen and a schedule that had them playing their 14th game in as many days.

Florida trailed 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, but drew even on sacrifice flies by Mark Smith and Kevin Millar. In the top of the 11th, San Francisco pushed across two runs against Marlins’ reliever Dan Miceli.

After an RBI double by Armando Rios broke a 4-4 tie, the Giants added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Bill Mueller. With a limited bench, the Marlins had to turn to Brad Penny to pinch hit to lead off the bottom half of the inning. Smith was able to single for Florida with one out to bring the tying run to the plate, but San Francisco’s Mark Gardner retired both Preston Wilson and Millar to end the contest.

The loss began a five-game losing streak for the Marlins and a 1-8 stretch, but for one night, team members were focused on something bigger than baseball. That came on this day two decades ago.