When the Florida Marlins took the field at Joe Robbie Stadium in April 1993, there was hope for a bright future. The most optimistic of fans, however, probably wouldn’t have guessed that the ballpark would host the World Series less than five years later.
That was the case as the 1997 Fall Classic got underway on this day 25 years ago. Thanks to Livan Hernandez and the bats coming to life in the middle innings, the Marlins notched a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.
Hernandez was coming off a 15-strikeout performance against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series as he took the mound on Oct. 18, 1997. The Indians, however, would get to Hernandez early.
Bip Roberts led off the game with a double before coming around to score on an RBI single by David Justice. With only one out and two on, Hernandez was able to get Matt Williams and Jim Thome to avoid further damage.
As a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Orel Hershiser was the opposing pitcher against the Marlins in their first-ever game. He was also the opposing pitcher for Cleveland in their first World Series game and worked two perfect innings to start the contest.
After Hernandez worked around a lead-off double by Roberts in the top of the third, Hershiser would not be so fortunate in the bottom of the inning. After doubling on a 1-2 pitch to start the Florida third, Craig Counsell came around to score on an RBI groundout off the bat of Edgar Renteria.
In the fourth, Florida seized control. A walk to Bobby Bonilla and a single by Darren Daulton started the fame for the Marlins. Hershiser was able to get ahead 0-2 to Moises Alou, but the next pitch cleared the left-field wall for a three-run blast.
The Marlins led 4-1, but they weren’t done. Charles Johnson followed with a solo blast of his own as Florida hit back-to-back homers to take a 5-1 lead.
Cleveland was able to get a run back in the fifth on a solo home run by Manny Ramirez, but the Marlins answered with two in the bottom of the inning. Jeff Conine singled home Gary Sheffield before Bonilla scored on a wild pitch to push the lead to 7-2.
A home run by Jim Thome in the sixth, followed by back-to-back singles from Sandy Alomar and Marquis Grissom helped end Hernandez’s night, but as it had all postseason, the Florida bullpen was up to the challenge. With two outs, lefty Dennis Cook got out of the jam before working a scoreless seventh and getting the first out of the eighth.
The Indians would bring the tying run to the plate in each of the final two innings, but the Marlins relief arms found a way to get out of the jams. Brian Giles doubled home a run in the eight before a walk to Roberts brought Omar Vizquel to the plate, but Jay Powell was able to strike him out looking.
Consecutive one-out singles from Justice and Williams brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Florida closer Robb Nen was able to get Thome and Alomar each swinging to end the contest. Cleveland outhit the Marlins 11-7, but the Florida bullpen was able to get outs in key spots as Game 1 went to the home team.
The Marlins ultimately prevailed in seven games as the teams alternated wins and losses in what would be a thrilling World Series. It got underway with a Marlins victory on this day a quarter-century ago.