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25-year Marliniversary: Bonilla’s winning homer leaves Tiger Stadium

A Marlins memory from this day in 1997.

FLorida Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

In 1997, the Florida Marlins won their first World Series. In Major League Baseball, it was also the first season with interleague play.

Including the 1997 World Series, the Marlins won every interleague series they played that season. Florida clinched its first interleague road series victory on this day 25 years ago, thanks to a blast that not only cleared the wall, but left the stadium completely.

Bobby Bonilla’s ninth-inning blast cleared the rooftop in right field and put the Marlins ahead for good in a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

The contest was tied 2-2 as Bonilla came to bat to lead off the top of the ninth at Tiger Stadium on June 17, 1997. The inning prior, Detroit had turned to closer Todd Jones, who entered with a 3.54 ERA.

Jones fell behind in the count to Bonilla, 2-1. On the fourth pitch, Jones left a belt-high fastball over the middle of the plate and the Florida third baseman launched it. The 459-foot shot cleared the roof in right field and was halfway up the light tower before it started downward as the Marlins took their first lead since the fifth inning.

Jones would avoid further damage, but the mammoth shot was all the Marlins needed. Closer Robb Nen worked a perfect ninth, striking out Brian Hunter and Curtis Pride to end the contest.

The Marlins were on the short end of a 2-1 score when they came to bat in the eighth against Mike Myers. Myers recorded outs on both hitters he faced when Detroit went to Jones with two outs and no one on.

Kurt Abbott worked the count full before singling. Jones was ahead of Gary Sheffield 0-2 before giving up the game-tying RBI double down the left-field line.

It was Sheffield’s second RBI double of the game as he got the scoring started with one in the first. Detroit tied the game on a sacrifice fly from Damion Easley in the fifth before going in front on a Pride triple in the seventh.

Florida’s Rick Helling and Detroit’s Felipe Lira each gave quality starts, but neither factored in the decision. Antonio Alfonseca got the win while Jones took the loss.

The Tigers would avoid the three-game sweep the next day, but the series went to the Marlins, thanks to Bonilla’s blast. The shot was just the 33rd in Tiger Stadium history to leave the building. It came on this day a quarter-century ago.