The scene was the Big Apple, and Major League Baseball was still not convinced that Miami was a good choice for expansion.
But Miami was one of four finalists; and we had some serious credentials, including the fact that our city is the tip of a peninsular thumb that dips into the Caribbean, where the world’s best baseball is played.
It was New York, 1991. We carefully planned the presentation in support of Miami, which included the gray eminence of college baseball — Ron Fraser of the University of Miami Hurricanes, plus Bill Perry, who headed the Miami Sports Authority.
As mayor of Miami, I represented the city.
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Fraser’s task was to stress the virtues of South Florida as a hotbed of amateur baseball talent. Perry was in charge of the logistics of a stadium. I took on the issue of Miami’s weather, and tried to prove that it never rains here — and that when it does, the sun comes out and dries everything by the time the tarp is removed from the playing field.
(What actually worried the team owners was not the rain, but the humidity and how it might reduce the distance that balls carry. On that one, I made a simple, technical argument: Humid air is actually lighter than dry air; otherwise the humidity would not rise and form clouds …)
But the real local superstar was our master of ceremonies — our debate coach.
His name was Jeb Bush. He was the bilingual scion of a family already distinguished not only for public service but known in the baseball world for proficiency in playing the sport (George H.W. was a star at Yale) and also for George W.’s ownership of the Texas Rangers.
Fast forward a quarter century, and we find Jeb once again batting for Miami. This time, his partner is none other than the man who for more than a decade has been called “the face of baseball” —Derek Jeter. He set many records during his 20-year career. But his most memorable record is that he was a classy ballplayer, a joyful, playful, handsome, svelte athlete who was so devoid of flaws that even the New York press found little to criticize in him.
Jeter hit the ball safely 3,465 times. He scored almost 2,000 runs. His lifetime average was .310.
Jeter fits the Miami scene like a glove. He looks like a Caribbean version of Joe DiMaggio.
Jeb was an immensely popular governor. He made Miami his home when he could have lived and prospered anywhere. He is the Joe DiMaggio of Florida politics.
He, too, fits the Miami image and draws from it, as he enhances it with his dignity, bipartisanship, and simple bonhomie.
They are just what we need to make the Miami Marlins the toast of Major League Baseball. And to remind everyone that, in sports, as well as in life, Miami is the magic city.
Xavier Suarez is a former Miami mayor. He represents District 7 on the Miami-Dade Commission.