Dave Barry

Classic '97: Undefeated Marlins head to Super Bowl

BY DAVE BARRY

Opening day of the Marlins' 1997 season at Pro Player Stadium
Opening day of the Marlins' 1997 season at Pro Player Stadium Miami Herald File

This Dave Barry column was originally published Wednesday, April 2, 1997.

It was a beautiful day to kick off the 1997 baseball season at Pro Player Brand Of Undershorts Park. It was the kind of day that reminds you of the old traditional baseball song:

So let's root, root, root for the home team

If they don't win

That's $89 million down the toilet.

These traditional words are appropriate, because during the off-season the Marlins, trying to improve attendance, spent vast quantities of Wayne Huizenga's personal money to acquire such big-name free agents as Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez, Joe Montana and Ty Cobb. Ticket sales are indeed up, but get this: Even if the Marlins sell all their tickets this year, the club is going to lose millions.

I am no financial genius, but it seems to me that it would have been more economical for Wayne to keep his old team and simply pay fans to attend the games. I don't know about you, but for a piece of $89 million, I'd be willing to watch Charlie Hough pitch underhand. Of course Wayne would have to pay me extra to root.

But as it stands now, Wayne is losing some serious money -- he is down to his last nine helicopters -- and he is asking the Florida Legislature (motto: ``We Accept All Major Credit Cards'') to give him a $60 million tax break so he can renovate Undershorts Park. My feeling about that is, fine, but if we taxpayers are going to help pay for the stadium, then we should get to play a more active role in the game.

Specifically, there should be electronic trapdoors on the field, connected to buttons on the armrest of every seat in the stadium. Whenever a batter took too long to get ready, or a manager started strolling out to the pitcher's mound to bring the game to a halt for what seems like 45 minutes, impatient fans could press their buttons, and if a sufficient number of buttons -- I am thinking 25 -- got pressed, suddenly WHOOMP, a door would open up, and the offending player or manager would disappear. That would speed up the game.

Tuesday's opener, however, was played at the current standard major-league pace, which is approximately two innings per day. Nobody seemed to mind, though: The crowd was in a festive mood, with many fans wearing officially licensed Marlins hats, jerseys, shirts, pants, protective cups, etc.

This gives me another idea: Since the fans are coming to the games dressed as players, why not have the players play in civilian clothing? Imagine the possibilities! (``He's rounding first. . . . He's gonna try for two. . . . NO, WAIT! CONINE HAS HIM BY THE NECKTIE!'')

Actually, there was plenty of excitement Tuesday, starting with the spectacular pregame ceremonies, which were highlighted by the arrival of the U.S. Navy SEALS 15-person combat parachute team, the Leap Frogs, who jumped out of a plane (with parachutes), landed on the field, and -- realizing they were seriously outgunned by the South Florida public -- surrendered.

After that, the Marlins played the Chicago Cubs. I shall now give you a summary of the game using baseball ``lingo'': In the second inning, a Marlin named ``Moises'' blasted a four-bagger so hard he nearly tore the horsehide off the pigskin. Also there were several twin killings, some Texas leaguers, a bunch of frozen ropes, a couple of cans of corn and at least one portside twirler.

In the end, the Marlins kicked butt, and the crowd loved it. In fact, maybe Wayne should buy the Cubs, too, so the Marlins can play them every day. Because we South Florida fans have very high standards; we're going to be very disappointed if this team does not go all the way. And down here, when we say ``go all the way,'' we mean only one thing. That's right: When you say Miami, you're talkin' Super Bowl.

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