Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Return of the Miami Marlins

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Miami Marlins open the 2012 season against the defending World Series St. Louis Cardinals after 19 years being known as the “Florida” Marlins. The South Florida franchise changed their name to the Miami Marlins in the offseason and will be moving into Marlins Park, a new baseball-only stadium, near the old Orange Bowl. The name change makes sense because the Marlins are too far south to represent the entire state of Florida. There is also another major league team in the state (Tampa Bay) which might take exception to one team representing the entire state.

The name Miami Marlins also has history which the Marlin franchise can draw from the way other former expansion franchises (Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres) have used for historical and marketing purposes to connect the professional baseball backgrounds between major league and “minor” league teams.

The Miami Marlins played in the International League in 1956-1960. They won the Playoff title in 1957 before moving to the Florida State League in 1962. The Marlins won 4 consecutive regular season (1968-1971) pennants and 3 straight playoff titles (1969-1972) under Manager Woody Smith. In 1971 they became the Miami Orioles when their major league affiliation and helped the Baltimore 

Orioles become one of the dominant franchise throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s until 1981. The Miami Orioles also won the 1976 regular season title and the 1978 playoff title.

The history of professional baseball in the Miami area prior to 1956 was unstable. The first pro team, the Miami Hustlers of the Florida State League played in 1927 but folded in their second season (1928) and then there was the Miami Wahoos of the Florida East Coast League in 1940 but the league folded in the 1943 season because of World War II. The Miami Sun Sox of the Florida International League fielded a club in 1946 and then again from 1949-1954. The Sun Sox appeared in three straight league finals (1950-1952) winning two (1950, 1952) until they too folded 25 games into the 1954 season. In between (1947-1948) the Sun Sox became the Miami Tourists and the Miami Beach Flamingos were around for one season (1954) after the Sun Sox until the Florida International League folded in July 1954. All of these teams played at Miami Field near the old Orange Bowl Stadium.

In 1982 the Miami franchise became the Marlins again until 1988 and five years later Florida’s first major league team ,the Florida Marlins, began play at what was then Joe Robbie Stadium. The Marlins won the World Series title in their fifth year (1997) under Manager Jim Leyland and won it again 6 years later in 2003 under Jack McKeon who took over in the middle of the year. The other 17 seasons have produced only 4 other winning seasons (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009) and no other postseason appearances.

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