Sunday, September 4, 2011. 12:55 PM
This afternoon, the Phillies play their final game ever at the multipurpose stadium in suburban Miami Gardens that the Florida Marlins have called home since coming into existence in 1993.
It is still as of today (infinitesimally) mathematically possible for the last-place Marlins to make the playoffs as a Wild Card and eventually meet up with the Phillies in the National League Championship Series, but, with the Marlins currently at 61-77 and looking up at the Atlanta Braves at 81-57 for the Wild Card playoff spot, whom are we kidding?
The Marlins’ stadium, known as Sun Life Stadium for this season, was built as a football stadium. It has been the home of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins since 1987. Naming rights have been such that, during the Marlins’ 19-year existence, the facility has been known as Joe Robbie Stadium (1993-1996), Pro Player Park (1996), Pro Player Stadium (1996–2005), Dolphins Stadium (2005–2006), Dolphin Stadium (2006–2009) and Land Shark Stadium (2009-2010).
The stadium to put it mildly, does not exactly spark the same sense of reverence as, say, venerable and tradition-packed-if-crumbling stadiums such as the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and the Boston Red Sox’ Fenway Park.
Among the most memorable visual features of the stadium in recent years, at least to this writer, is an overwhelming sign in the outfield (and, often, behind home plate) for Miccosukee [Indian tribe] Resort & Gaming. The most striking visual feature has been the lack of people in the stands.
The Marlins are to lack of attendance what the Phillies (205 consecutive home sellouts) recently have been to attendance. This year, the Phillies are averaging 45,524 (104.3% of capacity), while the Marlins are averaging 18,452 (47.4%). It should be noted that the lackluster figure for the Marlins is for paid attendance; The number of actual attendance is much lower. Recently, Marlins fan Justin Cohen actually counted the number of fans in the stands at the beginning of the afternoon part of a Marlins doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. His count: 347.
Although the Marlins have never finished in first place in the National League East, they managed to win the World Series both times they reached baseball’s postseason (as a Wild Card in 1997 and 2003). These two World Series titles in the seventeen years in which there was a World Series during the Marlins’ short history (there was no World Series in 1994) is the same number of championships that the Phillies have won in the 106 years they have existed in which a World Series was held. The Marlins won the World Series at their home of then-Pro Player Stadium in 1997. (In 2003, the Marlins wrapped up the World Series in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.)
The all-time highlight for the Phillies at now-Sun Life Stadium was the perfect game Roy Halladay threw last year. Other memories, described at greater length in this article, include the time former Phillies second-baseman Mickey Morandini threatened to knock out the Marlins’ organ player if he ever played the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club again when he came to bat.
Last night’s Phillies 8-4 loss guaranteed that the Phillies will end up with a losing record at what is now known at Sun Life Stadium. Going into today’s game, the Phillies’ all-time record there is 74-77.
Next year, the Marlins, who will then be known as the Miami Marlins, will move into a new state-of-the-art baseball-only facility in Miami’s Little Havana, at the site of the former Orange Bowl football stadium. The Marlins’ new stadium is hardly universally popular. It was described, for example by the Miami New Times as a “$515 million money sucker that is probably the worst deal for taxpayers of any stadium in America.”
In any case, several aspects of the new stadium are likely to appeal to Judaism-practicing Jews. The stadium will make available kosher food (not unique in Major League Baseball, although no kosher food is offered at the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park). More uniquely, the stadium will offer a special room for Jewish davening (prayers). According to Marlins vice chairman Joel Mael, the highest-ranking Orthodox Jew ever in baseball, said: “We plan to have a regular weekday minyan [religious service] for Minchah [afternoon prayers] and Maariv [evening prayers].”
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