It came on Monday, April 5, 1993. The next day, Gordon Edes of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote:
On a day that could not have had a more satisfying ending, the first game in Marlins’ history will best be remembered for its beginnings: from predawn thunder to first-inning lightning, to a rookie’s four hits and another’s great catch.
Wayne Huizenga, like much of South Florida, was awakened by the thunder, and was struck by the same fear as baseball fans from south Dade to north Broward.
”I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought, ‘Omigod,”’ the owner said. ”My wife said, ‘Don’t worry, it will all be gone.’ So we decided to put Carl Barger in charge of the weather. And as usual, he’s performing.”
The ferocity of the storm had blown the tarp off the infield, but Marti Huizenga proved right. The storm passed. And regardless of whether Barger, Huizenga’s best buddy and the late president of the Marlins, deserves the credit, it was sunny and 75 degrees in Joe Robbie Stadium when 45-year-old Charlie Hough began an exquisite performance in the Marlins’ 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As he’d promised, Hough’s first pitch was a strike. So was the second. The third pitch, according to Marlins third baseman Dave Magadan, ”was a foot outside and a foot off the dirt.”
But Frank Pulli, the home plate umpire, thrust his fist in the air, signaling that the game’s first batter, Dodgers shortstop Jose Offerman, was out.
”It was a little wide,” Hough said, ”but when he said, ‘Strike three,’ I said, ‘Yahoo!”’
When the second Dodgers hitter, Brett Butler, also was called out on strikes, the yahoos came not only from Hough, but from thousands in the stands, most of whom were adorned in Marlins caps.
”In the bullpen, everybody was so loud,” said relief pitcher Bryan Harvey, ”that I had cold chills running up and down my body.”
At first base, Orestes Destrade was feeling much the same. ”The thing I will remember most,” he said, ”is the way the crowd was roaring after those two punchouts. That definitely pumped us up.”
The third Dodgers batter was Darryl Strawberry, and the JRS crowd, acting like it had been doing this for years, serenaded the right-fielder with taunts of ”Darr-yyyll, Darr-ylll.”
Strawberry would later blow the fans a kiss in acknowledgement, but here he tapped weakly in front of the plate. Hough picked up the ball and side-armed a throw to first, retiring the Dodgers slugger.
Now there was thunder again, this time from the first standing ovation accorded a Marlins pitcher.
”It was unbelievable, the way it started,” said second baseman Bret Barberie, whose own beginning was memorable, a first-inning single off Orel Hershiser that ranks as the first hit in team history.
”I knew it wouldn’t be that easy, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy game today?”’
The ease in which the Marlins knocked around Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, scoring three runs on four hits in the second inning, two runs coming on Walt Weiss’ triple, made it even more tempting to believe Barberie’s hope would be realized.
When it became 4-0 on Destrade’s double and Benito Santiago’s single, the rout seemingly was on.
But the Dodgers touched Hough for a couple of runs in the fifth, and Tim Wallach hit a knuckleball so far and so high, it landed in the first row of the upper deck, the equivalent of hitting a ball over a five-story apartment building.
”It was a badly thrown pitch,” Hough said, ”but he didn’t have to hit it that far.”
The Marlins’ lead was 5-3, the Dodgers had a runner on, and Joe Klink was on the mound in the seventh, when Offerman hit a ball headed to the farthest reaches of center field. Rookie Scott Pose, who’d earlier collected his first big-league hit, turned completely around in pursuit.
The left-fielder, Jeff Conine, was screaming at Pose, telling him he had room to make the catch, but Pose heard nothing.
”After it came out of the crowd,” Pose said, ”I saw the ball. All I remember was the ball. Everything else was a blur.”
Back, back, back ran Pose, who allowed himself one swift glance at the wall looming closer and closer. Then he turned back for the ball, and reached his glove high above his head. The ball hit leather and stayed there.
Pose, a 26-year-old journeyman minor leaguer as new to the big leagues as South Florida, said: ”When I heard that ovation, I checked behind me. I didn’t realize it was for me at first.
”Then I watched the play on DiamondVision, and I thought about calling my brother. We used to play Wiffleball and imagine looking up at the screen and saying, ‘Hey, that’s me up there.’ I caught myself doing that.”
When Klink struck out the next batter, Butler, to end the inning, the thunder shook down once more. Conine, the rookie with four hits on Opening Day, ran in together with Pose, awash in joyful noise.
By the ninth, everyone was standing. Once again, Offerman was the batter. The pitcher now was Bryan Harvey, one out away.
A ball and two strikes, Harvey threw the pitch that has made him millions, a split-fingered fastball. Offerman waved at the pitch, and at 4:56 p.m., the Marlins were 1-0 and for a day could claim they were the best team in baseball.
”It’s one day and I’m glad the S.O.B. is over with,” said manager Rene Lachemann, sitting alone at his desk, with a message to call a friend, Tony La Russa.
”It’s such a feeling of relief.”
Here’s a list of Marlins’ firsts:
Pitch: Charlie Hough, a strike to Jose Offerman.
Marlins batter: Scott Pose, who reached on an error.
Hit: Bret Barberie, a single off Orel Hershiser.
Double: Orestes Destrade.
Triple: Walt Weiss.
Run: Benito Santiago.
RBI: Walt Weiss.
Error: Right fielder Junior Felix.
Home run at Joe Robbie Stadium: Tim Wallach of Los Angeles.
Stolen base: Jeff Conine.
Caught stealing: Scott Pose.
Winning pitcher: Charlie Hough.
Save: Bryan Harvey.