NL Florida Marlins (4) vs. AL Cleveland Indians (3)
The first World Series game in the state of Florida, Game 1 featured a youngster and a veteran facing each other on the mound. Fresh off his NLCS MVP performance, Liván Hernández took the hill for the Marlins and quickly gave up a run in the first thanks to a double by leadoff man Bip Roberts and an RBI single by David Justice. Indian starter Orel Hershiser got by the first two innings unscathed. However, after the Marlins tied the game in the third, they scored four runs in the fourth. The inning climaxed when Moisés Alou and Charles Johnson hit back-to-back homers (Alou's was a three-run shot off the left field foul pole). The Marlins added two in the fifth to knock Orel out of the game. The Indians crept back in the game slowly thanks to solo shots by Manny Ramírez and Jim Thome and entered the ninth inning down only 7–4. Florida closer Robb Nen came in and was able to get out of a jam by striking out Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Thome with two men aboard.
Game 2 matched up Florida ace Kevin Brown against little known Chad Ogea, who had lost two games in the ALCS. Both teams scored in the first, thanks to RBI singles by Justice for the Indians and Jeff Conine for the Marlins. Ogea barely escaped further damage when Alou got under a hanging curveball, but merely flied out to the warning track, missing his second three-run homer in as many nights by inches. After that, Ogea settled in and did not allow any more runs. Brown pitched well until the fifth when the Indians took the lead by stringing together three straight singles by Matt Williams, Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Marquis Grissom. Later in the inning, with runners on second and third, Bip Roberts drove in a pair of runs with a single up the middle giving the Tribe a 4–1 lead. The three-run lead ballooned to five when Alomar hit a laser into the left field stands for a two-run homer in the sixth.
Game 3 was a wild affair that ended with the Marlins grabbing a 2–1 series lead. In the top of the first, Gary Sheffield started the scoring with a solo shot to left. In the bottom half, the Indians retaliated with two runs thanks to two broken bat RBI singles by Matt Williams and Sandy Alomar. Florida took the lead 3–2 on a Darren Daulton homer in the third and four walks allowed by Indians starter Charles Nagy in the fourth. However, the Indians got a gift in the bottom of the fourth, when they drew four consecutive free passes from Marlins starter Al Leiter, and then a throwing error by third baseman Bobby Bonilla allowed two more runs to score. The Tribe went up 7–3 on Jim Thome's two-run blast to right in the fifth inning. His home run was nullified in the sixth by Jim Eisenreich's two-run homer that cut the lead to 7–5. In the seventh, the Marlins finished their comeback with Édgar Rentería and Gary Sheffield each driving in a run, making the score 7–7. In the ninth, it all fell apart for Cleveland thanks to three errors and seemingly one hit after another by the Marlins, with Bonilla and Sheffield driving in a pair of runs each. When the carnage was over the Marlins led 14–7. Even though the Indians came back with four runs of their own in the ninth, it was not enough.
This back-and-forth World Series continued that way in Game 4. Both teams were greeted by snow during batting practice and freezing temperatures throughout this contest. The official gametime temperature of 38 °F (3.3 °C) remains as of 2015 the coldest recorded in World Series history, while as the game progressed media outlets reported wind chill readings as low as 18 °F (-7.8 °C). Two rookies opposed each other on the mound this night; Jaret Wright for the Indians and Tony Saunders for the Marlins. The Indians stormed out of the gate with three runs in the first, highlighted by Manny Ramírez's opposite field two-run homer. The Indians got three runs in the third inning as well and never looked back. Matt Williams turned out to be the offensive hero by reaching base six times, which included a two-run blast in the eighth to close the scoring.
Game 5 was a rematch of Game 1's starting pitchers Liván Hernández and Orel Hershiser. The Marlins jumped out to a quick 2–1 lead heading into the third. Indians catcher Sandy Alomar then turned the game around by launching a towering three-run bomb. It remained 4–2 until the sixth, when Moisés Alou hit his second three-run homer off Hershiser in as many games and his third home run of the Series. Livan pitched terrifically in the middle innings, not allowing any runs until the ninth. Florida scored what seemed at the time to be two meaningless runs late in the game to extend their lead to 8–4 (Alou scored one and drove in the other). However, the ninth inning was a nailbiter with Livan and Robb Nen struggling to hold the lead. Omar Vizquel drove in one run with a hit, then Justice drove in another with a single up the middle. After a fielders choice and error left Matt Williams at second with two outs, Jim Thome smashed a single in the left-center field gap to drive in Williams and make the score 8–7. With Thome at first, Alomar came up, having already driven in twenty RBIs throughout the playoffs and four in the game. Sandy flied out to right field to end the game thus giving the Marlins a 3–2 Series lead.
Game 6's attendance of 67,498 was the highest single-game attendance for the World Series since Game 5 of the 1959 World Series, when 92,706 people filled the football-oriented Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Series returned to the warmer climate of Miami for Game 6. Kevin Brown opposed Chad Ogea again and again Brown inexplicably struggled while Ogea flourished. Chad himself drove in the first two runs with a bases-loaded single in the second, and Manny Ramírez hit a sacrifice fly in the third and the fifth. With the Tribe leading 4–1 in the sixth, Ogea ran into serious trouble. The Marlins put runners on second and third with two out as reliever Mike Jackson replaced Ogea. Marlins catcher Charles Johnson stepped to the plate and proceeded to hit a sharp grounder that was headed for left field. Indians gold glove shortstop Omar Vizquel dove for the ball, grabbed it, sprung to his feet, and hurled a perfect strike to first base just before Johnson arrived. The play ended the threat and broke the Marlins spirits. In the ninth, closer José Mesa wrapped up the win, tying the Series at 3–3.
For Game 7, coming off the victory in Game 6, Indians manager Mike Hargrove (who coincidentally was celebrating his birthday that day) elected to start young Jaret Wright, his Game 4 starter, on short rest in place of Game 3 starter Charles Nagy. The Marlins countered with their Game 3 starter Al Leiter, who gave up seven runs (three unearned) in his previous start but was bailed out when the Marlins rallied for a 14–11 victory.
The Marlins managed one hit in the 1st inning, a double off the bat of Édgar Rentería. That was the only hit Wright gave up through six innings, and the Indians staked him to a 2–0 lead in the third. With two out and Jim Thome and Marquis Grissom in scoring position, Tony Fernandez singled to drive both runners in for the only runs of the game to that point.
Leading off the bottom of the seventh for the Marlins, Bobby Bonilla hit Wright's first pitch over the right-center field wall for a solo home run to cut the lead to 2–1. After striking out Charles Johnson and walking Craig Counsell, Wright was removed from the game in favor of Paul Assenmacher who was scheduled to pitch to Cliff Floyd. Marlins manager Jim Leyland elected to send Kurt Abbott to the plate after the pitching change; and Assenmacher retired him on a fly ball, then got Devon White swinging to end the inning.
In the top of the ninth inning, Cleveland again threatened. After Antonio Alfonseca walked Matt Williams to lead off the inning and Sandy Alomar, Jr. reached on a fielder's choice to take Williams off the bases, Félix Heredia gave up a single to Thome which advanced Alomar to third. He was then pulled in favor of closer Robb Nen, inducing a groundball from Grissom to Edgar Renteria at shortstop, who elected to throw Alomar out at home, thanks in part to a great pick and tag by Johnson. He then got Brian Giles to fly out to end the inning.
The Indians sent closer José Mesa to the mound to try to win the series in the bottom of the inning. Moisés Alou led off with a single, and Bonilla struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch that would have been ball 4. Nevertheless, 4 strikes way from losing the World Series, Charles Johnson lined a clutch 1-2 fastball into right field, moving Alou to third. With runners on 1st and 3rd and one out, Craig Counsell fought off a low, inside fastball from Mesa, lining it into deep right field. Manny Ramirez caught the ball on the warning track to make it two outs, but Alou scored from 3rd easily to amazingly tie the game in the 9th. Although Mesa retired Jim Eisenreich to send the game to extra innings and held the Marlins without a run in the tenth, his blown save would open him to criticism for years to come.
After Nen struck out the side in the top of the 10th, Mesa was lifted, after giving up back-to-back one out singles, for Game 3 starter Charles Nagy, who got Alou to fly out to end the threat. After walking the first batter of the 11th, Jay Powell retired Cleveland in order thanks to an alert fielder's choice on a sac bunt by Alomar, in which Powell fielded and threw out the lead runner at 2nd, followed by a Jim Thome inning-ending double play. Nagy took to the mound to face Florida in the bottom half of the 11th. Bonilla led off with a single to center. After Gregg Zaun nearly caused a double play by popping his bunt attempt directly to Nagy (Bonilla was able to get back), Counsell followed with a ground ball that should have produced an inning-ending double play. Instead, the ball was misplayed by Fernandez, went under his glove and into right field, and Bonilla advanced to third on the error. After Nagy loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Eisenreich, he got White to ground into a fielder's choice to Fernandez, who elected to not go for the double play but instead quickly threw Bonilla out at the plate for the second out.
The next batter was Édgar Rentería; with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, he timed an 0-1 slider from Nagy and lined it up the middle out of reach of both Nagy (who was so close his glove even touched the ball), and the infielders. An exuberant Counsell scored from third, and jumped on home plate with his fists in the air in celebration—with the series-winning run. Renteria, in jubilation, removed his helmet with tears in his eyes before touching first base, having hit a World Series winning walk-off single.
After Game 7, the trophy presentation, usually taking place in the winning team's locker room regardless of venue, took place on the field before the crowd of 67,204. It was presided over by then-Chairman of the Executive Committee Bud Selig, who first did the honors in 1995 and would officially become Commissioner of Baseball in 1998. This is now a standard procedure whenever the champions are the home team of the deciding game (the only exception being 1999 when the New York Yankees chose to celebrate in their locker room).
1997 World Series (4–3): Florida Marlins (N.L.) over Cleveland Indians (A.L.)
Liván Hernández was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1997 World Series. Chad Ogea became the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to have at least two hits and two RBIs in a World Series.
Soon after Game 7 was complete, rumors on the internet started to spread that the 1989 (four years before the Florida Marlins made their debut) film Back to the Future Part II accurately predicted their 1997 World Series victory. In reality, the movie stated that, in 2015, a Miami team with an alligator mascot would lose to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Ironically, the actual Cubs' 2015 season also ended on October 21, and in a four-game sweep, but this time, they lost to the New York Mets in that year's NLCS.
On October 31, 1997, most of the fan favorites of the 1997 Marlins were traded, including Moisés Alou, who was traded to the Houston Astros, and Al Leiter to the New York Mets, in a fire sale so infamous that it has come to synonymize the term in the baseball world. World Series MVP hurler Liván Hernández, however, stayed with the team for two more years. The Marlins had a record of 54–108 in 1998, the worst performance ever by a defending World Series champion. As a result, these Marlins are mockingly referred to as the first "Rent-A-Team" to win the World Series.
Jim Leyland, responding to reports that he would retire if the Marlins won the World Series, told NBC during the celebration, "My wife doesn't like me that much. I can't retire." However, he quit in the wake of their pitiful performance in 1998. He managed the Colorado Rockies in 1999, then scouted for several years before joining the Detroit Tigers as manager in 2006 and taking them to the World Series and losing in five games.
Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga, who dodged questions about selling the team during the on-field celebration, ultimately sold the team to John W. Henry after the 1998 season. Henry in turn sold it to former Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria in 2001 as part of a deal to purchase the Boston Red Sox.
Loria would return the team to a World Series victory in 2003. That season started with only one of the 1997 World Series players left on the roster: pitcher Rick Helling. Helling was traded mid-season to the Texas Rangers. However, the team traded with the Baltimore Orioles for Jeff Conine. Conine would be the only 1997 Marlin to participate in the 2003 World Series victory.
Huizenga continued to be the team's landlord at what is now Hard Rock Stadium until 2008, when he sold it with the Miami Dolphins to Stephen M. Ross.
The Indians did not return to the World Series until 2016, where they again lost the deciding Game 7 in extra innings, this time on their home field to the Chicago Cubs.
The failure of José Mesa to save Game 7 ultimately ignited a heated feud with teammate Omar Vizquel. In Vizquel's autobiography, the veteran shortstop called Mesa a "choker." The two men ended their longtime friendship. Mesa later vowed to "...hit him every time" he faced him, and also stated that he wanted to kill Vizquel. Though Mesa did not actually bean Vizquel every time he subsequently faced him, he did hit him with pitches at least twice.
Game 7 also caused a scheduled Chicago Bears–Miami Dolphins game to be postponed to Monday night. It was seen on ABC in the Chicago and Miami markets, and was intended to air on Fox. The rest of the nation received the scheduled Green Bay Packers–New England Patriots game, the only time a rematch of a previous season's Super Bowl aired on ABC.
Also, largely as a result of over 67,000 attending every World Series game played in Pro Player Stadium in Miami, the 1997 World Series became just the second to draw a total attendance of over 400,000 for the entire series. The only other World Series to draw more than 400,000 in attendance was the 1959 World Series, which had three of its six games played at the Los Angeles Coliseum, which drew over 92,000 for each game played at the Coliseum in that World Series. The total attendance of 403,627 is the second-largest in World Series history, only to the attendance of 420,784 in 1959.
Miami and Cleveland have celebrated championships in the 19 years since: in addition to the Marlins' second World Series championship in 2003, the Miami Heat won NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013, while the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals just eight days after the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets' affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters (now the Cleveland Monsters), won the AHL's Calder Cup ending a 52-year championship drought for their city. With the exception of 2006, Akron, Ohio native LeBron James played on each of the aforementioned NBA championship teams. The Indians also made it to the World Series in 2016, but in losing to the Chicago Cubs in seven games, they replaced the Cubs (who until then had not won the Series since 1908) as the team with the longest championship drought, having last won in 1948.
This marked the first time since 1988 that NBC televised a World Series in its entirety. In 1995, NBC televised Games 2, 3, and 6, while rival ABC televised Games 1, 4, and 5, having split that series since ABC was promised the strike-cancelled 1994 World Series. Both networks had announced prior to the 1995 season, that they were bailing out what was initially a six-year-long revenue sharing joint venture with Major League Baseball called "The Baseball Network". Starting with the 1996 World Series, Fox and NBC would alternate World Series broadcast rights for the next five seasons, with NBC broadcasting in odd-numbered years and Fox in even-numbered years. This arrangement ended in 2001, when Fox got exclusive broadcast rights to the World Series, and still does today.
NBC's West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer disturbed Major League Baseball when he publicly wished the World Series to end in a four-game sweep so that it wouldn't derail NBC's fall entertainment schedule. (Game 5 fell on a Thursday, which had long been the highest rated night on NBC's schedule, if not on all of television.)
Midway through Game 2, "surprise guest" Joe DiMaggio joined NBC's Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker in the television booth. DiMaggio joked that Morgan was a "Hall of Famer" and Costas a "future Hall of Famer", but he didn't know what to think of when it came to Uecker. Ironically enough, the Baseball Hall of Fame would present Uecker with its Ford C. Frick Award several years later.
Also working for NBC's coverage were Jim Gray, who served as field reporter; Ray Knight, CBC sportscaster Ron MacLean, and Ahmad Rashad, who alternated as dugout reporters. Meanwhile, Hannah Storm and Keith Olbermann served as pre-game hosts. Storm along with Jim Gray and Amhad Rashad covered the celebration on the field following Game 7. Also following Game 7, Ron MacLean interviewed Mike Hargrove and Indians players from their locker room. MacLean worked Games 3, 4, 5 and 7 on loan to NBC due to his Hockey Night in Canada commitments.
This was the last World Series broadcast on CBS Radio, which had covered the World Series consecutively since 1976. ESPN Radio would take over the national radio contract for Major League Baseball the following year.
Vin Scully and Jeff Torborg were CBS Radio's announcers for the Series (the latter had once managed the Indians and would later manage the Marlins). This was Scully's eleventh and final call for CBS Radio in the World Series, and seventh consecutive since he rejoined the network following NBC's 1989 loss of baseball. As of 2014, this is also the last World Series broadcast to date for Scully, who, in addition to his eleven CBS Radio broadcasts, has called fourteen others for NBC and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Torborg would continue to call games for Fox television until the end of the 2000 season, working alongside John Rooney and Chip Caray, when he elected to return to managing and was hired by the Montreal Expos.
Game 7 was the final Major League Baseball game called by longtime Indians radio announcer Herb Score, as he retired at season's end. Score's broadcast partner, Tom Hamilton, would take over as lead announcer and he remains in that position as of the close of the 2015 season. It also marked the final game carried by Indians flagship station WKNR (1220); the broadcast rights would be moved to WTAM for the 1998 season.