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Gonzalez was Marlins' unsung WS hero in '03

Shortstop delivered walk-off home run vs. Yankees in Game 4
September 21, 2018

MIAMI -- Game 4, and momentum in the 2003 World Series, were starting to slip away from the Florida Marlins before Alex Gonzalez had his Carlton Fisk moment.A slick-fielding, light-hitting shortstop, Gonzalez was the most unlikely player in the Marlins' lineup to deliver arguably the most meaningful home run in

MIAMI -- Game 4, and momentum in the 2003 World Series, were starting to slip away from the Florida Marlins before Alex Gonzalez had his Carlton Fisk moment.
A slick-fielding, light-hitting shortstop, Gonzalez was the most unlikely player in the Marlins' lineup to deliver arguably the most meaningful home run in franchise history. The low line drive to left field remained just high enough, traveled just far enough and managed to stay just fair to give Miami a 4-3 walk-off victory in Game 4, evening the World Series at 2-2.
Gonzalez's heroics came in the 12th inning off Yankees right-hander Jeff Weaver at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.
Each team's most unlikely postseason heroes
To Marlins' fans, Gonzalez's home run has similarities to Fisk's legendary home run for the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Reds. Fisk's famous homer at Fenway Park also was just fair to left field, and it also came in the 12th inning.
But Fisk was a middle of the lineup force, and a future Hall of Famer, and Gonzalez was known for his Gold Glove Award-caliber defense and occasional contributions on offense.
"When you think about Gonzo, you think about the position he plays," said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, who joined the organization's front office in 2002. "He was our starting shortstop. His job was to play Gold Glove defense. Any offense we got from him, we knew it was a plus. We knew he was batting eighth. He had power for an occasional home run. He had double-digit home runs that year."
In 2003, Gonzalez was also in a postseason rut at the plate before he rounded the bases and was mobbed at home plate by his teammates. Entering that at-bat off Weaver, the Venezuelan was 5-for-53 in the postseason and 1-for-13 in the World Series, and he was 0-for-4 in Game 4.
Then-Marlins manager Jack McKeon was getting public pressure to sit Gonzalez. But the then 72-year-old manager stuck with his then 26-year-old shortstop.
By remaining committed to a core player who helped the Marlins reach the Fall Classic, the Marlins were rewarded when Gonzalez stepped up after his club had a 3-1 lead disappear in the ninth inning.
Perry Hill, the Marlins' current infield/first-base coach, held the same responsibilities on the 2003 team. He had the view from the first-base coach's box of Gonzalez's dramatic home run.
"I was just hoping it would stay up," Hill said. "It was kind of a line drive. I was like, 'Stay up, please!'"
The way Pro Player Stadium's outfield wall was configured, there was a high wall in left field. But down the line, there was a short gap in the corner by the foul pole where the wall was lower. Gonzalez's home run nestled just past the fence there, over the 330-foot sign.
By the 12th inning, fatigue was becoming a factor.
"Jack said in the dugout, 'It's getting late, boys. Somebody hit one,'" Hill said. "Then Gonzo hit one. The wall was low, and then it happened to go up. The ball just happened to go into that low spot. It was almost like it was supposed to happen."
Gonzalez enjoyed a 16-year big league career and was an All-Star in 1999. He retired after the 2014 season, and lives in South Florida, running a restaurant in Pembroke Pines.
When the MLB All-Star Game was at Marlins Park in 2017, Gonzalez attended several events. During an interview, he noted how people constantly remind him and thank him for the '03 World Series season.
"People still remember that," Gonzalez said. "Everywhere I go, fans will say, 'I was there that night.'"

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.