In late May 2003, the Marlins sported a 19-29 record, and the franchise appeared to be headed towards its sixth straight losing season. But history eventually showed us that nothing went according to script in what turned into one of MLB’s truly remarkable underdog seasons.
Not only did the Marlins rebound under then-72-year-old manager Jack McKeon to reach the postseason. They went on to win the World Series in six games over the heavily favored Yankees.
In their improbable journey, the Marlins closed out the Cubs in seven games with a memorable National League Championship Series.
Nothing came easy for the 2003 Marlins, and Game 7 was more of the same. The Marlins prevailed, 9-6, on that Oct. 15 night in Chicago, but not before rallying back from a two-run deficit entering the fifth inning.
"The Cubs were America's favorite. I think we are the darlings of the baseball world now," McKeon said after that game.
The Marlins had trailed in the NLCS, three games to one, but they rallied to win the final three games. Game 6, of course, is an all-time classic, with the Marlins catching a break in the eighth when fan Steve Bartman deflected Luis Castillo’s foul ball away from Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. The Marlins rallied for eight runs in that inning to force Game 7.
In the winner-take-all series finale, the Marlins struck first, with rookie Miguel Cabrera belting a three-run homer in the first inning off Kerry Wood.
The Cubs bounced back with three runs in the second, tying it on Wood’s two-run homer that ignited the Wrigley Field crowd. After the game, some Marlins players said that was the loudest moment they’d ever heard in a ballpark.
The Cubs pulled ahead, 5-3, in the third inning on Alou’s two-run homer off Marlins left-hander Mark Redman.
From that moment, McKeon used two of his top starting pitchers in relief. Brad Penny tossed a scoreless fourth inning, and Josh Beckett, who pitched a complete game in Game 5 in Miami, allowed one run over four innings. Beckett, who turned 40 on Friday, was 23 at the time.
In Game 7, the Marlins came back by scoring three runs in the fifth, a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh, building a 9-6 lead heading into the ninth.
Closer Ugueth Urbina logged the final three outs, and the Marlins were World Series bound.
“Nobody expected us to be in the World Series," catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the NLCS MVP, said that night.