Marlins curse lives on Calle Ocho thanks to Orange Bowl disrespect

The Marlins play on the hallowed grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood. Some believe that the baseball Gods have plagued the Marlins for playing where the former stadium lived.

Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine with an at bat against the New York Mets during his playing days. Conine was an original Marlin who won a World Series title in 1997.
Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine with an at bat against the New York Mets during his playing days. Conine was an original Marlin who won a World Series title in 1997. / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

There was the Curse of the Bambino in Boston. There was the Curse of the Billy Goat in Chicago. We are now in the Curse of the Orange Bowl in Miami.

The old Florida Marlins were once the darlings of baseball. They became the fastest expansion team to win two World Series titles and they looked like they were on their way to building a dynasty. Who could forget Wayne Huizenga and his wife Marti during the 1997 National League Championship Series celebrating with the team? The World Series was coming to Miami.

The dynasty would never take shape, as the owners gutted the team after the 1997 World Series win over Cleveland, as well as the improbable 2003 World Series win against the New York Yankees. Huizenga did it in 1997, while Jeffrey Lurie did in 2003.

Then, it happened.

Marlins Leave Pro Player Stadium

The Marlins left what was then known as Pro Player Stadium (now known as Hard Rock Stadium), where the Miami Dolphins play, and they moved onto the hallowed grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood. They won two World Series Championships at Pro Player Stadium and sold out big games just like the Dolphins did. Huizenga, who owned the Dolphins and the Marlins at that point, built a fan-friendly atmosphere at Pro Player Park and the Marlins were off and running.

Who ever heard of 75,000 people at a baseball game back in the 20th century? I remember spending one Passover at the stadium in 1993 when the Marlins played their first game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Charlie Hough got the ball for the Marlins, and they sent the home fans happy with a decisive win in their first game. The love affair stayed between the fans and the players during the early years, as well as during the two World Series titles in 1997 and 2003.

Charlie Hough
Former Florida Marlins pitcher Charlie Hough, who started the very first MLB game for the Marlins in 1993 and who also graduated from Hialeah High School. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

It would never happen again.

Baseball Gods Are Upset with the Marlins

As lore would have it, the Marlins became possessed for upsetting the Orange Bowl Gods and daring to challenge today's sports fan with the greatest moments of Miami sports history of yesteryear. The Marlins would build a new stadium, with city and county funds, on the hallowed grounds of the Orange Bowl and it would bring nothing good to the team, its players or its fans.

The Orange Bowl was as Miami as Miami got. It was part of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood and was on Calle Ocho, which means Eighth Street in Spanish. Calle Ocho was known for two things. One was Miami home sports, and the second was a big festival-parade that still remains today.

The Orange Bowl was the football home of the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Hurricanes and the Orange Bowl game, which was played on New Year's Night. The 1972 Perfect Season for the Miami Dolphins took place at the Orange Bowl, and the site was where Joe Namath won Super Bowl III with the New York Jets.

The building was also home to the University of Miami, who won three national titles in the stadium and have won nothing since. After the Dolphins moved to their new home, financed by late owner Joe Robbie, the Hurricanes were the main tenant, and the city made promises to rehabilitate the facility and allow the Hurricanes to continue to play there.

Jimmie Johnson, Orange, The Game
Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Jimmy Johnson won a national title in 1987 at the former Orange Bowl when the Orange Bowl Classic was played at the stadium of the same name. / Al Messerschmidt/GettyImages

It never happened.

Leaving Calle Ocho

Everyone deserted the Orange Bowl and left for Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens. The Orange Bowl was torn down, and the seats and remnants were left to be sold to the highest bidders, as well as diehard fans who needed a piece of nostalgia.

The Miami Marlins and its new ballpark were raised from the ashes of the Orange Bowl and built where the Bowl formerly stood. The Marlins fought with the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County to finance the stadium and won the battle but lost the war. The City financed the stadium for the team, but the team traded its soul to the devil. They even traded the name Florida, for Miami. It was Miami's team now, it no longer belonged to outsiders.

Jeffrey Lurie and David P. Samson got their stadium and made their money, but the team would rot and never win anything in that stadium and the fans would not come out from Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach Counties, like they did when the Marlins played in Miami Gardens.

The stadium opened known as Marlins Park. The facility now known as LoanDepot Park sells out for the World Baseball Classic and the Carribean Baseball Series, but not for Marlins games.

The winners of the 2024 Carribean Series party like rock stars at LoanDepot Park in Little Havana. At least someone is winning a championship in that stadium that replaced the hallowed Orange Bowl. / CHANDAN KHANNA/GettyImages

In fact, you can count the amount of fans with the fingers on your hands and get a ticket to sit anywhere in the ballpark right up until game time. The stadium only sells out when the Yankees or Boston Red Sox come to town, and it is usually the opposing team's fans that pack the park.

Orange Bowl Folklore

Is it irony that the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Marlins have not won anything since the Orange Bowl was razed? When the bulldozers and the heavy machinery tore down the stands and the field was ripped up and there was nothing left but a pile of dirt and grass, it also ripped out the hearts of the South Florida sports fan.

LoanDepot Park, formerly known as Marlins Park, opened in March 2012. It cost $634 million to build and sits exactly where the Orange Bowl was situated. There are fans today that cannot bring themselves to drive to the stadium because of the pain that was inflicted when the Orange Bowl was torn down and the site was used for a baseball team that cannot draw flies and does not reach out to its fan base and make the place feel like home.

Don Shula
Don Shula, Closeup. Coach of the Miami Dolphins, before the NFL football game against the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl before it was demolished. This photo is from the Perfect Season of 1972. / Ross Lewis/GettyImages

Home was the uncomfortable bench seating at the Orange Bowl. Home was the same guy that you bought a beer from, or bought your program from at the Orange Bowl. Home was cheering for your team and celebrating as you careened down the circular walkways to the bottom of the stadium from the upper deck. There were no elevators or escalators unless you were going to the Press Box or to one of the party rooms. You walked from top to bottom.

When you walk into LoanDepot Park, it looks like a modern version of a Baseball Temple. They spared no expense and it looks marvelous, but it has no heart. There are no happy tears in that stadium. The ghosts of the '72 Dolphins Perfect Season are nowhere to be found, and the Miami Hurricanes' national titles in football are far removed from the building.

I have been to the stadium once and I felt like I was cheating on my wife. I went to a football game there when they played the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park, as it was called back then. I felt sick, nausea overcame me and I started to cry. I missed our old life, but I could not stand to see it this way.

With the four-story parking garage, it even deprives the residents of selling spots on their lawn and driveways like they did when the Orange Bowl was vibrant, but had no parking of its own. You don't hear, "$5 no block" anymore and everything is still new and shiny.

It just does not feel like home.