The Beginning

Wayne Huizenga

The Birth of a Franchise

Major League Baseball announced plans to expand the National League in 1985, hoping to add two teams to match the American League’s total of 14 teams.

Four years later, successful entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga, who made his fortune with the creation of Waste Management Inc. and later Blockbuster Video, spearheaded a group to pursue an expansion team in South Florida.

Huizenga, left, was already a part owner of the Miami Dolphins and had purchased half of Joe Robbie Stadium — where the Miami Dolphins played their home games — for a bargain price. Huizenga was able to take advantage of a bit of a financial crisis for the Robbie family, who was unsuccessfully trying to keep the Miami Dolphins franchise afloat after the death of Joe Robbie. From the very beginning, Huizenga was a businessman, a fact that would later turn out to be very important.

With a stadium to house the team, and the financial means in place to bring a team to the Miami area, Huizenga’s group was selected as a finalist for expansion in 1990, along with groups from five other cities.

Shortly after renovating the stadium to make it baseball accessible, the stadium played host to two spring training games between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. The experiment was a huge success, as a record crowd of 67, 654 came out for the first game, and 57,359 fans watched the second game.

On July 5, 1990 the Florida Marlins franchise was unanimously approved for expansion along with the Colorado Rockies.

Building an organization

Three days after the franchise was approved, Carl Berger, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is named the first president of the Florida Marlins. Berger’s tenure wouldn’t last long, as he collapsed during an owner’s meeting in December 1992, dying of an aneurysm a few hours later. A permanent replacement for Berger was not named until 1993, when Donald A. Smiley was named the second president of the organization.

Dave Dombrowski was named the first general manager of the Marlins on Sept. 18, 1991, and a young Fredi Gonzalez was signed as the first minor league manager on Nov. 7.

The Marlins would find their first Major League manager in Rene Lachemann, announcing the signing on Oct. 23, 1992.

On Nov. 17, Florida selected 35 players in the expansion draft, selecting outfielder Nigel Wilson with their first pick. Jeff Conine from the Kansas City Royals would become their most notable selection.

The day before Berger’s death, the Marlins announced the signing of the club’s first two free agents, infielder Dave Magadan and veteran knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough.

On April 5, 1993, the Marlins played their first ever game. Florida defeated the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 in front of a sell-out crowd of 42,334 at Joe Robbie Stadium.