Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to Be a Met Fan In Miami -- 2017 Edition

Next Thursday, the Mets will begin a 4-game series in Miami against the Marlins.

Stereotypically, South Florida in general, and Miami in particular, is where old Italian and Jewish New Yorkers go to retire. Along with the railroad and air-conditioning, New Yorkers essentially made that region possible.

And how has Miami thanked New York? Well, the Dolphins have made fools out of the Jets (not that the Jets have needed much help), the Marlins have beaten the Yankees in a World Series (2003) and tormented the Mets in 2 season-ending knock-'em-out-of-Playoff-contention games (2007 and '08), and the Heat have fought with the Knicks, figuratively and literally (1997 & '98).

But the Marlins' new ballpark is so sparsely populated these days that, starting this coming Thursday night, Met fans can do what Yankee Fans do in Tampa Bay: Take over the ballpark, and turn it into the Sixth Borough.

Before You Go. It's South Florida: Presume that it will be hot, and that it will be rainy. This is why the new ballpark has a retractable roof. Most likely, it will be closed. Check the Miami Herald
website for their local forecast before you go.

Currently, hey're saying that next weekend's daytime temperatures will be in the low 80s, while nighttime will be in the low 70s, with the only threat of rain being a 40 percent chance on Thursday, the 1st day. But, as I said, the roof is likely to be closed, so while you might get rained on, you won't get rained out.

Miami is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your watch or the clock on your smartphone. And, while Florida was a Confederate State, and parts of Miami may seem like an extension of Cuba or the Dominican Republic, you won't have to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. Last season, the Marlins averaged 21,837 fans per game – dead last in the National League, and ahead of only Oakland, Cleveland and cross-State Tampa Bay in the American League. The novelty of the new stadium has worn off like a 24-hour virus, and the shattered expectations of new acquisitions that either flopped or, like Jose Reyes was by them, have already been dumped has killed whatever buzz they had.

Although they opened strong as an expansion franchise in 1993 with 37,838, and were doing well in 1994 with 33,695 before the strike hit, only in their 1997 World Championship season, 29,190, and in their first season in Marlins Park, 2012, have they since topped 24,000. Even in their World Championship season of 2003, they averaged just 16,290.

Although Sun Life Stadium (the 7th name the facility has had in its 30 years of operation) has 75,192 seats for football and, during World Series play, topped out at 67,498, much of the upper deck was tarped off, and official baseball capacity was 38,560, turning what could be the largest stadium in the majors into one of the smallest. And still, they couldn't sell it out.

Official capacity of Marlins Park is 36,742 -- meaning they're currently averaging 16,000 short of capacity. So getting tickets will probably not be problem: Pretty much anything you can afford will be available. As with any roadtrip, I advise ordering your tickets in advance, but you can probably get anything you can afford.

This would not, however, include the upper deck "Vista Boxes" and "Vista Reserved": These are not on sale for the Marlins vs. Mets series. My guess is, they're being tarped off, with the club thinking they can't sell them. Oh really, with all those older ex-New Yorkers living nearby?

Home Plate Box seats go for $78, Baseline Reserved are $44, Bullpen Reserved in right field are $18, and the upper-deck Home Run Porch seats are just $12. In left field, the "Clevelander" section goes for $40.

Getting There. It's 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami, and 1,289 miles from Citi Field and Marlins Park. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, as the flight is just 3 hours, but you'll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you're trying to get from the airport to downtown, you'll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami's Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights for under $900 round-trip.

The train is not a very good idea, because you'll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak's Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 5:58 the next day's evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:10 AM and return to New York at 11:00 AM, "only" 27 hours – no, as I said earlier, there's no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it'll cost $508. And the station isn't all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there's a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.

How about Greyhound? There are 6 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:30 PM to 4:20 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (I don't know about changing buses in Orlando, but I have changed buses in Richmond, and I can tell you: It is not fun.) The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 30 hours. Round-trip fare is $232, but you can get it for $200 on advanced-purchase.

The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. It's worth the fact that it'll cost twice as much to simply fly down. Plus, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You'll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami.

Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia and 2 in Florida, you're talking about a 28-hour trip.

Once In the City. A lot of people don't realize it, because Miami is Florida's most famous city, but the most populous city in the State is Jacksonville. However, while Miami has about 440,000 people within the city limits, there are 6.4 million living in the metro area, making it far and away the largest in the South, not counting Texas.

Because Florida is so hot (How hot is it?), and air-conditioning didn't become common until the mid-20th Century, Miami was founded rather late by the standards of the East coast, in 1825, and wasn't incorporated as a city until 1896. The name is derived from the Mayaimi tribe of Native Americans. Miami Avenue is the east-west divider, Flagler Street the north-south.

The Herald is the only major newspaper left in the city, but the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale should also be available. And, considering how many ex-New Yorkers are around, you might also be able to get the Times, the Daily News, or, if you're really desperate (or really conservative), the Post.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, but it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. ZIP Codes in Miami start with the digits 330, 331 and 332; in the Fort Lauderdale area, 333; and in the Palm Beach area, 334 and 349.

Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail. However, the ballpark isn't all that close to it. You will need to take the Number 7 bus from downtown. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.25.
A Metrorail train at a downtown station

Going In. Marlins Park opened in 2012. The official address used to be 1390 NW 6th Street, but it's now 501 Marlins Way. It's 2 miles west of downtown, between 4th and 6th Streets, and 14th and 16th Avenues. Parking is $10.
Marlins Park with roof closed

Three of those surrounding streets have specialized names for the stretches that border the park: 16th Avenue is Marlins Way; 4th Street is Bobby Maduro Drive, after the Cuban baseball executive who was forced to flee his native land during Fidel Castro's revolution and had the old Miami minor-league stadium named in his honor; and 6th Street is Felo Ramirez Drive, after the legendary baseball and boxing announcer who has been the main Spanish radio voice of the Marlins from day one in 1993, and is a winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.
Marlins Park with roof open

Due to South Florida's climate – the city probably gets more rain than any other in the major leagues, including Seattle – the ballpark was built with a retractable roof, going from the 1st base side across to left field. The park points southeast, but is west of downtown, so you can't really see Miami's skyline from inside. Which is too bad, because Miami is undergoing a building boom, including the "Biscayne Wall" along the waterfront. The seats are all a bright blue.

Marlins Park has a natural grass field. The outfield distances are 344 feet down the left field line, 386 to left-center, 420 to the furthest point, the left-center region they call "the Bermuda Triangle," 418 to straightaway center, 392 to right-center, and 335 down the right field line.

Every bit as much as the Dolphins' stadium was in its baseball configuration, this is a pitcher's park. The longest home run in it is a 484-footer by Giancarlo Stanton in 2014. Andres Galarraga, as a Colorado Rockie, hit the longest in Miami's major league history, a 529-footer at Joe Robbie Stadium in 1997.

There's funky (or tacky, depending on how you look at it) artwork all over the place, including the tropic-themed Home Run Sculpture in left field. And then there's "The Clevelander." Something the Marlins captured during their 1997 World Series win over the Indians, maybe? Nope, it's something they call "South Beach Comes to the Ballpark!" They have a poolside bar and grill, restricted to fans age 21 and over. In other words, it's the Arizona Diamondbacks' right-center-field pool kicked up a notch. It's something that does not belong at a ballpark.
(I don't know if there's a connection, but Julia Tuttle, the local booster who convinced railroad baron Henry Flagler to help her make a modern city possible in the 1890s, was from Cleveland. Because of her, Miami is sometimes called the only American city founded by a woman.)

Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and also being in Southeastern Conference country (hello, tailgating), you would expect the baseball team in Miami to have great food at their stadium. They certainly go heavy on the regional cuisine at Taste of Miami, behind Section 27: Cuban sandwiches, Pan con Lechon (the best item in the stadium according to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each MLB stadium), Chicharron, Fish Ceviche, Cuban coffee and Mariquitas. This is not to be confused with the Miami Mex taco stand at Section 4.

Burger 305 (named for the city's original Area Code) has several stands, and includes a "Miami Shrimp Burger." There's 3 Sir Pizza stands -- after all, what would Miami be without Italian senior citizens? There is a Kosher Korner at Section 1 -- after all, what would Miami be without Jewish senior citizens? Brother Jimmy's BBQ, introduced to New York sports at the new Yankee Stadium, is at Section 8.

Team History Displays. Not much. The Marlins hang banners for their 1997 and 2003 World Championships, their only trips to the postseason, in the windowed area behind left field.
The only retired number they've ever had was for Carl Barger, their team president, who organized the team for the start of the 1993 season, and then died right before it. He was a friend of Joe DiMaggio, who lived in nearby Hollywood, Florida, and threw out the first ball at the Marlins’ first game. (There was precedent for a legend of one team throwing out the first-ever first ball of another team: Ty Cobb's last appearance in a big-league ballpark was throwing out the first ball at the Los Angeles Angels' 1st home game, because he was a friend and former teammate of their 1st general manager, Fred Haney.)

In Barger's memory, and in connection with his friendship with the Yankee Clipper, original owner Wayne Huizenga retired Number 5 for Barger, who never wore it – not even for fun. But upon the opening of the new park, it was unretired, although it is not currently being worn.

When All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident last September, the Marlins announced that his Number 16 would be immediately retired. Other than that, the only retired number they recognize is the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson. Their notation for it is in left-center, next to The Clevelander.
UPDATE: The Marlins have announced that they will honor Fernandez with a statue at Marlins Park. This is in spite of the fact that the autopsy report showed that Fernandez was driving the boat, and that the toxicology report showed that he had both alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time. For comparison's sake, neither the Mets nor the Phillies have yet named convicted drunk driver Lenny Dykstra to their respective team halls of fame.

The team did honor Barger with a plaque at the new park, but that's hardly the same thing, unless it's part of a team Hall of Fame display, which they don't have: Not a display, nor a team Hall of Fame. Nor even an all-time team as chosen by the fans, not even last year with the team celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Maybe they'll do that in 2018, for their 25th.

There are 5 players who played for the Marlins who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Miami native Andre Dawson, and former manager Tony Perez, both of whom currently work in the Marlin organization; Ivan Rodriguez and Sanford, Florida native Tim Raines, both of whom just got in this year; and Mike Piazza.

It should be noted, though, that Perez never played for the Marlins; Piazza played just 5 games for them in 1998, between being traded by the Dodgers and to the Mets; Rodriguez only did so for 1 season, even if it was the World Championship season of 2003; Raines only did so in the last season of his career, for 98 games; and Dawson only did so for the last 2 years of his career, for 121 games. So, 5 Hall-of-Famers, playing a grand total of 368 games, or about 2 1/2 full seasons.

They have as many broadcasters "in the Hall of Fame" as they do uniformed personnel: Felo Ramirez, and Dave Van Horne, who came down from the Montreal Expos when Jeffrey Loria essentially moved the Expos' organization, if not its players, in 2002.

No player for the Marlins was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999. In 2006, Dontrelle Willis was chosen by Marlin fans for the DHL Hometown Heroes series.

The Florida Sports Hall of Fame is located at Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale, 232 miles northwest of downtown Miami. As yet, the only Marlins players inducted are 2 Miami natives who played for them at the ends of their careers, Dawson and Raines.

Stuff. The Marlins have team stores in the stadium, but nothing out of the ordinary: Caps, jerseys, T-shirts, bats, gloves, stuffed Billy the Marlin dolls.

A few books have been written for the Marlins, and may be available in the team stores. Dan Schlossberg, Miami Herald columnist Dave Barr, Kevin Baxter and Marlin star Jeff Conine collaborated on Miracle Over Miami: How the 2003 Marlins Shocked the World. Jenny Reese wrote
The History of the Florida Marlins, published in 2010.

One book you will almost certainly not see in the stores is Dave Rosenbaum’s book about how original owner Huizenga "went all in" to win the 1997 World Series, then broke the team up, going from 92-70 that season to 54-108 the next, having practically come out and told everyone that a 100-plus-loss next season was likely. The title of the book? If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame. (Yeah, tell that to the Giants, who they beat in the NLDS and who had never yet won a Series in San Francisco; and to the Indians, who blew a 9th-inning lead in Game 7 of the Series and still haven’t won a Series since 1948.)

Although the Marlins have won 2 World Series and have been around for nearly 20 years now, there is, as yet, no commemorative DVD of their World Series highlight films, and no The Essential Games of the Florida Marlins DVD.

During the Game. South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he's Jewish. Or Italian.

As a result, you may see a lot of Met fans, few of whom switched to the Marlins. You may run into a few Yankee Fans who adopted the Marlins as their "second team" or their "National League team," although how many of them kept that status after the 2003 World Series is debatable. (Blast you, Jeff Weaver – Alex Gonzalez sure did.)

I don't know if your safety will be an issue. The new ballpark, on the site of the Orange Bowl, is in a questionable neighborhood. However, if you leave your car at the hotel and take the bus in, the police presence will probably mean you're protected from the local criminal element.

As for the Marlin fans, a recent Thrillist article put them almost right in the middle, 14th out of 30, on a list of "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans."

You will almost certainly be fine. Miamians might fight if they're at a Dolphins game -- or a University of Miami Hurricanes game, especially against the University of Florida or Florida State -- especially if provoked by visiting fans, but not at a Marlins game. Any leftover bad juju from Dolphins or Hurricanes games the Orange Bowl isn't going to be a problem.

The Friday game will be a promotion, but I suspect met fans won't be happy about it: It's Bobblehead Day for the Marlins' current manager, who happens to be Yankee "legend" Don Mattingly. The Saturday game will also be a promotion: Since it's April 15, it will be Jackie Robinson Day. There will be a pregame ceremony, and all uniformed personnel on both teams will be wearing Jackie's Number 42.
This season, the Marlins will be wearing uniform patches for the All-Star Game, which they are hosting for the 1st time -- leaving the Tampa Bay Rays and, if you don't count their Montreal incarnation, the Washington Nationals as the only MLB teams never to have hosted it -- and in memory of Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. heir mascot is Billy the Marlin, whose name was chosen by Huizenga because a Marlin is a "billfish" – and it has nothing to do with the infamous 1970s-80s Yankee manager Billy Martin, in spite of the character’s large nose. Since the change of team colors upon moving into Marlins Park in 2012, Billy's costume was altered to show the new colors.
That's Carlos Zambrano, the former All-Star pitcher
for the Cubs, that he's high-fiving, not Victor Zambrano
whom the Mets traded Scott Kazmir for. 

Billy sometimes "water-skis" in behind a golf cart built to look like a boat. Any resemblance of this setup to Richie Cunningham driving the boat that allowed the Fonz to jump the shark on Happy Days is strictly coincidental.

Worse than a dopey mascot, the Marlins had cheerleaders. No, I'm not making this up: They were the one and only MLB team with cheerleaders. Or, as they would put it, a dance/cheer team. The Marlins Mermaids debuted in 2003.
I don't care: It doesn't belong in baseball.

As noted Phillies fan Bill Cosby used to say in his act, before we decided we never wanted to see his act again, "Don't ever say, 'It can't get any worse.' It can always get worse. 'Worse' is rough." In 2008, the team debuted the Marlins Manatees, an all-male "dance/energy squad" who performed alongside the Mermaids. They even wore costumes, like a fat version of the Village People.
Did you think I was making it up?

Speaking of the Village People: You want to blame the Yankees for having the grounds crew dance to "YMCA," go ahead, because that's one "Yankee Tradition" I don't like, anyway; but this, as noted Met fan Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple) would say, is as ridiculous as Aristophanes. Thankfully, upon moving into Marlins Park in 2012, the team abandoned these concepts, and formed a co-ed "energy squad" without a stupid name.
At least they're dressed better.

The Marlins do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Their postgame victory song is "Echa Pa'lla (Manos Pa'rriba)," meaning "Move (Hands Up)," by Miami native Armando Christian Pérez, a.k.a. Pitbull. 

It could be worse: They could play Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine. Worse yet, Miami-based discoteers KC and the Sunshine Band. Or, worst of all, Robbie Van Winkle, the suburbs-of-Dallas loser who, very briefly, tried (and failed) to fool us into thinking he was Miami gangbanger Vanilla Ice.

After the Game. As I said, the Marlins Park area is a bit rough. My advice is to get back downtown as soon as possible, and either look for a nightspot there, or get across the Causeways to Miami Beach, or stay in your hotel and try their bar.

If you're too hungry to wait, on opposite sides of 7th Street, just north of the ballpark, there's a Wendy's and a Subway. Batting Cage Sports Bar & Lounge is a couple of blocks away, at 1704 NW 7th Street.

I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city's NFL teams. American Social is the home of the local Giants fan club, and also caters to fans of the Yankees and Knicks. HammerJack's Sports Bar & Grille is the home of the South Florida New York Jets Fan Club, The problem is, they're both nearly 30 miles north of downtown Miami: American Social is  at 721 East Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, while HammerJack's is at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie. Thus, both are better for the New York football teams playing away to the Dolphins than for the baseball teams playing away to the Marlins.

If you visit Miami during the European soccer season (now drawing to a close but starting again in mid-August), the Fado Irish Pub chain has an outlet downtown, at 900 S. Miami Avenue. Brickell on Metrorail, Tenth Street Promenade on Metromover. Another possibility, especially if you're a Liverpool fan, is Churchill's Pub, at 5501 NE 2nd Avenue, 4 miles north of downtown, in Little Haiti. Bus 9.

Sidelights. Miami's sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved. Marlins Park was, as I said, built on the site of the stadium known as Burdine Stadium from its 1937 opening until 1959 and the Miami Orange Bowl thereafter. It was best known for hosting the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and the NFL's Miami Dolphins from their debut in 1966 until 1986.

It was home to the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel). It was also the home of, if you count the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s, the first "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States: The 1946 Miami Seahawks. But the black players on the Cleveland Browns would not accept being housed away from their white teammates in segregated Florida, and in that league, what the Browns wanted, the Browns got. So the Seahawks (in no way connected the NFL's Seattle team of the same name) were moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season.
The Orange Bowl also hosted the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL’s divisions from 1960 to 1969, a charity game, a glorified exhibition. Also known as the Playoff Bowl, it was considered so lame that Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi publicly called it "the only game I never want to win" – and he didn't. The stadium also hosted the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976.

And it hosted 5 Super Bowls, most notably (from a New York perspective) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held there; all subsequent South Florida Super Bowls, including the one the Giants won in 2012, Super Bowl XLVI, have been held at the Dolphins' stadium.

The U.S. national soccer team played 19 matches at the Orange Bowl, from 1984 to 2004. They didn't do so well, though, winning only 2 of them, drawing 10 and losing 7. And the biggest crowd they could get was 49,000 -- you'd think that, being in a heavily Hispanic city, they could draw "futbol" fans. Instead, most of the Hispanics came to see them play Latin American teams, and root for those teams. It was also the home of the North American Soccer League's Miami Gatos and Miami Toros, before they moved up I-95 to become the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Arsenal played their 1st game in North America at the Orange Bowl, on May 31, 1972, beating the Gatos 3-2. Only 4,725 attended, which is why you shouldn't schedule a soccer game for Miami during Memorial Day Weekend.

The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL's only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and 1942. And the Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that’s not the NFL. The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII, and then Super Bowl VIII.

And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. They've done so in New Orleans, in Houston, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and twice in the Los Angeles area. They also haven’t been to one in 31 seasons, which includes all of their history in their new stadium. Curse of Joe Robbie, anyone? Which brings me to...

* The facility currently, officially, named Hard Rock Stadium. Better known by its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, after the Dolphins' original owner (although legendary entertainer Danny Thomas also had a stake in the team in its first few years), it's also been known as Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Pro Player Stadium and Landshark Stadium.

The Marlins reached the postseason here twice, in 1997 and 2003, and won the World Series both times. In other words, they've never lost a postseason series. Contrast that with the Dolphins: Only once, in their first 29 seasons in the Dolphin Tank, have they even reached the AFC Championship Game (in January 1993, and they lost at home to the Bills).

But don't think that the stadium was better for the Marlins: It was a football stadium, with a baseball field wedged into it, and it wasn't really adequate for the horsehide game. It is, however, still regarded as one of the better stadiums in the NFL, despite having been built before Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium construction.
Joe Robbie Stadium in its baseball configuration.
Notice all the tarped-over sections.

It's hosted Super Bowls XXIII (1989, San Francisco over Cincinnati), XXIX (1995, San Francisco over San Diego), XXXIII (1999, Denver over Atlanta), XLI (2007, Indianapolis over Chicago) and XLIV (2010, New Orleans over Indianapolis). It will host Super Bowl LIV (2020).

It's hosted several of soccer games, including matches with such storied names as Arsenal (beat Argentine club Independiente in front of just 10,042 fans on a blistering hot day, August 6, 1989), Manchester United and A.C. Milan. The U.S. national team played Honduras there on October 8, 2011, and won -- but only 21,900 attended.

Now that the Marlins are out, the official address of the stadium is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the number of games that Shula won as an NFL head coach -- although that counts the postseason, and the games he won as boss of the Colts. (But not Super Bowl III, which he lost as coach of the Colts.) It's between NW 199th and 203rd Streets (199th is renamed Dan Marino Blvd.), and NW 21st and 26th Avenues. Take Metrorail toward Palmetto, and get off at the Martin Luther King Jr. station. (I doubt if a sports stadium in the Miami suburbs was a part of Dr. King’s dream, although stadiums and performing-arts venues with racially-integrated seating, particularly in the South, sure were.)

* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was built on the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida’s finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 1969, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, "Hey, Namath! We’re gonna kick your ass on Sunday!" And Joe said, "Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we're gonna win the game. I guarantee it!" He was right. NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.

* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather.
The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again from 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles from 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988.  It was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that "the Los Angeles Dodgers" played their 1st game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990. The FSL Pennant was won here 7 times: 1950, 1952 (Sun Sox), 1969, 1970 (old Marlins), 1971, 1972 and 1978 (Orioles).
It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It’s just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.

* American Airlines Arena. The "Triple-A" has been the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat since 2000, including their 2006, 2012 and 2013 NBA Championship seasons. 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets, across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp.
The closest rapid-rail station is Overtown – ironically, the same stop for the previous sports arena…

* Site of Miami Arena. Home of the Heat from their 1988 debut until 1999 (the new arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999), and the NHL's Florida Panthers from their 1993 debut to 1998, this building was demolished in 2008. Only 20 years? Apparently, like the multipurpose stadiums of the 1960s and '70s, and the Meadowlands Arena and (soon?) the Nassau Coliseum, it served its purpose – getting teams to come in – and then quickly became inadequate.
Nevertheless, when the Overtown race riot happened in January 1989, just before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage (and the Miami area from the public-relations nightmare that would have occurred had there been a riot during Super Bowl week), and succeeded. 701 Arena Blvd., between Miami Avenue, NW 1st Avenue, and 6th and 8th Streets. Overtown/Arena rail station.

* BB&T Center. The home of the Panthers since 1998, and there's a reason the team is called "Florida" instead of "Miami": The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th. If you don't have a car, you'd have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the building, named for Branch Banking & Trust Corporation.
* Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Lockhart Stadium. Built in 1962, the Yankees moved their spring training headquarters to the 8,340-seat Fort Lauderdale Stadium after being assured that, unlike their spring home of St. Petersburg at the time, their black players could stay in the same hotel as their white players. The Yankees remained there until 1995, by which point Tampa was not only long since integrated, but was willing to pretty much anything city resident George Steinbrenner wanted, including build him a new spring home for the Yankees.
The Yankees' Class A team in the Florida State League also used it as a home field. After the Yankees left, the Orioles used it from 1996 to 2009. Although it no longer has a permanent tenant, or even a spring training tenant, it still stands, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers use it as a practice facility. 1401 NW 55th Street.

Built in 1959, Lockhart is a 17,417-seat high school football stadium, across 55th Street from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, along 12th Avenue. It's been home to 4 different teams called the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, including the original NASL's version from 1977 to 1983, and the new NASL's version since 2011 (UPDATE: They moved after the 2016 season), and MLS' Miami Fusion from 1998 to 2001).
It's the only stadium I know of with more seats
in the end zones than along the sidelines.

It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national soccer team, including the November 23, 1980 2-1 victory that was the 1st time the U.S. ever defeated Mexico on home soil, the 1st time anywhere since the countries' 1st meeting, in the 1934 World Cup. It also hosted Florida Atlantic University's football team from 2003 to 2010, after which their on-campus stadium opened. 1350 NW 55th Street, at 12th Avenue.

For both stadiums, take MetroRail to Tri-Rail, then Tri-Rail to northbound to Cypress Creek. From there, it's about a 10-minute walk.

The current plan for the Major League Soccer team that retired English soccer star David Beckham wants to bring to Miami is for a 25,000-seat stadium in the Overtown section, bordered by 6th and 8th Streets and 6th and 7th Avenues, all NW. That's about a mile northwest of downtown. Bus 77. They still have to clear land-purchase and rezoning hurdles, but it looks like they have the proper ownership lined up. It looks like they will begin play in 2019, although it may take until 2020 for the stadium to open, in which case they may have to play their 1st (or even 2nd) season at Marlins Park.

Florida International University is at 11200 SW 8th Street, 16 miles west of downtown. Its Riccardo Silva Stadium, formerly FIU Stadium, opened in 1995 and seating 23,500, is at 11310 SW 17th Street. Bus 8.
FIU should not be confused with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Its 29,419-seat FAU Stadium, which opened in 2011, is at 777 Glades Road, or FAU Blvd. & N. University Drive. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton station. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. soccer team had a 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium.
* Sports Immortals Museum. This museum is in Boca Raton, at 6830 N. Federal Highway (Route 1), 50 miles north of downtown Miami. It's got a statue of Babe Ruth, and some memorabilia on display. However, some people have reported that much of the memorabilia they sell has been judged to be fake by authenticators, so buyer beware.

Theoretically, it's reachable by public transportation from Miami, but you'd need to take a bus to a train to a bus to a bus (32 to Tri-Rail to 70 to 1), and it would take about 3 hours. If you don't have the time to make for this, by car or otherwise, skip it.

* Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. For the last 30 or so years of his life, the Yankee Clipper lived in South Florida, and while he pretty much ignored his one and only child, son Joe Jr., he adored his grandchildren and children in general. He was a heavy donor to local hospitals, and the Children's Hospital named for him was established in 1992. There is now a statue of him there.

1005 Joe DiMaggio Drive, Hollywood. about 20 miles north of downtown Miami. 22 bus to Hollywood Tri-Rail station, then a mile's walk.

Someone got a copy of an expired DiMaggio driver's license (possibly at an auction), and posted it online. It shows the Yankee Clipper's address as 5151 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. This, and any other Miami Beach location, can be reached via the 103, 113 or 119 Bus, or car, over the MacArthur Causeway. If you do visit, remember that it is still a private residence, and you will not be allowed inside, and you should not bother whoever's living there now.

* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association's Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties' Conventions in 1972, were held here. Why? Simple: They wanted to be away from downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.

This building hosted the heavyweight title fights of 1961 (Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson III, Floyd won) and 1964 (Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston I, Clay winning and then changing his name to Muhammad Ali). Just 9 days before Ali forced his "total eclipse of the Sonny," on February 16, 1964, the Beatles played their 2nd full-length U.S. concert here. (A photo exists of the Beatles visiting Ali at his Miami training center, and he knocks the 4 of them over like dominoes.) Elvis Presley gave a pair of concerts here on September 12, 1970.
Convention Center Drive between 17th Street and Dade Blvd. The Jackie Gleason Theater, where "The Great One" taped his 1960s version of The Jackie Gleason Show (including a revival of The Honeymooners) is next-door.

* Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina, was used as a Naval Air Station, convention center, concert hall and sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here).

It was also known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. On March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, "I'm from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!")

More recently, it was used as a TV studio, particularly for the Miami-based series Burn Notice. It was demolished in 2013, shortly after that series wrapped production. Pan American Drive at 27th Avenue. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.

* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here early in his career, on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.

On March 26, 1960, Elvis taped a segment for The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, subtitled Welcome Home Elvis, in the ballroom of the Fontainebleau Hotel. It was his 1st TV appearance since his discharge from the Army 3 weeks earlier.

Frank was not initially a fan of Elvis, but his 2-year peacetime-but-Cold-War hitch for Uncle Sam -- further emphasized by the fact that an ear condition left Frank himself 4-F, meaning he didn't serve in World War II -- convinced a lot of grownups that he was all right after all, and Frank and his fellow Rat Packers were now happy to go along -- down to Frank's daughter, 15-year-old Nancy (6 years from becoming a star in her own right), being the first "name" he saw when he got off the plane.

Elvis sang both sides of his 1st post-service single, "Fame and Fortune" and the soon-to-be-Number 1 hit "Stuck On You." Then he sang Frank's "Witchcraft," and Frank sang his "Love Me Tender," and they closed the latter song together. They remained friends for the rest of Elvis' life.

The Fontainebleau, then as now, was the most famous hotel in Miami, in Florida, indeed in the entire Southern U.S. 4441 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in South Florida in Fort Myers at the City Auditorium on May 9 and July 25, 1955; in West Palm Beach at the Palms Theater on February 20, 1956 and the West Palm Beach Auditorium on February 13, 1977; and in Hollywood at the Sportatorium on February 12, 1977.

Mets legend Gary Carter is buried at Riverside Memorial Park. So is another Baseball Hall-of-Famer, 1930s Chicago Cubs 2nd baseman Billy Herman. 19351 SE County Line Road in Jupiter, 91 miles north of downtown Miami, and 42 miles south of the Mets' Spring Training home in Port St. Lucie. Not reachable without a car. Hall-of-Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx is buried at Flagler Memorial Park, 5301 W. Flagler Street, 6 miles west of downtown Miami. Bus 11.

Miami isn't a big museum city. The big two are the Miami Science Museum, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue (Vizcaya Station on Tri-Rail); ; and the Miami Art Museum, at 101 W. Flagler Street (downtown).

No President has ever been born in Florida, or grew up there, or even had his permanent residence there. Two men who served as Governor ran for the Democratic Party's nomination for the office, but neither came particularly close to the nomination: Reubin Askew dropped out after the 1984 New Hampshire Primary, and Bob Graham didn't even make it to calendar year 2004, much less the Iowa Caucuses.

Nevertheless, Miami has a key role in Presidential history. On February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were at a rally in Bayfront Park, when Giuseppe Zangara started shooting. FDR was not hit, but Cermak was, and he died on March 6, just 2 days after FDR was inaugurated. Bayfront Park station on Metromover.

More recently, the building where the votes for Dade County were supposed to be counted in the 2000 election was besieged by protesters, hired by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, so Miami was ground zero for the theft of the election by the George W. Bush campaign. The Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st Street, downtown. Government Center station.

The Watsco Center, formerly the University of Miami Convocation Center, hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. 1245 Dauer Drive, in Coral Gables. Tri-Rail to University. And Lynn University in Boca Raton hosted a Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 3601 N. Military Trail. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton, then Bus 2.

The Kennedy family had a compound in Palm Beach, but sold it in 1995. It's still in private hands, and not open to the public. There was a "Little White House" in Key West (111 Front Street), used by Harry Truman (and, to a lesser extent, his immediate successors Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy), and it's open to tours. But that's a long way from Miami: 160 miles, with no public transportation between the 2 cities, and Greyhound charges $110 round-trip for a 4 1/2-hour ride.

Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo's Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. It's at 4201 Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation). Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There's Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It's at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.

If you're a fan of The Golden Girls, you won't find the house used for the exterior shots: It's actually in Los Angeles. If you're a fan of those not-quite-golden girls, the Kardashian sisters, the penthouse they use to tape the Miami edition of their "reality show" is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach.

*

You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. Who knows, the Mets might even get a little bit of revenge for those season-ending series of 2007 and '08.

No comments: