MIAMI -- For two nights, the World Series rocked and rolled in a place that can't just be called a mere "ballpark" or "stadium." Yankee Stadium? Heck, it's a national historic artifact with bases and foul poles.
OK, well, now that we've got that portion of the World Series out of the way ...
Now it's time for the World Series to rumble, bumble and stumble into a hot spot with a slight different ambiance. It's the hallowed home of the Florida Marlins -- Pro Player Stadium.
Formerly known as Joe Robbie Stadium.
Soon to be known as Chapter 11 Stadium, or This Space Available Stadium, or pretty much whatever you'd like to call it if you have a few million bucks to build a stylish billboard out front.
So on the all-time historical lists, Pro Player Stadium does lead Yankee Stadium in one significant modern-day category: Most different names (two -- and counting). And at least that lead, dare we predict, is insurmountable.
George Steinbrenner's lifelong passion for dollar bills may be well-documented. But it's still safe to say the naming rights of Yankee Stadium are not for sale -- not even if Bill Gates stopped by to offer him 100-percent ownership of Microsoft. Or 200 percent, for that matter.
Yankee Stadium, on the other hand, leads Pro Player in several other all-time categories. For instance, it has been the scene of 37 different World Series. And 99 World Series games. And 148 postseason games.
Babe Ruth homered there. Don Larsen pitched a perfect game there. Mickey Mantle tore up his knee on a drain cover. Reginald M. Jackson swatted three home runs on one night. Byung-Hyun Kim lived out the all-time deja-vu closer's nightmare. All in various storybook Octobers.
So when they talk about those Yankee Stadium ghosts, this is fact more than fable. Yankee Stadium is the Ritz Carlton for ghosts.
Not that Pro Player Stadium doesn't have its own ghosts. It's just that most of them are running post patterns, batting down passes in the end zone or dumping Gatorade on Don Shula.
Since Pro Player was built to be a football stadium, it actually has hosted almost as many Super Bowl games (three) as World Series games (four). The Dolphins have played nearly 250 football games there, including one as recently as Sunday.
So if Joe DiMaggio's ghost had something to do with Aaron Boone pulling that home run against the Red Sox into the upper deck last week, it's entirely possible that Bob Kuchenberg's ghost could be responsible for pulling Alfonso Soriano into a big heap at the 40-yard line (otherwise known as shallow right-center field).
But we doubt it.
So what we're getting at here is that you may notice a slight difference between these two venerable sporting venues this week. And that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Just a different thing.
"Going to Yankee Stadium," said former Marlins coach Rich Donnelly, "is like going to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Going to Pro Player Stadium is like going on a cruise ship to Jamaica.
"When you walk into Yankee Stadium, you think about Billy Martin," Donnelly went on. "When you walk into Pro Player Stadium, you think about Billy the Marlin.
"When you walk into Yankee Stadium in October," Donnelly continued, "you're in a parka on a toboggan. When you walk into Pro Player Stadium in October, you're in a tank top and sandals."
Rich Donnelly could go on like this for hours. In fact, he did. So more of his opening monologue in a moment. But first, we ought to warn you that there will be a fairly new wrinkle in that inimitable Pro Player Stadium ambiance this week that might shock you if you haven't been paying attention.
The technical term for it, we're pretty sure, is: People.
Yes, real, live, breathing human beings will be sitting in those seats. Every darned one of them. For a Marlins game. This is a rich South Florida tradition that dates back, oh, three weeks now.
As recently as Labor Day, this team was drawing 12,413 people for a reasonably important wild-card tussle with the Expos. But since the Marlins turned into an official playoff team, even their 65,000-seat stadium isn't big enough to hold all the Floridians who now love them.
They'll cram close to 200,000 people into Pro Player just for these three World Series games. And that will bring their attendance, just for this postseason, to more than 500,000. Last year, this same team had an attendance of 813,118 -- for the whole regular season. So fans are being born, right in front of your eyes, this month. It's a miracle.
Boy, it's practically enough to make those Marlins players nostalgic for those lonely nights of yore when home games were a far more intimate experience.
"We had a rain delay one time, I think with Pittsburgh, three years ago," third baseman Mike Lowell reminisced Monday. "Our field soaks up (water) pretty good. So the fans are definitely going to go home before the field's ready. Well, we had a long delay. And when we got started again, there might have been about 600 people here. We actually heard the radio guys doing their broadcast -- while we were hitting. It felt like A-ball, where you have to hope the radio guy shuts up in between pitches so he doesn't distract you."
But if that was the quietest night the Marlins have ever spent in this ballpark, Games 3, 4 and 5 might well be the loudest. So get the volume button on the old remote ready if you're watching at home. And keep in mind that the goofy thing about this team is that it has been scary-good in its home park no matter who shows up -- 10,000 or 60,000, Yankees visiting or Brewers visiting.
The Marlins actually had a better record (53-28) in their home this season than the Yankees did in theirs (50-32). Go figure. And after the All-Star break, it didn't matter who came to town. The Fish were probably beating up on them. Starting July 21, they went 27-7 at home -- for reasons only they fully understand.
"I think our advantage in this park is that people think it's ugly and think it's not a baseball park," said Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine. "But we call it home, and we feel like we've got that advantage. They always come in and say, 'Oh, the lights are bad,' and, 'It looks like a football stadium.' So I think they just can't get up for playing in a place like this, as compared to a Yankee Stadium or a Camden Yards or a Fenway Park that's got all the history."
Not that the Marlins are lacking in their own history, you understand. Just most of it is bad. Except in October, when they're the heavyweight champions of the baseball world.
They've played five postseason series before this one -- and haven't lost any of them. Which is pretty amazing, considering the slight technicality that they've never finished in first place.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have finished first 42 times now. And you can find evidence of those 42 first-place finishes oozing all over their home stadium. The Marlins, meanwhile, managed to win a World Series (in 1997) without bothering to finish first. Which is perfectly legal these days, by the way.
But what's notable about their home stadium is that you almost need to send out a search party to find evidence that a World Series was once won by this team on this field.
If you can somehow peel your eyes away from the Paul Warfield sign and the Bob Griese sign and the Nick Buoniconti sign and train your eyes on the left-field corner, you can indeed locate a billboard which reads: "1997 World Champions." But we're pretty sure the Dolphins send a crew to take it down every night when nobody is looking.
There's a Don Shula statue outside Pro Player Stadium. And a Dan Marino statue. But don't go looking for any statues of Edgar Renteria, who got the famous 11th-inning hit in 1997 that won Game 7 of the World Series.
"I'm pretty sure," said Donnelly, who was the third-base coach on that '97 team, "that they took that one back to Colombia."
Up there in The Bronx, Yankee Stadium keeps all its statues around, out in Monument Garden. And every October, visiting National League players make a veritable pilgrimage out to visit those monuments. It's postseason tourism at its finest.
But for some reason, we didn't notice any Yankees players touring the Dolphins Honor Roll on Monday. Must not be the same thing. Asked what he thought the Pro Player equivalent of the monuments was, Marlins manager Jack McKeon stroked his chin for a second, then replied, brightly: "I'd say it's that hot tub out there in right field."
And what slice of history has taken place there, you ask? "That's my smoking area," McKeon chuckled.
Even Yankees players pay homage to their park's monuments on a regular basis. Roger Clemens, for instance, rubs Babe Ruth's head for luck before every home start. The Marlins, though, don't have any cool rituals like that.
"The only head you'd touch at Pro Player," Donnelly speculated, "is, you might rub the head of one of the grounds-crew guys."
But that's OK. The Marlins can't help it that, since they were born (1993), the Yankees have played more postseason series (21) than the Marlins have played seasons (11). That's just how it's worked out -- thanks to a Wayne Huizenga saga we'll get into some other time.
So maybe you'll find the World Series these next three games at the same time, and on the same channel, that you found it over the weekend. But that's about all that will be the same. And viva la difference!
"When you walk into Yankee Stadium," Donnelly said, "you hear the hallowed echoes of Robert Merrill. When you walk into Pro Player Stadium, you hear the calypso beat of Gloria Estefan.
"When you walk into Yankee Stadium with a bottle, it's usually Jack Daniels. When you walk into Pro Player Stadium, it's usually Coppertone.
"When you walk into Yankee Stadium, you go get a beer and a hot dog. When you walk into Pro Player Stadium, you go get a Pina Colada and calamari."
Ba-dum-dum. Rich Donnelly, ladies and gentlemen. ...
But back to baseball. One final word: Don't assume that Yankee Stadium is the only stadium that can put its ghosts to use this time of year. Who knows when the ghost of Dan Marino, or Charlie Hough, or (gasp) Edgar Renteria might show up when those Bombers least expect it?
"I've seen that with my own eyes," Rich Donnelly swore. "I think the ghosts of the Marlins came back in '97 and took that bad hop on Tony Fernandez (just before Renteria's Series-ending hit). So all I can tell the Yankees is: They'd better be careful."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com