Muhammad Ali was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday to commemorate the first game at the Miami Marlins' new stadium, but the decision has drawn criticism.
Ali, who suffers from the effects of Parkinson's Disease, rode onto the field on a golf cart from the stadium's center field entrance alongside team owner Jeffrey Loria. But cheers from the sold-out crowd of 36,601 quickly turned to silence when the symptoms of the 70-year-old boxing legend's deteriorating health became evident.
The three-time heavyweight champion, who trained for years at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami Beach, struggled to acknowledge the crowd and was physically unable to throw out the pitch.
"It was uncomfortable," Fox Sports' writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted of the distressing scene. "And I think unnecessary."
Deadspin was even more frank in a post titled: "The Marlins Opened Their New Stadium In The Saddest, Most Awkward Way Possible."
"The opening of Marlins Park started off with a parade of showgirls and Jose Feliciano singing the National Anthem," Erik Malinowski wrote. "It ended with the sad, shameless sight of Loria trotting out Ali's disease-ravaged body for a forced on-field ceremony. Happy Opening Day, everyone." "Muhammad Ali is already GOAT, of course," added Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News, "but how much could he add to his legend by KO'ing Jeffrey Loria? I say he'd double it."