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Giants right-hander Juan Marichal turned the entire National League into “guess” hitters.
Marichal adhered to the same strategies that other top pitchers employed, he just did everything a little better. His stratospheric leg kick made him more deceptive than other pitchers and enabled him to hide the ball longer. His screwball gave him a broader repertoire of pitches. His multiple release points -- straight overhand, three-quarters and sidearm -- essentially broadened his variety of pitches.
“Once in a while, we looked for him to throw one between his legs,” Hall of Famer Frank Robinson said. “It wouldn’t have been surprising.”
The following is a top 10 list of games and events from the career of Marichal, who in 1983 became the first player born in the Dominican Republic to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
1. Sweet 16
July 2, 1963
Given the way pitchers are handled these days, it’s safe to say that there never will be a game like this again. Marichal and Milwaukee ace Warren Spahn, the starting pitchers on a typically blustery evening at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, maintained a scoreless tie for 15 innings. The Braves threatened to score in the fourth inning, but center fielder Willie Mays threw home to retire Norm Larker, who had broken from second base on Del Crandall’s single. The Giants wasted Harvey Kuenn’s leadoff double in the 14th. Two innings later, Marichal worried aloud that Giants manager Alvin Dark would remove him. “Don’t worry,” Mays said. “I’m going to win it for you.” Sure enough, Mays homered with one out in the 16th for the game’s lone run. Marichal allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out 10 in the game of his life.
2. Dynamic debut
July 19, 1960
In 1958, Marichal won 21 regular-season games at Class D Michigan City and two more in the playoffs. This prompted his Dominican countrymen to nickname him “Juan Vientitres,” since the pope at the time was John XXIII. Marichal won many believers in his Major League debut. He held the Phillies hitless until pinch-hitter Clay Dalrymple singled with two outs in the eighth inning, and finished with a one-hitter and a 2-0 victory. He walked one and struck out 12, serving notice that a new era had dawned for the Giants’ pitching staff. Proving this was no fluke, Marichal threw a complete-game four-hitter in his next start to beat Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix, 3-1, then went the distance in a return engagement against the Braves and Spahn to win, 3-2, in 10 innings.
3. Toughest when it counted most
It’s a measure of Marichal’s excellence that he performed at or near his best against the Giants’ chief rival: the Dodgers. He posted a 37-18 record and a 2.36 ERA against Los Angeles, with 10 shutouts in 63 starts. He eclipsed his .673 winning percentage against the Dodgers against only the Mets (.765), Cubs (.742) and Pirates (.692). Marichal was particularly dominant against the Dodgers at Candlestick, compiling a stunning 21-4 home record against them. His ability to subdue Los Angeles reinforced the Giants’ unshakable confidence in him. “We knew that it was ‘win’ day when he went out there,” said Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey, Marichal’s teammate from 1960-73.
4. From rancor to respect
Most fans know that Marichal used his bat to club Los Angeles catcher John Roseboro on the head during a particularly pressurized Giants-Dodgers game on Aug. 22, 1965. Fewer people probably realize that Marichal and Roseboro later settled their differences and forged a warm friendship. After Marichal fell short of election to baseball’s Hall of Fame in his first two appearances on the ballot, Roseboro campaigned for his enshrinement. That helped Marichal reach Cooperstown with 83.7 percent of the vote in his third try prior to his 1983 induction. Marichal served as an honorary pallbearer at Roseboro’s August 2002 funeral.
5. Repeat success
Sept. 30, 1971
The National League West-leading Giants entered the regular-season finale at San Diego leading the Dodgers by a game. Scheduled to start that night, Marichal felt certain that he would win. A victory would not only clinch the division title for San Francisco, it would improve his record to 18-11, the same mark he compiled when the Giants won the pennant in 1962. Sure enough, he pitched a five-hitter to subdue the Padres and help the Giants capture a 5-1 decision, along with the division crown.
6. All-time All-Star
Like his teammate Mays, Marichal was a superb All-Star competitor. He recorded an 0.50 ERA in eight games with a pair of victories, including in the 1965 Midsummer Classic at Minnesota, where he won the game’s Most Valuable Player Award. Marichal pitched three shutout innings and faced the minimum nine batters. He also singled and scored a run on Willie Stargell’s homer as the NL triumphed, 6-5. In 18 innings against the American League’s best hitters, Marichal allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out 12.
7. Colt .45s shoot blanks
June 15, 1963
The most remarkable aspect of Marichal’s no-hitter -- the first for the Giants in their West Coast history -- is that it wasn’t remarkable. It was the sixth victory of a nine-decision winning streak for Marichal, who fashioned a 1.90 ERA in the 12 games required to build this stretch. Coming off a satisfying seven-hit shutout at Dodger Stadium four days earlier, Marichal endured perceived duress against Houston, since the Giants didn’t score their only run until the eighth inning against Colt .45s starter Dick Drott. If this fazed Marichal, he didn’t show it. He finished the one-hour, 41-minute gem in dominant fashion by striking out the final two batters, enabling him to become the first Latin American Major Leaguer to achieve a no-hitter. Walks in the fifth and seventh innings separated him from a perfect game.
8. The groovy '60s
In the 1960s, Marichal maintained a prominent spot in the pantheon of masterly starting pitchers, an assemblage that featured Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale of the Dodgers and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals. Later in the decade, right-handers Tom Seaver of the Mets and Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs joined the group. Marichal led all pitchers with 191 victories in the decade and won more than 20 games six times in seven years (1963-69). That stretch included three seasons of 25-plus wins, making him and Koufax the only two Major League pitchers in the post-war era (1946-present) to record more than one 25-win campaign.
9. Another magnificent marathon
May 26, 1966
Marichal exceeded his own lofty standards to begin the 1966 season, winning his first 10 decisions. Victory No. 9 recalled his 16-inning showdown against Spahn. This time his mound opponent was Philadelphia right-hander Jim Bunning, also a future Hall of Famer. Bunning thrived against the Giants, blanking them on five hits for 10 innings, but he was no match for Marichal, who surrendered six hits and walked one in 14 innings. Marichal received his reward when Jim Davenport tripled with one out in the 14th and scored on Bob Barton’s sacrifice fly.
10. Final bow
Sept. 22, 1973
This is the date of Marichal’s 238th and final victory as a Giant, a 5-2 decision over the Padres. Naturally, it was a complete game. Blasphemously enough, scattered boos were audible after Marichal surrendered a pair of runs in the first inning. From there he limited the Padres to five hits, and held them hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. San Francisco backed Marichal with home runs by McCovey, Mike Phillips and Garry Maddox. A little more than two months later, Giants management sold Marichal to the Boston Red Sox.