The 1960’s was dominated with great pitchers such as Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn. The San Francisco Giants had their own great pitcher in Juan Marichal. Though the Giants only went to the World Series once during his time with the organization, he still dominated day in and day out. This is his story.
Juan Marichal was born on October 20, 1937 in Laguna Verde, Dominican Republic. Marichal had a rough childhood with his father passing away when he was three and never having electricity in his house. But the food was plentiful on the family farm and the boy soon grew into an excellent ballplayer. He and his friends would find golf balls and pay the local shoemaker one peso to sew thick cloth around the ball to make it just the right size.
When he was 16, Marichal joined a summer league in Monte Cristi, playing for the Las Flores. Originally a shortstop, he switched to pitcher later that year and by 1956 he quit high school to play for the United Fruit Company.
Early Pro Career
He was discovered by Ramfis Trujillo, the son of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Trujillo was the primary sponsor of the Dominican Air Force Baseball Team and signed Marichal to join his squad as well as the Dominican Air Force. By 1960, Juan Marichal was in the major leagues, signed by the San Francisco Giants, becoming just the second player from the Dominican Republic to play in the major leagues. In his first game, against the Philadelphia Phillies, he had a no hitter going into the eighth inning but it was spoiled by a two-out single from Clay Darymple.
By the end of his rookie year, Juan Marichal had won six games and lost two with a 2.66 ERA. The following year, he won 13 games and lost 10 with a 3.89 ERA. In 1962, Marichal won 18 games and had an ERA of 3.36 and earned his first All-Star appearance. At the end of the year, the Giants won the National League and made it to the World Series for the first time since their move to San Francisco. In his only World Series appearance in Game 4, Juan Marichal pitched in four innings and surrendered two hits while striking out four in a 7-3 Giants victory. The Giants ultimately lost to the New York Yankees in seven games, ending Marichal’s one great chance at becoming a world champion.
Throughout his career, Juan Marichal became known for his high leg kick right before his release of the pitch. This gave him the necessary leverage that he needed to dominate throughout the 1960’s. From 1963 through 1968 he was named an All-Star. By 1963, he led the league with 25 wins while posting a 2.41 ERA. He would win 21 or more games in each of the next three years.
Two events happened during 1963 that would define his greatness. The first even happened on June 15 when he pitched a 1-0 complete game shutout against the Houston Colt .45s. The second event happened on July 2, 1963 at Candlestick Park, Marichal pitched against Warren Spahn and the Milwaukee Braves in one of the greatest pitched games ever played. Both pitchers went more than 15 innings, something that has not been done before or since.
During Marichal’s 16 innings, he allowed eight hits and struck out 10. On the other side, Spahn surrendered nine hits in 15 1/3 innings and striking out two. The game was scoreless until Willie Mays hit a home run in the 16th inning to win the game 1-0. In 1965, he won 22 games and posted a personal best 2.13 ERA and led the league with 10 complete game shutouts. But while 1965 was a good year for Marichal, there was an incident that threatened to ruin his career. On August 22, 1965 at Candlestick Park in front of more than 42,000, Marichal battled the Dodgers for the division lead. It was an intense game with both pitchers throwing very close to the batters, trying to gain any mental edge they could get.
In the second inning, Marichal had thrown at Dodgers catcher John Roseboro. He remembered that and in the next inning with Marichal leading off, Roseboro caught a Sandy Koufax strike and threw close to Marichal's face. Juan Marichal was furious and in the midst of the scuffle clubbed Roseboro over the head with his bat. Both benches immediatley cleared and Roseboro would not back down, trying in vain to get back at Marichal.
Eventually, the chaos died down and the Giants went on to win the heated contest 4-3. Both players left the game with Marichal getting ejected and Roseboro needing 14 stitches. Marichal was suspended for 10 games (or eight game days due to double headers) and Roseboro missed the next two games. Marichal issued a public apology the next day and both players went on with their careers. Both made amends and when Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal was a pallbearer and a speaker at the funeral.
In 1968, he led the league with 26 wins while completing 30 games and posting a 2.43 ERA. The following year he won 21 games and led the major leagues with a 2.10 ERA and eight complete game shutouts.
After years of dominance, Juan Marichal suffered a rare sup-par year in 1970, posting a 4.12 ERA while winning just 12 games and missing the All-Star Game for the first time in eight years. He rebounded in 1971 with 18 wins, a 2.94 ERA and his last All-Star Game. From there, his ERA dipped from 3.71 in 1972 to 3.82 in 1973. The Giants released him after going 11-15 in 1973 and Marichal then signed with the Boston Red Sox.
At 36, Juan Marichal was not the great player that he once was. In his lone year in Boston, he won five games and lost one with a 4.87 ERA. The following year, he appeared in two games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, never winning a game and losing one while posting a ghastly 13.50 ERA. He retired after the season. Juan Marichal’s number was retired by the Giants in 1975 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.