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Awesome Men Throughout History: Juan Marichal

This week, Awesome Men Throughout History returns to baseball, mostly due to my perhaps foolish belief that it has finally stopped snowing and we can begin warm weather sports in earnest.

marichol1This week’s Awesome Man is Juan Marichal, who spent most of his career pitching for the San Francisco Giants, and also hit another player directly in the head with a bat. More on that later.

Marichal grew up on a farm in the Dominican Republic, and played what can only be called DIY baseball as a kid; since they didn’t have much money and lived in a rural area, they used wassama tree branches for bats, canvas tarps for gloves, and leather-wrapped golf balls. That’s hardcore.

Curiously, Marichal played with the Felipe, Jesús, and Matty Alou, who were all future Giants players alongside Marichal.

In any case, Marichal got good enough to be drafted to the United Fruit Company’s baseball team, which might be the most imperialistic thing I’ve ever written for TSB. From there, he was drafted to the Dominican Air Force’s baseball team, and entered America’s major league from there, debuting with an eight-inning-long no-hitter against Philadelphia.

Throughout his career, Marichal was known for his exceptional control over the ball, his ridiculous windup where he kicked his leg up high enough to hide his pitch from the batter, and his numerous strike outs and no-hitters. Hell, he struck out Hank Aaron. Not too many people can say that.

Marichal was partly responsible for the greatest game ever pitched, in which he and Milwaukee pitcher Warren Spahn threw a 16-inning no-hitter, with both men pitching a complete game. You’ll never see anything like that in MLB today.

Of course, that pesky bat thing is what most people remember about Marichal. Basically, he hit Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro in the head with a bat because one of Roseboro’s return throws grazed his ear at the plate. The incident turned into a 14-minute brawl, and Roseboro got 14 stitches for his trouble. Marichal was thrown out of the game and fined $1,750, then settled out of court with Roseboro for about $7,000. Oddly, the two became decent friends after that. Professional sports are weird sometimes.

I’ll leave you with two videos; the first is footage of Juan Marichal’s crazy windup, and the second is the Roseboro incident and the resulting brawl.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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