When he was signed out of the Dominican Air Force at age 19, high-kicking Juan Marichal already had pinpoint control of his curve, slider, screwball, and blinding fastball, all thrown with a variety of motions. He led the 1958 Midwest League and the 1959 Eastern League in wins and ERA. When he debuted with the Giants on July 19, 1960, he shut out the Phillies on one hit — Clay Dalrymple‘s eighth-inning pinch single. Four days later, he four-hit the World Championship-bound Pirates.
Marichal started the Giants toward their 1962 pennant by shutting out the Cardinals on Opening Day (Marichal eventually recorded six Opening Day victories, setting an NL mark). He was 18-8 in early September when he injured his foot; he missed several starts and lost his last three decisions. The Giants and Dodgers finished in a tie, forcing a playoff. Marichal started the deciding third game, but was behind when he reinjured the foot and had to be relieved in the eighth by eventual winner Don Larsen. He managed one start in the World Series, coming out after four shutout innings when he smashed his finger trying to bunt.
From 1962 through 1971, San Francisco averaged 90 wins per year, with Marichal averaging 20. He led the NL in wins in 1963 (25-8) and 1968 (26-9); in shutouts in 1965 (10) and 1969 (8); and in ERA in 1969 (2.10). A workhorse, he topped the league in innings pitched in 1963 and ’68 and in complete games in ’64 and ’68. Pitching in eight All-Star Games, he compiled a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings. On June 15, 1963, he no-hit Houston 1-0. That July 2, he beat Warren Spahn and the Braves 1-0 in 16 innings. Even without his best stuff, Marichal could pull out a victory, once blanking the Dodgers on 12 hits.
On August 22, 1965, Marichal faced Sandy Koufax at Candlestick Park in the heat of a tight pennant race. The Giants and Dodgers had come close to a brawl two days earlier over catcher’s interference calls. Los Angeles’s Maury Wills had allegedly tipped Tom Haller‘s mitt with his bat on purpose, and Marichal’s best friend, Matty Alou, retaliated by tipping John Roseboro’s face mask. Roseboro nearly beaned Alou with his return throw to the mound. In the August 22 game, Marichal had flattened Wills and Ron Fairly with pitches when Roseboro purportedly asked Koufax to hit Marichal. When Koufax refused, Roseboro’s return throw came close to Marichal’s head. Name-calling ensued, until Roseboro suddenly ripped off his mask and stood up. Marichal rapped the catcher on the head with his bat. What followed was one of the most violent brawls in major league history. Willie Mays led away Roseboro, who had suffered a concussion, while Dodger Bob Miller tackled Marichal, Alou slugged Miller, and Tito Fuentes menaced the Dodgers with his bat. Roseboro sued Marichal, but eventually dropped the suit. Marichal was fined $1750, was suspended for a week, and missed two starts as the Giants finished two games behind the Dodgers. Years later, Marichal said, “I feel sorry that I used the bat.”
In the spring of 1970, Marichal suffered a severe reaction to penicillin that led to chronic arthritis and a back injury when he tried to return too soon. Having lost much of his former stuff, he pitched with guile. He won 18 for the Giants in 1971, including the division clincher on the last night of the season. After going 6-16 in 1972 and 11-15 in 1973, he was sold to the Red Sox, and managed a 5-1 record in spot starts. After he was released, he tried to catch on with the Dodgers, of all teams, in 1975. Roseboro asked Los Angeles fans to support Marichal; they did, but Marichal, ineffective in two starts, retired. Also retired, by the Giants, was Marichal’s number 27. When the Dominican was not named to the Hall of Fame in his first two years of eligibility, Roseboro campaigned for his election, and received a special thanks at Marichal’s induction ceremony in 1983.