Marshall wanted to play regularly when he signed with the Phillies, and spent four years in their system as a shortstop. But three seasons of league-leading marks in errors and a chronic back problem forced him to the mound. He wound up getting into more games as a relief pitcher than he probably would have as a shortstop. He set single-season records for relief appearances in both the National and American Leagues. “At times with the Dodgers I would have to crawl into the trainer’s room,” he said. He would twist and turn me to get my back in shape to pitch that day.
Marshall earned three degrees at Michigan State, including a Ph.D. in kinesiology. He made his own decisions as to his training and pitching methods and was much disliked by his teammates, who saw him as an egomaniacal individualist who looked down upon them and would not take advice, but always had plenty to give. He clashed with many of his managers, who saw him as a smart-aleck college boy. Those disagreements slowed his progress, and resulted in many of his nine organization changes. Among other things, he believed in long-distance running for pitchers instead of wind sprints, and that by properly training specific muscles, a pitcher can throw every day. His screwball was his most effective pitch; he publicly complained about some of his managers and pitching coaches who didn’t want him to use it. In 1969 Pilots manager Joe Schultz objected to Marshall’s unorthodox pickoff move (he turned clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise), but it worked for Marshall. He was sold to Houston after the season.
Marshall finally found a home in Montreal, managed by an accepting Gene Mauch. He saved 23 games in 1971, and in 1972 led the NL with 65 appearances and 14 relief wins. In working a ML-record 92 games in 1973, he led in saves (31) and in relief wins and losses (14-11), and was named NL Fireman of the Year.
Afraid that Marshall had thrown too much, and in need of a centerfielder, the Expos traded him to the Dodgers for Willie Davis. Marshall helped L.A. to the 1974 pennant. He broke his own mark with 106 appearances, and established ML records for most relief innings pitched (208) and most consecutive games pitched in a season (13). In postseason play, he allowed one run in 12 innings, and became the first pitcher to finish every game of a World Series. He again was named NL Fireman of the Year, and became the first reliever to win a Cy Young Award.
Marshall’s theories fell through in 1975, when he was beset by injuries. He lost 14 in relief to set a since-broken NL mark, and in 1976 was traded to Atlanta. There he was once suspended for refusing to suit up for a game after voicing objections to his handling by manager Dave Bristol. He continued to have injury and personal problems until the Twins, managed by Gene Mauch, took a chance on the free agent in May 1978. Marshall shared the 1979 AL Fireman of the Year Award with Jim Kern, worked a AL-record 90 games, saved a league-high 32 games, and lost 14 games in relief to tie an AL record. But Mauch felt Marshall’s vociferous involvement with the Players Association in 1980, when a strike was threatened, was affecting his pitching. Let go on June 6, Marshall filed a grievance, contending he was released because of his union activities. He made a final stop with the 1981 Mets, and retired among the all-time leaders in saves (188) and relief wins (92).