Friday, February 10, 2012

#330 - Juan Marichal

As far as final cards go this one is about as good as any I've seen. How many icons get to go out with their most visual trademark? Juan Marichal is still kicking high at age 35 at Candlestick even when there's just one fan in the stands. I had always thought his kick was a big power move but on researching this post I found that it was basically a ploy: he did it so everyone would concentrate on his leg and not see what pitch was coming. Pretty clever guy. The other iconic shot of Juan was his braining of Johnny Roseboro in '65. It was a pretty scary shot with Marichal's bat raised high above his head and ready to come down again on an already bleeding Dodgers catcher. It was sort of a milestone moment in Juan's career and after it a lot of people became non-fans despite his pretty amazing numbers. The incident probably delayed his induction into the Hall for a few years until Roseboro himself had to vet him as a good guy. Pretty noble of John - I am pretty sure I wouldn't be that forgiving of someone who hit me over the head multiple times.

There is a lot going on with this post. Not only is it an action shot of a player's final card, but it also represents the halfway point in the set. On top of that there is a Traded card. And this one is special because until recently - RIP Ron Santo - it represented the only one of an HOF player. So it's the only one that claimed any real value. And this Traded card is pretty good. The artist really didn't have to do anything and Juan is smiling on a sunny day. No biggie moving to the AL.

Juan Marichal came out of the Dominican Republic where in high school he was a shortstop until his junior year when a far-sighted coach had him take the mound. He already had a fastball back then and quickly added a curve. He then played ball for a team run by the dictator's son before being signed by the Giants in '57. That year he went 21-8 in D ball with 256 strikeouts and only 50 walks in 245 innings, with a 1.87 ERA. He spent '58 in A ball, going 18-13 with a 2.39 ERA and almost as good a K to BB ratio. During that season he picked up a change-up and slider to add to his retinue. He moved to Triple A in '60, taught himself a screwball, and went 11-5 before being called up that July. So before he even hit the bigs Juan was armed with five pitches he could throw for strikes. And the big kick.

Marichal had as good a first game as almost anyone, giving up one late hit in a start against the Phillies while striking out twelve. In '61 he won 13 despite missing three weeks late in the season with a leg injury. During '62 spring training he took off to get married and then returned to win 18 and help pitch the Giants to the Series. Then came the fireworks. Discounting '67 when a leg injury had him miss about 12 starts, for the years '63 to '69 Juan averaged 23 wins, nine losses, and a 2.30 ERA. And zero Cy Young's. Juan's big years always happened when someone else's did so he kept getting shut out. But he did make the All-Star team every year from '62 to '69. In spring training in 1970 Juan got sick and was given a shot of penicillin to which he had a horrible reaction and had to be hospitalized the next ten days. It turned out he suffered a bad allergic reaction and it affected his full season in a negative way. In '71 he had a nice bounce and was told he would pitch the division-winning last game of the season which he won 5-1. He lost his only playoff start to Pittsburgh even though he only gave up two runs. Then '72 and '73 were further impacted by the allergic reaction - he was developing arthritis and had to take regular cortisone shots to control it - and probably age. By the time he was sold to the Red Sox after the '73 season all his boys in SF had left and he expected the sale because there were strong rumours that owner Horace Stoneham was running out of money.

After the trade Marichal would go 5-1 in limited work in Boston but with an ERA that approached 5.00. At the end of the season he was released and signed with the Dodgers but after a couple lame starts he retired. Juan finished with a record of 243-143 with an ERA of 2.89, 52 shutouts, and 244 complete games. He won two victory titles, an ERA title, and led the NL in shutouts and complete games twice each. He pitched in a total nine All-star games and went 0-1 in the post-season with a 1.50 ERA, two walks, and ten strikeouts in 12 innings over two starts. After playing he did some scouting and by the early Eighties was the Oakland director of scouting in the DR. He left that to become Minister of Sports for his home country from 1996 to 2000. In '98 he was involved in a nasty car crash - he was not driving - that left him hospitalized for a while. The silver lining there was that he got a good doctor that prescribed rehab work for his arm and shoulder and within a few months he had more mobility in his pitching arm than he'd had in years. In the late '80's and early '90's he also did some Spanish-language broadcasting for various stations. He was elected to the Hall in '83 and since 2000 has been mostly retired.

On the regular card back we get one good star bullet and one obvious one. I like the cartoon. He would also eventually have a son. When I was growing up most of my friends that were dogs with women ended up having daughters as a sort of kharmic payback. If that theory holds water Juan must have been quite an operator.

Topps gets pretty creative with this Traded card. Check out that headline. Plus that first sentence is pretty good. They don't attribute the quote to anyone but it is a pretty interesting one in that back then Boston regularly came in second place and in '72 only missed first by half a game. But I guess that's losing. In any case Juan wasn't the guy to get them over the top. That would be that other colorful Spanish-speaking pitcher on their staff with a unique motion.

So to catch up on music news for this month there are only a couple items. In '73 a new Number One song hit in the States. "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John would be the first chart topper of his career (that's pretty surprising) and was taken from his album "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player." That album also produced the hit "Daniel." In '74 on the 7th Barry White won the first four of what would be many gold records. Barry was a big deal that year, charting as both a solo guy and with his Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece band. His golds were for "Never Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Stone Gon'" (solo) and "Love Theme" and the album "Under the Influence of Love Unlimited" (with the orchestra).

I guess Marichal pitched against Belanger a bit in '74 but outside of that their careers never crossed:

1. Marichal and Lindy McDaniel '66 to '68 Giants;
2. McDaniel and Curt Blefary '70 Yankees;
3. Blefary and Belanger '67 to '68 Orioles.

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