Friday, August 22, 2008

On this date... Marichal vs. Roseboro

I almost let this day go by without talking about the infamous incident between Giants pitcher Juan Marichal and Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro, which happened on August 22, 1965.

The Dodgers and Giants began the day separated by just 1-1/2 games in the standings. The Giants were hosting the Dodgers in Candlestick Park, and the game promised to be a tense pitchers duel: Marichal (19-9) vs. Sandy Koufax (21-4). As the old cliche goes, these two teams just didn't like each other. In the bottom of the third, with the Dodgers leading 2-1, Marichal came to the plate to face Koufax. Earlier in the game, Marichal had knocked down two Dodger players. I'm going to let ESPN's page 2 tell the next part of the story:

"When Marichal came up to bat, I tried a knockdown from behind the plate, throwing the ball close to his nose when I returned it to the pitcher," recalled Roseboro. "I expected Marichal to attack me in some way. If he had said anything to me, I had studied karate, and I was ready to annihilate him."

The karate didn't help. When another of Roseboro's throws came too close to Marichal's ear, Marichal clubbed Roseboro on the head with his bat, opening up a two-inch gash that would require 14 stitches and starting a bench-clearing brawl that lasted 14 minutes. Marichal was handed an eight-game suspension and fined $1,750, a huge sum in those days.

Did the eight-game suspension hurt the Giants? The Giants went on to win that game to pull within a 1/2 game of the dodgers, but then they lost their next four games, including the August 26 game that would have been Marichal's next start. His next one after that would have been on August 31, which the Giants won. Marichal came back on September 2 and lost, 4-3. In the month of September overall, he went 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA, his second worst month of the season.

The Giants went on to lose the pennant to the Dodgers by 2 games, but that included a 14-game winning streak in September. Every loss they did suffer ended up very important to the Giants, so it's hard to blame the games Marichal missed for the loss of the pennant. The Dodgers pitching was just too strong to overcome.

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