Monday, July 2, 2012

Marichal, Spahn, and 16-Inning Complete Games: 2 July 1963 Revisited





Today marks the 49th anniversary of one of the most remarkable games in major league history, the famous 16-inning duel between Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves at Candlestick Park, won 1-0 by the Giants on a walk-off home run by the great Willie Mays, who in the fourth inning had preserved the Dominican's shutout by gunning down Norm Larker at the plate.

No fewer than seven future Hall-of-Famers played in this game — Mays, Marichal, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda for the Giants; Henry Aaron, Spahn, and Eddie Mathews for the Braves; an eighth, Gaylord Perry, remained salivating, as it were, on the Giants' bench.  It remains the last time any two pitchers have pitched 15 shutout innings in the same game.  Some — Jim Kaplan, for instance — consider it to be  "The Greatest Game Ever Pitched."  Though some, including yours truly, might demur — I still consider the 1965 Sandy Koufax perfect game against the one-hitting Bob Hendley to deserve that accolade — it is surely a set of performances the likes of which we will never again witness.




Game Played on Tuesday, July 2, 1963 (N) at Candlestick Park

MIL N    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  -   0  8  1
SF  N    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    1  -   1  9  1
 
BATTING
Milwaukee Braves             AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
Maye lf                       6   0   0   0       1   0       3   0
Bolling 2b                    7   0   2   0       0   0       3   4
H. Aaron rf                   6   0   0   0       1   1       3   0
Mathews 3b                    2   0   0   0       0   2       0   0
  Menke 3b                    5   0   2   0       0   1       1   1
Larker 1b                     5   0   0   0       2   0      14   4
Jones cf                      5   0   1   0       0   2       7   0
  Dillard ph,cf               1   0   0   0       0   1       3   0
Crandall c                    6   0   2   0       0   0       5   0
McMillan ss                   6   0   0   0       0   0       4   7
Spahn p                       6   0   1   0       0   3       3   4
Totals                       55   0   8   0       4  10      46  20

FIELDING - 
E: Menke (12).
BATTING - 
2B: Spahn (3,off Marichal).
Team LOB: 11.
BASERUNNING - 
SB: Maye (5,2nd base off Marichal/Bailey); Menke (1,2nd base off Marichal/Bailey).
CS: Crandall (1,2nd base by Marichal/Bailey).

San Francisco Giants         AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
Kuenn 3b                      7   0   1   0       0   0       5   2
Mays cf                       6   1   1   1       1   1       3   1
McCovey lf                    6   0   1   0       0   0       4   0
F. Alou rf                    6   0   1   0       0   0       5   0
Cepeda 1b                     6   0   2   0       0   0      15   1
Bailey c                      6   0   1   0       0   0      12   1
Pagan ss                      2   0   0   0       0   0       1   1
  Davenport ph                1   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
  Bowman ss                   3   0   2   0       0   0       0   2
Hiller 2b                     6   0   0   0       0   0       2   2
Marichal p                    6   0   0   0       0   1       1   3
Totals                       55   1   9   1       1   2      48  13

FIELDING - 
E: Kuenn (5).

BATTING - 
2B: Kuenn (6,off Spahn).
HR: Mays (15,16th inning off Spahn 0 on 1 out).
IBB: Mays (2,by Spahn).
Team LOB: 9.

BASERUNNING - 
SB: Cepeda (2,2nd base off Spahn/Crandall).

PITCHING 
Milwaukee Braves             IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR BFP
Spahn L(11-4)                15.1   9   1   1   1   2   1  56
IBB: Spahn (2,Mays).
San Francisco Giants         IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR BFP
Marichal W(13-3)             16     8   0   0   4  10   0  59

Umpires: HP - Ken Burkhart, 1B - Chris Pelekoudas, 2B - Frank Walsh, 3B - Jocko Conlan
Time of Game: 4:10   Attendance: 15921

(Box Score @http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1963/B07020SFN1963.htm)


The reason I can confidently state this is the staggering pitch count totals amassed by Spahn and Marichal, which serve as pointers to the measures of these aces.  Mays hit his homer on Spahn's 201st pitch.  Marichal, more of a strikeout pitcher and, on this day, wilder than usual (if one wants to call 4 walks in 16 innings "wild"), threw 227 pitches, and was harder to hit in extra innings than he was earlier in the game.  And this from pitchers who regularly worked on just three days rest!

In today's game, pitchers work on four days rest, and hurlers who manage to pitch 220 innings in a season are considered "workhorses."  Roy Halladay, today's premier workhorse, has pitched more than 250 innings just twice in his 15-year career, with a high of 266 innings in his 2003 Cy Young campaign.  In 1963, the 42-year old Spahn, whom I consider the greatest southpaw ever to play the game, pitched 259.2 innings, the 16th time in 17 seasons in which he threw more than 250, the lone exception being 1955, when he threw "only" 245.2.  In those 17 seasons, Spahn won 20 or more games a staggering 13 times.  In 1963, Spahn went 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA, but was "only" the third-best pitcher in the league.

Marichal, on the other hand, was a youthful 25 on his way to the first of six 20-win seasons in the next seven years.  In 1963 he logged 321.1 innings and completed 18 of his 40 starts on his way to a 25-8 record and 2.41 ERA.  His durability during his prime seasons should be more legenday than it is.  From 1962-71, Marichal threw more than 250 innings every year except for 1967, when hamstring and thigh injuries limited him to 14 victories and 202.1 innings, and 1970, when an adverse reaction to penicillin hampered his effectiveness.  Three times (1963, 1966, 1968) he logged more than 300 innings, missing a fourth in 1969 by a mere 1/3 of an inning.  For his career he completed 244 of the 457 games he started.  In 1968-69, he completed 57 of his 75 starts, including 13 shutouts.  These are numbers simply unimaginable in the baseball of 2012.

Marichal is one of the most underappreciated stars in major league history.  When great pitchers from the 1960s are mentioned, one usually hears the names of Koufax and Gibson, and sometimes even Don Drysdale, mentioned before Marichal's.  Koufax, of course, was the best pitcher of his era — the best pitcher I have ever seen and only rivaled by the Lefty Grove of 1928-33 for short-term dominance.  Gibson, apart from his immortal 1968 season, was great but not nearly at Marichal's level of sustained excellence.  Drysdale, good as he was, does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the other three.  Consider these numbers.  Marichal won 25 or more games three times in a six year period (1963, 1966, 1968).  His 191 victories in the 1960s led MLB.  From 1963-1969, Marichal had a record of 154-65 (22.0-9.3 per season) with a 2.30 ERA, 1505 strikeouts (215 per season), 164 complete games, and 38 shutouts.  He tossed a no-hitter in 1963, led the league in ERA in 1969 and in shutouts in both 1965 (with 10!) and 1969.  From 1962-66 he actually won as many games as Koufax (111), and from 1963-66, Koufax's best seasons, Marichal's 93-35 record, 2.31 ERA and 916 strikeouts are only marginally less impressive than Koufax's other-wordly 97-27 record, 1.86 ERA, and 1228 strikeouts.  Of course, the shadow of John Roseboro looms over Marichal's resume, but that regrettable incident should have no bearing on objective evaluations of his career.

I am aware of the changes MLB has undergone in the intervening decades.  I know the bandbox craze initiated by Baltimore's Camden Yards has proceeded unabated, not least in the otherwise admirable Citizen's Bank Park in Philly and the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  I know about changes in bat technology that have enabled players to wield weapons two ounces lighter than they did back in 1963.  I know the more consistent calling of the high strike in that era allowed pitchers to use the high heat in a way they never could in today's game of rogue umpires who refuse to call the game by the book.

Nonetheless, something is clearly wrong.  Hall-of-Famer Joe Morgan has criticised the now-sacrosanct five-man rotation.  Hall-of-Fame pitchers from Ferguson Jenkins to Nolan Ryan, the latter of whom once threw 244 pitches in a 15-inning game back in 1971, have gone on record criticising the obsessive emphasis on pitch counts that burdens games with scores of relief pitchers who never would have made the team back when they pitched.  When I read fan comments about how "overuse" by the (implied) abusive Charlie Manuel is the cause of Halladay's back and shoulder issues this season, I can only shake my head at their lack of historical perspective and capitulation to unproven conventional wisdom.


Those of us who love baseball and its glorious history, however, can reminisce fondly about games such as the one played in San Francisco on 2 July 1963.  Spahn is long gone, having succumbed to cancer back in 2003.  Marichal, "the Dominican Dandy," is now 74.  The two greatest National Leaguers who ever played, Mays and Aaron, who went 1 for a combined 12 that night, are now 81 and 78, respectively.  Time marches on for us all.  But I will always remember these legends as they were in their prime and my youth, itself but a distant memory.



The heroes that night, Juan Marichal (l)
and the incomparable Willie Mays (r)




1964 Topps Card: Still true,
all these many years later



2 comments:

  1. Spahn was once interviewed in the 1990s during a televised baseball game. He was asked the inevitable question: "How do you feel about the incredible salaries players make these days?" Sphan replied, "I'm an old man and I'll be dead soon. I don't care about the money, I just wish I were young again so I could be down on the field playing. It was so much fun!" How cool is that?

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