April 13, 2021

A Real Dandy

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Juan Marichal won more games than anyone in the 1960s. That’s some accomplishment for the “Dominican Dandy” who began playing ball using branches for bats and socks wrapped around golf balls for baseballs. “We just loved the game so much that, as a kid, anywhere you saw other kids playing, you wanted to be there,” Marichal said (16, Juan.)

Read “Juan Marichal: My Journey from the Dominican Republic to Cooperstown” with Lew Freedman because:

1. The “Dominican Dandy” paved the way for many of today’s stars.

Blacks weren’t the only ones waiting for the color barrier to be lifted. Latinos rejoiced when Marichal, Roberto Clemente and the Alous burst through the ranks. It wasn’t easy. Marichal remembers entering restaurants through the kitchen, so as not to cause a stir among other patrons Sometimes he and his Latino teammates had to eat on the bus. Nowadays, one in four ballplayers is Latino. The most Marichal ever made was $140,000. Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and scores of others make tens of millions, thanks to Marichal and peers opening the door. These days, Marichal counts presidents as friends, and Clemente receives honor every time Major League Baseball presents its sportsmanship award that bears his name.

2. Marichal is unusually candid.

The Hall of Famer Giants hurler suffered homesickness in a bad way. “When I left the Dominican Republic, I brought a lot of records with me,” he said. “All of the Latin players listened to [them]. But after a while, it got too hard. The music was supposed to help me, but it made me more homesick. There was a story going around that I broke all the records on purpose, but I didn’t. I gave them away.” (36)

On the subject of complete games, he has this to say: “One thing I don’t understand about this modern era of pitching is how starters never throw complete games, even just nine innings. They go out to the mound and pitch six innings and call it a “quality start.” “…Would you believe in 1968 I had 30 complete games? That was our job. Can you believe a closer in today’s game? He comes out, and let’s say he makes one pitch. He gets credit for the save. And those guys get a ton of money… When they announce someone is going to pitch on three days’ rest, they make a big deal out of it. I did it for 16 years.” (99-100)

3. Anything is possible if you believe.

Despite the fact that he was reared in baseball, Marichal didn’t pay much attention to the Majors growing up. His main aspiration was to pitch for the Dominican National team. Years later, on July 19, 1960, at 22 years old, he threw a one-hitter in his first big-league start. Marichal ended his career with 243 victories, the most by a Latin American hurler until Dennis Martinez totaled 245 in 1998. Martinez, however, played for parts of 23 seasons, Marichal 16. Martinez pitched 200 games more than Marichal. Marichal and Sandy Koufax are the only two hurlers to win more than 25 games twice since World War II. What’s more, from 1961 to 1965, as Koufax captivated the nation with 84 victories, Marichal surpassed him. Marichal won 86 games in the same span.

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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