#280 Juan Marichal
Not the nicest card I have, but hey, it’s the real deal and it’s a Hall of Famer. Marichal was still relatively young at this time, and this was really the first card of his after he became a superstar. Mine is a little faded, has soft corners, and is creased slightly in the upper left. Probably a VG-EX, but certainly no worse than VG. SMR lists a NM example for $30.
The trivia question asks what big leaguer also plays basketball. While I’m sure many guys played basketball in their spare time, the only one who spent his MLB offseason playing in the NBA was Gene Conley, who averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds per game in his career, which ran concurrently with his baseball career from 1958-64.
Juan Marichal was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the 1960s. Despite pitching in a dead-ball era, he sported a 2.46 ERA and 141 ERA+ during his eight prime years from 1962 through ’69. His lone no-hitter came in 1963 against Houston, but his most famous start was probably another 1963 game in which he threw a 16-inning complete game shutout against Warren Spahn and the Braves. Willie Mays homered in the bottom of the 16th to win the game 1-0. Spahn also went the distance for Milwaukee. He spent 14 seasons with the Giants before moving on to brief stints with the Red Sox and Dodgers to end his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Marichal’s best year on the mound was probably 1966, when he was 25-6 with a 2.23 ERA and a league-leading 0.86 WHIP. He also led the league witha 6.17 K/BB ratio, helped primarily by his miniscule walk rate of 1.1/9. He led the league in walk rate four times, and also led the league in K/BB rate three times. He consistently was in the top 10 in the league in strikeouts. His career ERA+ of 123 ranks 85th all-time. Nine of the 10 pitchers listed as his most similar on Baseball Reference are HOFers (Kevin Brown being the lone exception).
Marichal and Sandy Koufax are the only two players to win more than 25 games more than once since World War II. They each did it three times. Marichal also won more games that any other pitcher in the 1960s.
Despite all of this, he never won a Cy Young Award. Koufax overshadowed him for the first half of the decade, and Bob Gibson did for the last half. 1970 was the first time that writers voted for more than one person in Cy Young voting, which was after Juan’s prime. He did finish eighth in the voting in 1971.
But what Juan Marichal will always be remembered for happened on August 22, 1965, when Marichal took issue with Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro’s return throws to Sandy Koufax while batting. Juan thought Roseboro was throwing the ball close to his head on purpose because he had knocked a couple of Dodgers down while pitching earlier in the game. One thing led to another, and Marichal was clubbing Roseboro over the head with his bat. This is the sort of thing that, if it happened today, would probably lead to Marichal being suspended for a year.
The incident led to a massive brawl between the two teams, and Roseboro’s head was cut open from the attack. Marichal was suspended for just nine days but also banned from appearing at Dodger Stadium for their last series of the year there. Roseboro would end up suing Marichal but they became friends years later. In fact, Marichal was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame after four years of eligibility largely because Roseboro lobbied on his behalf.