Today in Sports History: August 22nd

8/22/1965 - Marichal attacks Roseboro with bat

Of all the pitcher-batter altercations that have taken place in Major League Baseball, Juan Marichal's tussle with Johnny Roseboro is perhaps the most famous.

The San Francisco Giants were facing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park. Both teams sent future Hall of Famers to the mound: 1965 Cy Young winner Sandy Koufax for LA, and 22-game winner Juan Marichal for San Francisco.

Marichal was easy-going and calm demeanored off the field, but on the pitchers mound he was a flamethrower and didn't hesitate to throw at players' heads. In this game he had already thrown brush-back pitches to Maury Wills and Ron Fairly. Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro wanted Koufax to retaliate. But Koufax refused to beam him, so Roseboro decided to take action in the third inning.

"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."

Roseboro's return throw to Koufax nearly hit the Giant pitcher's face. Giants outfielder Willie Mays remarked, "It was the first time I ever saw a duster come from behind the plate." Marichal took exception and the two exchanged heated words. Marichal then wielded his bat and took a one-armed swipe at Roseboro's head, causing a two-inch gash at the top of his face.

"The next three men to arrive on the scene were Sandy Koufax, the Dodger pitcher who had just taken the return throw from Roseboro; Charlie Fox, the Giants' coach at third base, and Tito Fuentes, rookie Giants' shortstop who had been in the on-deck circle. Fuentes also was brandishing a bat, but he did not appear to be using it as a weapon. In the melee that followed within a few seconds, peacemaking seemed desperately urgent, and there didn't seem to be the usual taking of sides. Everyone seemed horrified by the nature of the attack and by the sight of blood streaming down Roseboro's face."

- Leonard Koppett, New York Times

Willie Mays hauled the bleeding Roseboro over to the Dodgers' dugout. The game was delayed 15 minutes as Marichal was eventually escorted out of the stadium. Marichal claimed that his attack on Roseboro was in self-defense. Roseboro's injuries were minor, only 14 stitches, but using the bat as a weapon could've caused far greater damage.

Marichal received a nine-game suspension and a $1750 fine. Many columnists thought the punishment wasn't severe enough. The Dodgers got hot late in the year and won 15 of their last 16 games to win the NL pennant by two games.

In an era of great pitching, Juan Marichal won more games in the 1960's than anybody else. Yet his culpability in one of the ugliest scenes in baseball overshadowed what was a tremendous career. It took the "Dominican Dandy" three tries to get into the Hall of Fame, and he only got in when Roseboro decided to pose with him at an old-timers game in 1982.

"There were no hard feelings on my part," said Roseboro, "and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with. Hey, over the years you learn to forget things."

The two eventually reconciled their differences and, like most professionals, became compadres. When Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal eulogized him at his funeral.

Further reading:

Crime and punishment: the Marichal-Roseboro incident

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