The foots up in your face, and that’s bad. Then he comes through like a fullback charging. He lunges off the hill. Sometimes he even stumbles from the force of his delivery. With all that confusion of motion it’s a problem seeing the ball. But his control is a bigger thing. He can throw all day within a two-inch space, in, out, up or down. I’ve never seen anyone as good as that. — Hank Aaron describing Juan Marichal
Juan Antonio Marichal Sánchez began baffling hitters the first time he stepped foot on a major league pitchers mound literally.
“Most youngsters, starting out, copy some pitcher,” former MLB pitcher and then Giants farm system coordinator Carl Hubbell told the AP in 1960, “but Marichal doesn’t look like anybody I’ve seen, except Marichal.”
A native of the Dominican Republic, Marichal had everyone in awe – scouts, coaches, managers and players alike. It was scout Ignacio Martinez who recommended the teenage youngster to the Giants. It didn’t take Marichal long to earn promotions. He accelerated through the farm system, showing consistency and maturity at every level. Hubbell was amazed at the pitchers abilities, given his limited experience he needed no direction.
Two years after signing a professional contract, that included a modest $500 bonus, Marichal was plucked from the Giants Triple A affiliate in Tacoma in July 1960. The pitcher was enjoying an 11-5 season in the Pacific Coast League while leading all pitchers in strikeouts with 124. The 21-year old, who would later be nicknamed “The Dominican Dandy,” made his debut against the Philadelphia Phillies at Candlestick Park in front of 13,279 fans.
Marichal carved up the Phillies. For six innings he retired batter after batter, in what appeared to be an effortless performance. Marichal mowed down the lead-off hitter in the seventh, extending his streak to 19 straight batters retired when Tony Taylor, the Phillies second baseman stepped in.
Taylor ripped a ground ball through the middle of the infield. Giants shortstop Ed Bressoud fielded the ball in front of the second base bag, but failed to get off a throw, mishandling the ground ball. The perfect gave was over but the no-hitter remained intact when the official scorer at Candlestick ruled the play an error on Bressoud. When the scoring was posted on the scoreboard the small but raucous crowd roared in approval.
After two were out Marichal uncorked a wild pitch, advancing Taylor to second. He then walked Phillies first baseman Pancho Herrera. With two out and two men on, Marichal challenged right fielder Ken Walters with a fastball. Walter drove a deep fly to center field. It most parks it would have been an extra base hit, but not here, not with Willie Mays roaming the outfield. Mays tracked it down for the final out, keeping the no-hitter intact.
The no-hit bid was snapped on the first pitch of the eighth inning, when Phillies pinch hitter Clay Dalrymple delivered a clean single to center field. The crowd applauded Marichal as if he had pitched a no-hitter. It would be the only hit the Phillies would muster that night.
Giants manager Tom Sheehan told The Sporting News later, “He (Marichal) isn’t afraid to put the ball over the plate,” said Sheehan, “thus he won’t beat himself by walking men … he has more pitching sense than anybody I’ve seen around here.”
Marichal was sensational, retiring the first 19 batters he faced, striking out 12 and allowing one hit in a complete game 2-0 shutout over the Phillies. The game was over and done in two hours and seven minutes. It marked the first time in 60 years that a National League pitcher debuted with a one-hitter.
At age 21, already, Marichal showed the presence and command of a veteran pitcher, mixing his three best pitches – a fastball, curve and change-up – to keep batters off-balance and frustrated.
Marichal’s momentum carried into his next start against the Pirates, four days later. He shutout Pittsburgh through six innings before finally being scored on in a 3-1 win by the Giants. But Marichal had pitched back-to-back complete games in his first two starts and would go on to compile a 6-2 record and 2.66 ERA in 11 starts in 1960.
Marichal went on to win 243 games in 16 major league seasons, including six 20-win seasons, 244 complete games, 2,303 strikeouts and nine All-Star appearances (1965 MVP), one no-hitter (1963), and was named to nine All-Star teams. From beginning to end Marichal was truly a dandy.