|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
April 19, 1973 Montreal Expos
by Ted Blackman
April 19, 1973
Miek Marshall used his last two licks in batting practice to make a point that's already been proved beyond doubt--it's only a wedge to right field with the wind at Jarry Park.  He lofted a pair of Jerry Zimmerman's pitches over the wall with a soft fly-ball swing and left the cage with a tight smile.
"Got five minutes, Mike?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"Well, they were booing Frank Mahovlich last night and I guess it's your turn soon."
"What do you mean, SOON?"
He was right.  Not quite two weeks, or one-sixteenth of the National League season has been completed and the boo-birds have been hovering in lazy circles, certain that last year's MVP is in mid-tumble.  The French-language tabloids are now suggesting Jim Fanning should have traded Marshall "while he still had some value."
By popular opinion, the man who won 14 and saved 18 with an earned run average of 1.78 is through.  Fanning couldn't get one of John Bateman's personal cheques for him today.  Five games he's pitched and the results are one save, no wins, two losses and a fat earned run average of 8.78.
If those statistics sound familiar, they should be--at this time last year, Mike Marshall had allowed 22 hits and 18 walks in 20 innings.
"Worried?" Marshall said.  "Not in the slightest.  Maybe if someone was tagging me, yes, but a windblown fly ball for a homer, a bases-loaded walk on a strike pitch that someone called a ball, a couple of bloopers that drop three feet beyond the shortstop's reach  ... I don't think my pitching's been as bad as some suggest."
What about the booing then, the quick desertion of his fickle admirers?
"I can't help it if people don't understand," he said.  "You know how I feel about hero worship anyway.  I stay away from `ups' and that way I don't have any `downs' so I'm personally unaffected.  Booing me is equally as inappropriate as cheering me.
"Pitchers aren't like hockey players.  I can't show my effort with a flourish.  A hockey player can knock someone down, steal the puck and skate up the ice like hell.  I haven't got that chance.  I can just pitch.  If people can't understand that I'm giving my maximum effort, I can't help it."
Because comparisons were drawn all spring between Bill Stoneman and Mike Marshall, the bullpen intellectual is bound to be chided today.  It was said that because Marshall threw all winter, he didn't need spring training.  Now they'll ask, who's he kidding?
"As it turns out, I wish I'd gotten to spring training two weeks later, not sooner," Mike says.  "The first day I threw in the spring, I was in top form.  After that, it was downhill.  I've got to throw every second day for three innings, but the club can't afford to give me more than an inning every third game.  And it's not enough."
Marshall estimates that he threw more than 100 "quality" pitches every second day of the winter, whereas he threw as few as 15 every third day in camp.  Consequently, his three pitches are not all as sharp as often he'd like during the first few weeks of the season.
"So, if I'm trying to throw a screwball on the black, it may get two inches more of the plate than I want.  The hitter gets a piece of it.  Well, I can't lay off the screwball because it isn't just right yet.  I've got to keep throwing it until it is perfectly located.  If you lay off, it'll never get sharp."
He refuses to pitch around a control problem and the result, a few additional walks the first month is the price he's willing to pay for pinpoint location later.  The other factors that have contributed to his "statistical shortscomings" are beyond his control.
For example, Mike Ryan's game-tying triple two days ago.  Ryan and Phillies manager Danny Ozark revealed the catcher was divinely motivated on that occasion because of his desire to atone for an earlier goof.  He hit an 0-2 pitch to the opposite field to bring about Marshall's downfall.
"Ryan was the greatest hitter the world's ever see when he connected with that pitch," Marshall says.  "I threw him three screwballs and then a fastball low and away.  In that situation, it was the toughest possible pitch for him to handle.  Yet he reached out and put it into right field.
"I can't throw a pitch better than that.  Now, you tell me he went up there with a mission. Well, I hope Mike Ryan rises up with as much desire on more occasions because he'll be a helluva hitter for it.  But that's my effort and someone is calling it horse****?"
No, no one called it that...except for a few leather-lunged spectators.
"Well, one man called it horse**** when he wouldn't let me pitch to Tommy Hutton," Marshall said, referring to Gene Mauch's decision to lift him.  "I was taken out of only one game last year and that was because of an injury.  I felt I could have pitched out of this one.  Well, that's the man's prerogative."
And it's the fans' right to boo whether it's Frank Mahovlich or Mike Marshall--and whether they even know why they're booing.