Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

December 1973 Baseball Digest

Baseball Digest
By Ted Blackman
December 1973

Harry (The Hat) Walker, a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, stood behind the batting cage before a game with the Montreal Expos last season and had his collar singed by some of the meanest mental darts ever tossed by a human eye.

“You can’t heap enough credit on that man for making me the pitcher I am today,” Mike Marshall said, spitting out the words as he glowered at one of baseball’s legendary professors.  “And in case you didn’t catch on, I mean that most facetiously.”

Walker isn’t the only man who brings the cool reliever to the bubbling point.  Nor is he the only man who’d find it uncomfortable today explaining why one of the premier relivers in the game is flourishing in Montreal--and not Houston, Seattle, Detroit or Philadelphia.

There’s Mayo Smith, who tossed him out without a spring training trial despite a 1.98 earned run average the year before.  There’s Joe Schultz and Sal Maglie, who wouldn’t let him throw the screwball at Seattle.

And, above all, there are Harry Walker and Spec Richardson, who literally gave him away four years ago, despite pleas from their pitching coach, Jim Owens, that Marshall deserved a starting assignment because his scroogie could be the best bullpen weapon.

“Sure, I remember the day we made the deal,” says Jim Fanning.  “I got a call from John Mullen (Richardson’s assistant general manager) and he asked if we had any interest in Mike Marshall.  I said I’d only seen him pitch one inning and I’d get back to him.  Don’t call anyone else.”

Fanning thumbed through The Baseball Register and saw nothing that indicated Marshall couldn’t help a 1970 Expos team that was woefully in need of relief.  He made one call, to Don Lunn, farm director of Detroit and asked for the word on Marshall.

“He’s not your run-of-the-mill individual, but don’t let that stop you from doing anything.”

Fanning got back to Mullen within 20 minutes and said he might be interested, but what’s the price?  “We’ll take a Triple A player,” Mullen said.  “All right,” Fanning said, preparing to run down a list of players.  “We have Don Bosch and …”

“It’s a deal,” Mullen cried.  “Marshall for Bosch.”

And so they consummated a deal that ranks with the Russians’ sale of Alaska and Peter Stuyvesant’s purchase of Manhattan.  Bosch, an entirely inefficient center fielder but not a bad poet, played two weeks for the Astros at Oklahoma City and quit baseball forever.

“Sliders, don’t throw anything but sliders--that’s all Walker told me at Houston,” Marshall remembers.  “That’s all Schultz and Maglie told me at Seattle.  ‘Don’t throw anything but sliders and sinkers.’  No one let me throw the screwball.

“Owens, our pitching coach at Houston, saw it developing and said he was going to get me a start.  When Walker called me into his office, I figured Owens must have convinced him.  Know what happened?  Walker told me they were outrighting me to the minors.”

Marshall took a look at the general state of the majors and told the Astros he was quitting baseball unless he was traded to Montreal, Boston or Detroit.  He figured their farm teams were the closest to his home in Michigan.  The Astros had him in Montreal within a half-hour.

“I thought the Expos farm club was in Buffalo, so you can imagine how disgusted I was when I found out they’d been moved to Winnipeg.  But I got a reprieve--the Whips were playing their home games at Jarry Park, so I reported there.”

He saved both ends of a Whips doubleheader in his first assignment and then started the next day, leaving with no decision.  He was promptly delivered to Gene Mauch and since that day, he’s won more than 30 games and saved more than 70 while making more than 235 appearances.

“When Gene Mauch began telling me some of his ideas about pitching, I had trouble concentrating--I kept saying to myself, ‘This is what I’ve been saying for four years and no one will listen.’  Finally, I found a man who approached baseball the way it should be approached.”

Spotty fielding and a misunderstanding saddled Marshall with a high ERA and an unhappy disposition in the first half of the ‘71 season.  He began to think Mauch had gone crackers on him until he discovered John Bateman was really at fault.

“Bateman would flash a four-finger sign across his chest to indicate Mauch was calling the next pitch, which meant I had to throw it.  As the weeks wore on, Bateman gave the four-finger sign and called for pitches that were the most likely to be creamed.  And they were.

“At the All-Star break, Mauch took me out to Jarry Park and tried to straighten me out.  During the course of our conversation, he said my pitch selection had been faulty and perhaps he should go back to calling them from the dugout.

“I said, ‘You mean you haven’t been calling them all along?  Mauch said he hadn’t.  Suddenly it dawned on me that Bateman had been throwing up the Mauch sign just to lend authority to his own horse bleep selection.  We had no problems after that.”

Indeed.  Right, Harry and Mayo and Joe?

Happy Pitching Everybody

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