Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

August 1974 Time Magazine

The Bullpen Brain
August 1974

Though it earns him $80,000 a year and a considerable amount of psychic satisfaction, baseball to Mike Marshall is a mere "diversion."  Thus the Los Angeles Dodgers' star relief pitcher skipped three weeks of spring training this year to continue working on his doctorate in physiological psychology at Michigan State.  Instead of resting his valuable right arm, he often catches for fellow pitchers before games; normally he spends less than a minute warming up when the Dodgers call on him.  Moreover, he bucks a basic law of pitching, even relief pitching, by playing in four or five games a week.

As of last week, Marshall had won eleven games—only seven short of the single-season record held by former Pirate Reliever Elroy Face—made 14 saves, and recorded a respectable ERA of 2.19.  He compiled those statistics by pitching in 71 of the Dodgers' first 106 games.  In one iron-arm stint, he set a major league record by working in 13 consecutive games.  In the process, Marshall, who was traded to L.A. by Montreal last winter in exchange for Veteran Outfielder Willie Davis, has helped give the Dodgers a 5˝-game lead in the National League's Western Division.

Michael Grant Marshall, 31, has become the best relief artist in baseball largely on the strength of his screwball.  Actually, he throws several variations on the basic screwball, a pitch that breaks away from lefthanded batters and often sinks as well.  To keep hitters off stride, Marshall also has a good fast ball and a decent curve.  Two weeks ago, in the All-Star game, he put his repertory to good use, retiring the last six American League batters to preserve the National League's 7-2 victory.

Pitching out of trouble consistently, though, requires more than good stuff.  "An effective relief pitcher has to have ice water in his veins," says Dodger Manager Walter Alston.  "Mike does."  Despite his seeming nonchalance, Marshall is a serious student of baseball.  He keeps his own personal "book" on every hitter in the league and reviews every pitch he throws during the season, noting its type and how well the batter handled it.  Unlike most other relievers, who relax in the outfield bullpen during the early innings of a game, Marshall stays in the dugout where he can study opposing batters at close range.

First Love.

With the Expos last season Marshall set a major league record by appearing in 92 games.  Clearly the main reason he can pitch so often is that he is blessed with an unusually strong arm.  Marshall, though, has a scholar's explanation.  It is all related to kinesiology, says the budding professor, "the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement."

Dropping names like Daniel Bernoulli (the Swiss mathematician and physicist who developed a key principle of hydrodynamics) and Hans Selye (a leading expert on stress), Marshall goes on to explain:  "The secret of pitching every day is proper training.  The key to that is specificity, which means understanding structural and mechanical analysis, physiology and baseball well enough to integrate them."  Marshall's own structure is a compact 5 ft. 10 in. and 185 Ibs.  He conditions it with a personal regimen that includes weight lifting and jogging but not the usual training-camp routine of calisthenics and wind sprints.

"There is nothing in sport like the head-to-head combat between pitcher and batter," he says.  Nonetheless, if Marshall had his way, he would not be in baseball at all.  "I wish I could get the great hitters of today—Joe Torre, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron—to drop by Michigan State so I could pitch against them on weekends," says Marshall.  That way he could concentrate on his first love:  education.

While learning how to pitch in the minor leagues, Marshall managed to complete the requirements for a master's degree in physical education at Michigan State.  His thesis was entitled "An Investigation into Associations Between Sexual Maturation, Physical Growth and Motor Proficiency in Males."  What about his doctoral dissertation?  Somewhat mysteriously, he describes it as "a longitudinal investigation" into the "same phenomena" treated in his master's thesis.

Happy Pitching Everybody

Home Page