|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
1974 Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
by Phil Elderkin
July 10, 1974
Has Christy Mathewson's famed "fadeaway" pitch been reborn in relief specialist Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Is this the reason Marshall is so effective, can pitch every day without getting tired, and is so often blunt with reporters who want more than just "yes" and "no" answers concerning his success.
First, I think you ought to know something about Mathewson, an early arrival in baseball's Hall of Fame.  Christy won 373 games with the New York Giants between 1900 and 1916, and also pitched 439 complete games.
Mathewson's "fadeaway" was a change-of-speed screwball which tailed in on a righthanded batter and away from a lefthander, making it an extremely difficult pitch to pull.  It also had the reputation for being as easy on the arm as today's knuckleball.
There have been other pitchers over the years who have tried to imitate Mathewson's "fadeaway."  But most of them gave up when they found they couldn't control it.  Marshall, on the other hand, appears to have found the secret of consistently getting it over the plate.
When it was suggested to Los Angeles pitching coach Red Adams that Mike may be throwing as many as five different screwballs, Adams would admit only the existence of more than one.
"It's a subject I think you ought to discuss with Marshall, not me," Red said.  "Mike's pitching methods are his own and I'd rather not say something I shouldn't.  But I can tell you that the man is a great competitor, really knows how to set up a hitter for certain pitches, and never runs out of gas."
This could explain why Marshall is so mysterious about how he works and what he throws.  Instead of coming to the point in interviews, Mike talks about things like kinesiology (the study of how the mechanics of anatomy affect movement); and how he believes that there is no separation between the mind and body.
But the fact remains that Marshall pitched in 13 consecutive games for the Dodgers during late June and early July and was never beaten.  And several times, after throwing in a night game, he pitched batting practice the following day and then worked again in relief that same night!
"Muscles are made to be used and it would be foolish not to use them," Mike explained.  "I don't get tired.  I can pitch every day if the Dodgers need me.
"I am not interested in how many games I win or lose, only if the Dodgers win or lose," he continued.  "I don't think the fact that I won a lot of games in a row is important.
"I don't think a relief pitcher should be judged in that way.  If a man is doing his job, he knows it.  That's all I need to know--that I'm doing a good job.  How many wins I get personally is unimportant."
Marshall, who is very close to earning a PhD in psychology, teaches kinesiology during the off-season at Michigan State.
But unlike the Dodgers, who do not chart every pitch made during a game, Mike makes a fetish of it.
"I have been doing this since the middle of the 1970 season," he said.  "I keep track of every pitch that is made to a rival hitter in a little notebook.  And when I'm on the mound myself, Red Adams (the Dodgers' pitching coach) does it for me."
A year ago, while pitching for Montreal, Marshall set a major league record by appearing in 92 games.  He led the National League in games saved with 31 and compiled a 14-11 won-loss record.  This meant he had a direct hand in 45 of Montreal's 79 victories.  The Dodgers got him from the Expos only after agreeing to trade them Willie Davis, a consistent .300 hitter.
The Philadelphia Phillies signed Mike originally as a shortstop.  But after four years in the minors, during which he never hit lower than .264 and once batted over .300, he switched to pitching at the start of the 1965 season.  "Most people assumed it was because I wasn't a good enough shortstop, but that's not true," Marshall explained.  "I simply developed a back problem that hurt me every time I bent over.  Yet, as funny as it sounds, it doesn't affect me at all when I pitch."
Los Angeles is the fourth major league stop for Mike, who previously pitched for Seattle and Houston (with indifferent success) and Montreal.
Marshall's "out" pitch, whether he'll admit it or not, is probably Christy Mathewson's "fadeaway" or change-of-speed screwball.  "And if it isn't," said Detroit Tiger scout Charlie Metro, "maybe some of us are looking at a different ball game."