|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
July 10, 1979 Toledo Blade
By Jim Taylor
July 15, 1979
Your first impression these days of Mike Marshall is that he's too short to pitch and too round to hit.
And in the past, he's been too surly to talk.
But you'd be wrong on the first two counts, and behind the times on the third. Physically, Marshall is a little like ex-Tiger Mickey Lolich--unimpressive until you look closer.
The Minnesota relief pitcher, who thinks a day off is a Sunday in December, has these blacksmith arms, as if he has worked years in a loggers camp.
He is thick-chested, like Lolich, but not at all paunchy and to him, pitching is a meld, a science of the body and the mind.
He is endowed with both.
Marshall, then, is built for distance and durability, ideal assets for one who may work in 100 baseball games this spring, summer and fall.
He is a man for all seasons, too, as strong and willing in September as he is in May.
The long sideburns inch out onto his cheeks, and a small moustache curls around his mouth, looking as if it were painted on with charcoal, or mascara from a short distance.
He could be Riverboat Ralph in another time, waiting to shuffle.
Instead, he is pitcher, scholar, teacher, a man Twins' manager Gene Mauch knows is always ready.
He is in Minnesota because of Mauch, and perhaps because of now-departed Rod Carew, who scorched Twins' management for not immediately unzipping the money pouch to sign Marshall in June of 1977 when the reliever was released by Texas.
As of mid-week, Marshall, who once performed at Lucas County Recreation Center as a Mud Hen, already had appeared in 53 Twins games, saved 15 and had a 9-8 record.
In 1974, when he won the Cy Young award, Marshall appeared in 106 games for the Dodgers, testimony to his amazing immunity to stress, both mental and physical.
I asked him if 100 appearances is some sort of goal this season.  "No," he replied, "I just come to the park every day hoping to pitch."
Rarely has his job been easy.  And when a game blows up, the customers sometimes react.
"I'd be ashamed if I knew any of the people around here who are booing John Hiller," Marshall said.  "He's had too great a career for that.  It's inconceivable to me that it's happening because he has given too much to this game, and to the Tigers.  If I'd run into that kind of fate, I'd probably be gone."
Marshall thought about Hiller's recent failures.  "When you're working short relief, you're going to get into some situations, you're going to lose some close ball games.  You've simply got to withstand it.  The other night, I threw two pitches and the game was over.  We lost.  But you've got to be able to come back."
And is Marshall booed in the Twin Cities?  "The last couple of times out there was some booing up there," he replied.  Does it bother him enough to want out?  "No, not to that point.  If it were to continue, I'll walk," Marshall said.
The Twins, after a winging start, have fallen back, but still only trail by four games in a muddy division where no team has taken command, not even California's instant millionaires.
Would a pennant race excite Marshall, now 36, after all these years?
"It's not necessary," he answered patiently, "but it would be fun.  I'd be excited just going to the mound anyway.  Just let me do it."
How much longer can Marshall keep gyrating that marvelous right arm; or perhaps, how much longer does he want to pitch?  "It will depend on how long my family remains happy, and how long the ball club wants me to pitch," he said.
For many years now, Marshall has leaned heavily on a screwball, a pitch that demands an unnatural rotation of the elbow, but one which kept Warren Spahn going until he was 40 after the sizzle had gone out of his fastball, a pitch that Christy Mathewson called "my fadeaway," and one that Carl Hubbell used to strike out the American League's finest in a famous All-Star game.
Thrown by a right-handed pitcher, the ball breaks away from a left-handed batter, and in toward a right-handed hitter, which makes the hurler equally effective against batters from both sides of the plate.
"If you don't know exactly what you're doing, it can hurt the body, and the arm," Marshall explained.  "By chance and by design, pitchers have used it.  You have to develop the proper muscles for it.  It can be easy on your arm, but it takes special knowledge of how to tolerate stresses."
Marshall was instructing now, a brief clinic.
"The development of my screwball is a result of my knowledge of kinesiology, which I have taught since 1966," Marshall says.
Mauch was Marshall's manager in Montreal when he answered the summons from the bullpen 92 times and when he asked Marshall to join him in Minnesota, Mike agreed.
And so far, he's made better pitchers out of almost every starter on the Twins' staff.  Marshall has made every save but one for the Twins this season.
"I look down there, and it's a comfortable sight to see Mike warming up," reborn lefthander Jerry Koosman says.  Koosman is 11-6, and has been rescued regularly by Marshall, finishing only five of 18 starts.
The Tigers had Marshall once.  Wouldn't he look good now down in that unsteady bullpen?