Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

June 24, 1979 Chicago Tribune

‘Freak’ Marshall Simplifies Strategy
By David Israel
Chicago Tribune
June 24, 1979

Let’s see, Fred pitched two innings last night and one three days ago.  He threw 46 pitches altogether, and his weekly ration is 41.  Now, we must take into consideration that he worked 23 pitches extra last month and his split-seamed knuckle-fastball, the one he learned from his leathery-faced Little League coach when he was in the third grade, has been causing strain on the right elbow and the left instep all these seasons.  So, if we multiply the number of innings by the number of pitches, divide by 2.3 and add 74, we come to the conclusion that if Fred pitches tonight, he won’t be ready August 24 against Toronto.  So, Pedro, why don’t you warm up.

That’s the way it is with the other managers.  They have to make like rocket scientists, retreat to the solitude of the corner of the dugout, pull out the pocket calculator, and start figuring when it comes time to make a late-inning pitching change.  And more often than not, they are about as successful as the geniuses who are giving up Skylab and all the ships in space, wherever they are.

That’s not the way it is with Gene Mauch, the manager of the Minnesota Twins.

He just strolls down the dugout, nods to Mike Marshall, says a few words of encouragement, strolls back down to his command post by the corner of the dugout, waits until Marshall is warmed up, strolls out to the mound, signals with his right arm, gives the ball to Marshall, strolls back to the dugout, and watches everything work out for the best.

Night game after day game, day game after night game, Sunday doubleheader, it doesn’t matter with Mike Marshall.  In this age, when players go on the disabled list because they got shampoo in their eye, Mike Marshall is ready to pitch every day.

“He’s a freak, there’s nobody else like him,” Mauch says.  “A very desirable freak, but a freak nonetheless.”

So it was of no great concern Friday night when Mauch had to call in Marshall in the ninth inning to save the Twins 5-3 victory over the White Sox.  And it was no great bonus that Dave Goltz pitched a complete game in Saturday’s 6-1 Minnesota triumph and Marshall was able to rest for nine innings.

“If I have to use him, I use him,” Mauch says.  “If he’s in a game three days in a row, he might be better the third day than he was the first day.  You can expect Mike to be effective, and I don’t care how many times you’ve used him.”

This year, Mauch has used Marshall 41 times in 66 games.  And Marshall has been so effective that, arguably, he is the American League’s Most Valuable Player.  The Twins have won 34 games, and he has in some way, been responsible for at least 24 of them.  He was won eight games, saved 16, and lost just six.  In 69 innings, he has given up 17 earned runs and one home run.

Marshall, of course, has achieved such prominence before.  In 1973, with Montreal, he was the best relief pitcher in the National League.  In 1974, when he appeared in 106 games for Los Angeles, he was the best pitcher in the National League; he won the Cy Young Award.

The circuitous route Marshall has taken to fame and fortune (recently acquired when he turned down an attractive offer from the White Sox and signed a four-year $1.35 million contract with Minnesota) has often been chronicled.

He broke into professional baseball as an 18-year-old shortstop.  Four years later, a chronic back injury was causing him so much pain that he switched himself to pitcher.  He toiled another four years in the minor leagues, learning his new trade while he worked on a succession of degrees in physical education from Michigan State.

As his studies progressed, as his knowledge of the machinery that is the human form became more extensive, his pitching improved.  After earning his bachelor’s degree, he made it to the big leagues.  After earning his master’s degree, he became the best relief pitcher in the game.  After earning his doctorate he embarked, a year ago, on his successful comeback with Minnesota from back and knee surgery.

Now, at 36, he is firm in his conviction that if a man properly conditions his body and his arm, he can pitch every day in the major leagues.

“Don’t you ever wake up in the morning wishing, like all the rest of us, you didn’t have to go to work, not wanting to pitch?” Marshall is asked.

“Never,” he says, “I’m always ready to go out there.”

“Doesn’t the pressure of always pitching with the game on the line become a burden, tiresome?” he is asked.

“It’s all fun to me,” Marshall says.  “The only time it’s not fun is when an umpire messes around with the strike zone.”

Marshall, the Camus of the bullpen, has long contended that a pitcher faces two competitions:  one, to throw strikes; the second, to retire the batter.  With his mystifying screwball, Marshall has little difficulty winning both of these competitions unless the umpire is a dunce.  And he is certain that the explanation for his success is not all that mystifying.

“I work hard,” he says.  “Not only do I know what to do, but I train very hard.”

He runs 20 minutes a day.  He throws 365 days a year.  He plays touch football.  He studies.  He used his expertise to devise innovative physical education curricula for elementary schools.  He turns the theory of exercise physiology into reality on the baseball field, and then has to explain to the uninitiated that the screwball really isn’t a spitter.  And he seems to get better with age.

It doesn’t take a calculator to figure out that Mike Marshall might be able to pitch forever, as long as he doesn’t get any of that disabling shampoo in his eyes.

Happy Pitching Everybody

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