Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

August 27, 1981 New York Times

Marshall, 38, Still on Mission
New York Times
by Ira Berkow
August 27, 1981

The gate of the tall green bullpen fence in right field in Shea Stadium swung open, and Mike Marshall appeared.  Marshall, the Mets' 38-year-old relief pitcher took one skipping step, like a boy on a lark, and then trotted forthrightly across the outfield to the mound, like a man on a mission.

Called on in the top of the eighth inning in a 1-1 game against Houston Tuesday night, Marshall was the master craftsman.  He is stout-chested, with a trim waist and a determined dimple chin.  His pitching motion is short, compact, polished and as spare as a sentence by Hemingway.  Marshall pitched two perfect innings and, riding on Mookie Wilson's homer in the home half of the inning, got the victory, his first in more than a year.

Looking back, an observer might find that one little skip out of the bullpen significant.

Marshall was apparently happy, having recently returned to baseball after more than a year away, exiled because of his player-union activities, he says; and he was coming out of the bullpen at the point of the game he relishes--under pressure.

The skip also seemed to provide a physical propulsion--especially fitting in the case of Marshall.  He holds a Ph.D. in kinesiology--the study of body movement--and has taught it at Michigan State and, in the past year at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.

The Houston game was Marshall's fifth outing since signing with the Mets last week, and his best.  It was reminiscent of the finest days of his 14-year career--such as 1974 when he became the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young Award, and other years in which he set records for innings pitched and games appeared in and saves.

"I wanted to see if Mike could still do it physically," said the Mets' manager, Joe Torre, of the four-day tryout he gave Marshall two weeks ago.  "It's obvious he had it. Mike throws a good screwball and a good slider.  Anybody with pitches that go two ways is tough.  Plus, he knows how to win--he's proved that."

Nothing was said of his union work before he signed on Aug. 19.  "I know Mike has a tag by management, but so what, I had one myself," said Torre.  "I was the National League Player Representative and, when I was, Mike was my alternate."

Marshall has always been one of the more outspoken players in regard to players' rights, and, according to Marvin Miller, Major League Players Association executive director, Marshall has been one of the most valuable assets.

"What I did with the Players Association cost me all or parts of six seasons," Marshall says.  He says, for example, that his role as American League player representative was one of the reasons the Twins' dropped him in June 1980, and that no other team gave him a chance until the Mets called a couple of weeks ago.

"I had established the American League record for appearing in most games by a pitcher--90--the season before the Twins let me go, and I'd led the league in saves with 32," Marshall says.  "Now, I did have some problems early in 1980, but in the last 11 1/3 innings before they released me, I had given up just one run.  You'd have thought the Twins or someone else would have given more of an opportunity to someone with my record."

Calvin Griffith, president of the Twins, took this position yesterday:  "There is no truth that we released Marshall because he was a player representative.  We released him because he couldn't get anybody out.  His earned run average was over 6.00."

Before joining the Twins, in 1978, as a free agent, Marshall says he had been told by Manager Gene Mauch, "these people aren't very big on player reps."

Nothing new to Marshall.  "I'm afraid Mike's problem," wrote Jim Bouton in "Ball Four," "is that he's too intelligent and has too much education.  It's like the army.  When a sergeant found out that a private had been to college, he immediately assumed he couldn't be a good soldier.  Right away it was 'There's your college boy for you,' and 'I wonder what our genius has to say about that?'  This is the kind of remark they'd make about Marshall."

Marshall has always had his own and often unusual views on baseball matters.  He maintained, against staunch management resistance, that he could pitch nearly every game; it was an incredible concept.  But he proved it correct.  He doesn't wear sweatshirts, even on cold days, because of studies he has made that suggest it would be counter-productive.  That would upset traditional baseball thinking.

He was one of the first relievers to run in from the bullpen.  That was once taboo.  And he was under the impression that baseball players were adults.  When Harry Walker, his manager at Houston, told him about Astro bedchecks, about what to say to the press, about the Astro dress code, and so on, Marshall finally asked, "And how many times a week may I kiss my wife?"

No surprise that Marshall lasted with Houston only a couple of months.

In Marshall's rookie year, with Detroit in 1967, he finished with an earned run average of 1.98 but didn't make the club the next season. He moved onto seattle, Houston and Montreal.  His reputation always following him.  With Montreal, he was named fireman of the year in the National League in 1973.  But that winter, he was traded to Los Angeles.  "There is no doubt," Miller said, "that the powers that be in Montreal did not look kindly on his player association activities."

Marshall says that, although he is proud of the players for their strong stand in the recent strike, he is finished with Player Association activities.

"I did what I did over the years because I felt it had to be done," he said, "and several times I was even voted team player representative in abstentia and I was not unhappy about that.  The players once had a total lack of control over their careers, and I thought it was important to take part in changing that.

"But now I want to concentrate strictly on baseball--and forget about the hassles.  They've been very distracting to my career.  I know I would have been a better pitcher without them."

There is another change with Marshall.  He is clean-shaven, no longer sporting his familiar Chester Arthur sideburns and whiskers.

"That was only my baseball disguise--I always shaved it off when the baseball season ended," he said, with a smile.  "But when the Mets called, they just caught me by surprise."

Happy Pitching Everybody

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