Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

March 30, 1982 Torrance Daily Breeze

Marshall happy far away from the Dodgers
March 30, 1885 Torrance, CA Daily Breeze
Author:  Terry Johnson

ST. LEO, FL:  Take I-75 north from Tampa about 35 miles and turn right on state route No. 52: mind the turnoff, though, it's a tricky one and take the aging, one-lane road about four miles.

Here, nestled rather unobtrusively on the banks of Lake Jovita, halfway between the towns of Zephyrhills and Bayonet Point, sits tiny St. Leo College on the western edge of Florida's farmland.

It's a Catholic school of about 1,500 students, catering mostly to business majors.  The buildings are old, but quaint, filled with fresh-scrubbed, clean-cut, friendly kids who smile and call visitors "sir."

Turn left at the first stop sign and travel past what there is of the science building.  Find a parking spot and walk out past the soccer field.  There in the back, next to orange groves that belong to a man named Bidley, sits the baseball field.

Nothing special, perhaps, but it's home now to Mike Marshall.

No, not the Mike Marshall who plays the outfield for the Dodgers.  This is this relief pitcher many remember by the nickname "Hacksaw."

In his time, he set major league records for games pitched that may never be broken and became the first reliever to earn the Cy Young Award.

At the same time, he became one of the most unpopular players ever to wear a Dodger uniform during his 2 1/2 seasons with the club in the mid-1970s.

Around here, he's Mike Marshall, Ph.D., 42 years of age, a professor in the morning and baseball coach in the afternoon.

"That's what they know me as here," he said.

Marshall was late for a scheduled interview, his first by a West Coast writer in years, because, as one of faculty, he had been tied up in registering students for the upcoming semester.

He talked as he hurried out to the baseball field for a scheduled non-conference game against DePauw University, an equipment bag in his left hand, a briefcase in his right.

Marshall was late for batting practice, which he pitches.  The field still had to be dragged and lined, but his players, each of whom has a special job ranging from charting opposing pitchers to groundskeeping, had everything under control.

It's the life he loves.  Or so says Dr. Mike.

"This is what I've always wanted to do," said Marshall, who got the job last July after serving one season as an assistant at the University of Tampa.  "As far as I'm concerned, teaching and coaching here is the best of both worlds.

"I didn't get a Ph.D. just to stay in school.  I was certainly preparing myself for a job teaching.  I wanted to stay in teaching and baseball.  I have the best of both worlds now."

As he talked, Marshall had one of his pitchers warm him up to throw batting practice.

After a few tosses, Marshall sneaked in one of what he used to refer to as his "infinite variety of screwballs."  The pitch fell off the edge of a table.

"It's a pitch I developed since I came here, a one-finger hard screwball," said Marshall, who pitched for nine different clubs in a career that lasted from 1967 through '81.

"As far as I'm concerned, I could pitch for somebody right now.  Physically, there would be no problem. I pitched a lot last summer.  I was pitching in four or five games a week in a league of college players and ex-pros.  In one tournament, I pitched five out of seven games.

"But the kids here don't care about that.  They need a coach.  They put what I did in the big leagues out of their minds."

So, Marshall said, does he, except for a brief mental sojourn into the past.

A year he especially likes to recall is 1974 for its bittersweet memories.

The right-hander had already pitched for Detroit, Seattle, Houston and Montreal when the Dodgers acquired him from the Expos in exchange for outfielder Willie Davis.

Functioning as pretty much a one-man bullpen when Jim Brewer went out with a back injury, Marshall pitched the Dodgers into the World Series.  He appeared in 106 games and finished 83 of them, both major-league records, to win the Cy Young Award.

Nonetheless, before he was dealt to Atlanta in mid-1976 for pitcher Elias Sosa and outfielder Lee Lacy, Marshall found himself booed nearly every time he came to the mound.

He was also in hot water with management at times for his activities as the Dodgers' player representative and his work in helping establish free agency for ballplayers.

In addition, he said marital discord and a messy dispute over custody of his three children took its toll.  Marshall was arrested in a now famous dispute at his alma mater, Michigan State University, thereby earning him the sobriquet "Hacksaw."

Marshall referred to his years in L.A. as the best of times and the worst of times.

"They didn't seem to appreciate what I was doing quite as much as they did in other cities," he said.  "I don't really know why.  I know the fans liked Jim Brewer and I replaced him.  Heck, I liked Jim Brewer, too, but you still put the guy out there who's going to do the job and I don't think anyone did the job better than I did in 1974.

"I firmly believe that if management had been able to separate what I did as a player rep and what I did on the field, things could have been a lot different.  I just did what the Players' Association asked me to do.

"Half the time, the opinions I relayed weren't even my own.  I was never interested in the union stuff.  I was pitching every day, going for a doctorate and my marriage was on the rocks.  I needed that like I needed a hole in the head.

"The Dodgers said I was argumentative.  How can you be argumentative when you pitch 106 games?  It's like when they say `Jump,' you say, `How high?'  When they told me to pitch, I pitched, and I loved it.

"The only thing I can think of is when you're out there as often as I was, every day, you're going to mess up a few games.  I messed up about every eighth appearance.  Over the course of a year, I messed up about 16 games.  For a normal pitcher, that would be a lot.  But when you pitch in 106 games, that's nothing."

Marshall said he still cherishes the opportunity the Dodgers gave him to set his record and win his awards, and he "has no particular feelings of rancor" over his years as a Dodger.

He does, though, harbor bad feelings over two of the most popular figures in Dodger lore.

Marshall still accuses present Manager Tommy Lasorda of backstabbing his predecessor, the late Walter Alston, and said his long-running feud with broadcaster Vin Scully is as hot as ever.

"People say Walter Alston was behind my being traded to Atlanta," Marshall said.  "Tommy's the guy.

"He was the third base coach in 1976, but he knew he was going to be the manager.  He didn't want me around.  I thought Walter Alston was the greatest.  I still do.  I never had one problem with the man.  I dearly love him.

"No one knew this at the time, but I told Lasorda to quit backstabbing and undermining him.  I confronted him and dressed him down good.  I told him to quit his whimpering and working behind the scenes.

"That no-good, double-dealing, back-stabbing S.O.B.  When a man's the manager, he deserves your loyalty.  You give him your respect.  You don't backstab him.  I'm sure Tommy will say the same thing."

About Scully:

"When you have a broadcaster (Scully) who brings your mistakes all the time, you can see why the fans boo you so often.  I didn't like Vin Scully then and I don't like him now.

"He's one of those journalists who never wore a jock and doesn't know what it's like out there.  He has no clue about the game.  He acted like he knew something.  He still does.

"I still listen to him and I get just as nauseated as I did 10 years ago."

Marshall pitched for the Braves for about a year, then was traded to Texas in mid-1977.  The Rangers dealt him to Minnesota.  He pitched two seasons for the Twins, then pitched the last seven weeks of the 1981 season with the New York Mets after the players strike was settled.

His involvement in baseball these days is at the college level and building St. Leo into a contender for the Sunshine State Conference championship.

The Monarchs are doing it, Marshall said, little by little.

He and a couple players replaced about 40 tons of dirt in the infield with clay last Christmas and groomed the field.  One of his first projects was building a batting cage and a storage shed.  His current project is seeing a press box completed.

At the top of his list of future projects is seeing lights installed, so the Monarchs attract more than girlfriends of players, a few interested faculty members and retirees who wander in.

"What I want to do is build this into a first-class program," Marshall said.  "A lot of schools didn't want me because of my national reputation, but St. Leo did and this is where I want to be."

Happy Pitching Everybody

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