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Thread: Mike Marshall

  1. #1
    Member cincrazy's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    South Vienna, OH

    Mike Marshall

    Did anyone happen to catch MLB Tonight this morning? Or I guess you could say last night also. They had former Cy Young award winner Mike Marshall on as a guest. He's a doctor now, and he was talking about how pitchers can avoid arm injuries, specifically Tommy John surgery. He gave a few examples, but he said most pitchers "bounce" their elbow, and when they do this it results in microscopic tears in the ulnar collateral ligament that in time result in TJ surgery. He gave Tim Lincecum as an example of a guy that scares him, he thinks it's pretty much only a matter of time before his elbow goes. I thought it was interesting stuff.

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  3. #2
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Oct 2000

    Re: Mike Marshall


    ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – The believer sat in seat 27D. The non-believer sat in 18A. The American Airlines flight last week from Chicago to Tampa was probably the closest they would ever come to one another.

    The believer spends most of his time in a backwoods Florida town where he pays $10 a day to learn how to pitch and $10 a night to live in a ramshackle house where ants crawl on the floor and bean burritos cake the microwave walls. Dr. Mike Marshall teaches him. Marshall won a Cy Young award with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, earned his Ph.D. in exercise physiology four years later and in the 30 years since has developed a motion that he believes could completely eradicate pitching-arm injuries, if only the right people would listen.

    The non-believer runs the Chicago Cubs, and he wasn't terribly interested in what Mike Marshall had to say.

    Maybe it was dumb luck, or maybe it was fate. Either way, Joe Williams, the believer, was not about to pass up the chance to spread his shaman's gospel to Jim Hendry, the Cubs' general manager.

    So Williams reached into his laptop bag and grabbed a pen. He tore a sheet of paper from his bible, the pitching guide Marshall wrote. Since January, Williams, a former New York Mets minor-league pitcher looking for an entrée back into organized baseball, had spent every day with Marshall, learning the motion that could end elbow-ligament transplants, end shoulder reconstructions, even end the tragicomedy Hendry has endured the last four years with the recurring arm troubles of young stars Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

    Almost every day, Marshall talks about what he could do if given time with Prior and Wood, and Williams heard it often enough that when he put his pen to the piece of paper in front of him on Flight 1780, he did so with the passion of a true acolyte.


    You need to come to Zephyrhills, Florida. "Doc" (Mike Marshall) can show you how to injury-proof your pitchers, make them throw harder and throw higher-quality pitches.

    P.S. – I love what you did with the Cubs this year. I hope to see you in the playoffs. And, by the way, Prior and Wood can be fixed without surgery.

    He didn't even bother signing his name. He folded the letter, handed it to a flight attendant, asked her to give it to the man wearing the blue shirt in 18A and slinked down in his seat.

    He didn't want to see Hendry react the way everyone else in Major League Baseball does when they hear Mike Marshall's name.

    Marshall is 64 years old, impish and hyperkinetic. At 5-foot-8½, he looks more Ph.D. than ex-ballplayer. He still holds major-league records for games pitched in one season (106), relief innings pitched (208 1/3) and consecutive games for a pitcher (13), all set with the Los Angeles Dodgers in his 1974 Cy Young season. Everyone around baseball figured Marshall some kind of genetic freak, or maybe a masochist.

    Marshall has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Michigan State. (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    He was just ahead of his time. Almost 40 years ago, when he started the studies toward his doctorate at Michigan State, Marshall had questions about how to throw a baseball without injuring himself. Millions of pitches, thousands of feet of high-speed film and hundreds of adjustments later, he believes knows the answers better than anyone in the world.

    "I'm a researcher," Marshall said. "People forget that about me. That's where my heart is. I pitched baseball, really, as the lab experiment of my research to see if it worked. Turned out it did. I don't need any more validation that I know something about baseball.

    "I know what works. That's the greatest truth there is. I have a responsibility to give it back. Nobody wants it? Hey. That's not my problem."

    Marshall likes to tell the story about how he diagnosed Tommy John with the torn ulnar-collateral ligament that led to John's eponymous surgery, and how Marshall's suggested regimen – exercises with an iron ball, like a shot put – strengthened John's arm enough to pitch another 13 seasons after the surgery.

    "We would just look at him and go, 'He's kind of wacko,' " said John, Marshall's teammate for three years with the Dodgers. "Yet you saw these feats. What I saw him do, there had to be a reason for it."

    Fixing teammates inside the clubhouse wasn't enough for Marshall. His findings were too important. So on Christmas Day in 1999, he opened his training center, fenced in by a fading white picket, off U.S. Route 301, where trucks rumble and drown out the grunts of his students.

    Some days it sounds like a pig farm with all the noise. Marshall has expanded the exercise far beyond the 6-, 10- and 15-pound iron balls. The students, usually half a dozen ranging from 18 to 25 years old, are mostly marginal pitchers who want to pitch in college or maybe independent ball. With a wrist weight ranging from 15 to 30 pounds tethered to their pitching arm, they swing their pitching arm straight down like a pendulum, lift it over their ear and follow through with a hard pronation, turning the wrist outward with the thumb pointing down.

    Marshall is convinced these actions can help save baseball from one of its great scourges. The rest of the motion is simple. No leg kick. No rotating the hips back toward second base. Facing the hitter, the pitcher steps with his glove-side foot and rotates his other leg with such fury his back almost ends up parallel to home plate.

    Marshall won the Cy Young in 1974 after making 106 appearances with the Dodgers. (Getty Images)

    One of Marshall's students, for lack of a better description, said "we kind of throw like a girl."

    And yet the motion comes straight from the laboratory. Following Marshall's rookie season in 1967, when his poor delivery caused shoulder pain, he used high-speed film to analyze himself and noticed that if a pitcher pronates his forearm, it protects his elbow and shoulder. Marshall continued to refine the motion, adding the pendulum swings, where musculature prevents elbow-ligament damage, and the step forward, to prevent the arm from flying out and locking up. Marshall's theory: Apply all force toward home plate instead of wasting it laterally with complicated wind-ups.

    Whatever Marshall's students thought they knew he makes them forget. They learn a new vocabulary to complement the new motion. Maxline is a pitch that comes in on the arm side of the plate, a torque pitch to the other. They know a lat is really a latissimus dorsi, plus the proper names for the other 35 muscles used in the pitching motion.

    In one week with Marshall, a pitcher throws more than he would in a month with an affiliated team. It's every day for 90 minutes, with the wrist weights, the iron ball and weighted lids from 4-gallon drums or footballs to help learn the release of a pronation curveball. Sometimes the lids go flying like Frisbees, so every inch of the 16-by-12-foot nets is necessary. Then it's at least 50 pitches with real baseballs, usually more.

    More than 100 students have gone through Marshall's 280-day program, and he claims not one has left injured. Williams was cut by the Mets in 2006 after they told him a magnetic resonance imaging revealed a torn labrum in the shoulder. A week after starting Marshall's program, Williams' pain disappeared.

    "Have you ever had surgery on your labrum?" Marshall said.

    "No," Williams said.

    "And do you ever have pain throwing as hard as you can today?" Marshall said.

    "No," Williams said.

    "This is Jeff Sparks," Marshall said. "He is the most highly skilled pitcher in the world. And nobody will hire him."

    Jeff Sparks, 35, temples graying, scowling like Billy Bob Thornton, is Mike Marshall's greatest student and greatest success. Right now, he sells home-and-garden products at Lowe's. He also goes to firefighter school. In December, he'll take EMT certification training.

    Left-hander Patrick Howe practices his mechanics in front of a mirror. (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    In the meantime, Sparks keeps showing up at Marshall's facility, just to throw on an undersized mound covered by gnarly turf.

    "Just watch," Marshall said, "and you're going to see a curveball that if the baseball world ever uses hitters will have no chance. Nobody throws a better curveball than Jeff Sparks."

    Seven years ago, Sparks started the season in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays bullpen. His reputation was well-established: Sparks was a malcontent, like Marshall, only 30 years younger. The Cincinnati Reds drafted Sparks in 1995, tired of his act and, a few weeks after he punched a wall and broke his hand in '97, released him.

    To have made the major leagues, then, was a testament to Sparks' ability. He played at West Texas A&M University when Marshall coached there in the '90s. At first, Sparks shunned the wrist weights, the iron ball, the fancy medical terminology, Marshall's whole shtick. When he saw his teammates gain 3, 4, 5 mph on their fastballs, Sparks felt sorry for himself, drank too much beer and returned to his dorm room at 3 a.m. to do a set with the wrist weights.

    He hasn't stopped. Not after the Devil Rays released him despite striking out 41 over 30 1/3 innings and not after he got released from an independent league for challenging his manager to a fight and not after his wife left him.

    Over his career, Sparks averaged almost six walks per nine innings, and in his last outing before the Devil Rays shipped him off, he threw balls on 12 of 14 pitches and found himself on the Everlast end of a verbal beating from his frustrated catcher, Mike DiFelice. Enough signs are there for Sparks to at least consider the inevitable.

    "Baseball," Sparks said, "is not going to pay the bills.

    "But," he added quickly, "I could pitch in the big leagues right now. I'm good. Plain and simple. I'm better today than I was in '99, 2000."

    In March, Sparks went to the Detroit Tigers tryout camp for the sixth consecutive year. The scout's radar gun had him at 83 mph. He's certain it was slow and thinks he can top out in the high 80s.

    "I don't know why they don't sign me," Sparks said. "Maybe it is a conspiracy against Mike."

    Marshall nodded.

    "Put it this way," Sparks said. "If this way of throwing becomes the mainstream, what does every pitching coach who has been preaching the traditional pitching motion forever and has no idea how to teach this have?"

    Sparks smiled, then chuckled.

    "No job."

    Here is the part where everyone calls Mike Marshall a lunatic, where they laugh at his motion, attack his science, scoff at his claims and roll their eyes.

    Marshall opened the academy on Christmas Day, 1999. (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    Because for all of the triumphs Marshall sees, the baseball world sees him for what he hasn't done, and that is consistently produce major-league-caliber players. And so develops the Catch-22: Teams think Marshall is too much of a kook to send him top-of-the-line talent and elite players avoid him because they don't want any sort of associated stigma.

    "Mike Marshall thinks I'm nuts, God bless him," said Tom House, the former big-league reliever, longtime pitching coach for Prior and, yes, a frequent target of Marshall's jabs. "I really admire his passion about what he does. But he's not the only one who does it."

    Any suggestion that Marshall adapt his program – mix his motion with the traditional motion to make the transition easier, or cut out the terminology to focus on the end rather than the means, or perhaps collaborate with others in the growing field of biomechanics – is met with a stern no.

    "I called him a few years ago and said, 'Tell me about your stuff,' " said Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the biomedical engineer who works alongside top baseball surgeon Dr. James Andrews at the Alabama Sports Medicine Institute. "He said no. I said, 'Can I tell you?' And he said he didn't want to hear what any other researcher is doing, that he never read or listened to anything because he didn't want to be accused of stealing. The concept of a researcher who's speaking up but won't listen is a big turn-off."

    Fleisig questions a large chunk of Marshall's motion. While the idea of directing force toward home plate and only home plate makes sense logically, Fleisig said, "We were dealt elbow joints and knee joints and hip joints." In Fleisig's mind, pitchers achieve maximum velocity when they coordinate those joints, not pronate their wrists and use pendulum swings.

    As averse as Marshall is to his peers' theories, he at least respects the science behind them. For baseball executives, who he believes take pride in their ignorance, Marshall saves a special kind of repugnance.

    "I know what works," Marshall says. "Nobody wants it? Hey. That's not my problem." (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    "I got tired of appeasing the stupid," Marshall said. "How long does a blonde have to act like a moron before she gets a date? These people (in organized baseball) are idiots. They don't know a damn thing. The thing is, they're powerful. They get the kids and can destroy them. And they do."

    He knows it takes just one – one owner, one GM or one farm director willing to risk his reputation, to draft five or six kids high school kids who throw 90 mph in the late rounds, or sign some raw pitchers from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and send them to Marshall to use as two-year guinea pigs.

    No GM, of course, would risk his reputation. Baseball greets convention with puckered lips.

    "It's so far afield from the traditional, normal method," Braves GM John Schuerholz said. "Not many people I've talked to would be comfortable embracing a concept that's so basically diametrically opposed to the teachings of baseball."

    Problem is, the teachings – the same pitching motion for the last century – have led to arm breakdowns that stifled, shortened or ended careers. So in the mid-'90s, Marshall sent a letter to all 30 teams offering his services. No one bit. He called GMs he knew from his playing days and never heard back.

    Only once did Marshall get anywhere. Earlier this decade, the Reds sent three injured pitchers to rehabilitate with him. Within weeks, Marshall said, the Reds stopped paying the players and they quit. Jim Bowden, currently the Washington Nationals GM and the Reds GM at the time, said he does not remember sending players to Marshall, though he'd be interested in hearing about Marshall's pitching motion.

    "Actually, I'm not sure I would," Bowden said, "but I would have our people listen to him."

    And still, in spite of all the skepticism from the executives they want to impress most, they're here, Joe Williams and Charlie Long and Clint Wilson and Alfredo Caballero and Jason Schmiedel and Derek Laughman and Mike Farrenkopf and Sam Buchanan, names you've never heard, names you're likely never to hear again.

    They pack two or three into musty one-bed, one-bath duplexes Marshall provides, work at the local country club and bring home the leftovers for everyone to enjoy, lift weights in a small building they call the "jailhouse" because of the bars on the windows, trek down the road to get 44-ounce slushies for 89 cents, hang out at Applebee's to pick up girls, and why?

    Alfredo Caballero heaves an iron ball as part of his training regimen. (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    Because they believe.

    And they hear stories like that of Rudy Seanez, who consulted Marshall for private tutelage long before doing so carried a stain.

    "I had worked with Mike using his iron balls in 1989, and before the '95 season, I felt like I needed to go back," said Seanez, the Dodgers reliever now in his 16th major-league season. "When I went to spring training, the hardest I'd ever thrown was 94 mph. After that workout (with Marshall), I was throwing harder than I ever had. When I came to get stretched out a little during the season, I hit 100 mph. One of my coaches said one pitch hit 102. I was like, 'What?' "

    The loyalty to Marshall is almost cultish. Every pitcher with whom he works vouches for his methods, however different they may be. Marshall sells his program by promising pitchers health and velocity, the cake with extra frosting.

    And, in turn, they pledge themselves as his projects, his test subjects, his molding clay.

    Long stands about 5-foot-7, weighs maybe 150 pounds. He spent a summer in Zephyrhills, 25 miles northeast of Tampa, because he couldn't make his high school baseball team. He still didn't the next season. Yet the more time he spent with Marshall, the stronger he got, and he's now throwing almost 15 mph harder than his first session.

    His roommate, Wilson, dwarfs Long at 6-foot-6. His right arm was in a sling because he decided to punch a refrigerator after a few too many beers. Their place is the hangout because of the big-screen TV and Super Nintendo, and it's decorated in dorm chic: dirt, days-old food and empty bottles. A left-hander, Wilson can still go through the exercises, and his fastball has jumped from 81 to 88 mph in his year with Marshall.

    Valedictorian of his high school class, Buchanan skipped an academic scholarship at Texas A&M to chase baseball. When he arrived at Marshall's facility, his fastball occasionally hit the mid 70s. Now he's regularly in the mid 80s and tops out at 88 mph. Next comes a wooden-bat league this summer in Colorado, along with Wilson and Long. Then perhaps an independent league. And eventually, if he's very lucky – if he can somehow escape the perception that Marshall's pitchers aren't gimmicks – a shot in a major-league farm system.

    "It takes dedication," Buchanan said. "And it takes a big leap of faith."

    Buchanan knows how it works. On his first warm-up pitch this summer, his opponents will gawk. And then the crowd will catch on. And suddenly, there will be a frenzy about the kid who throws funny, no matter how good his stuff. It happens to every Marshall disciple.

    "When I went to the Northern League tryout this week, everyone was laughing at us behind our backs," Williams said. "They were talking (crap) about Doc."

    Of all Marshall's students, Williams is probably the closest to jumping back into an organization. He is left-handed, tall, strong. He made the New York-Penn League All-Star game in 2004, his first minor-league season after graduating from St. Xavier University in Chicago with a biology degree. Had he trained with Tom House or any other brand-name coach, he probably would have gotten a chance somewhere.

    Williams chose Marshall because, naïve as it may be, he believes more in the quality of his pitches than their aesthetics.

    "I guess I take pride in going to a tryout and making a guy's jaw drop when I throw," Williams said. "People laugh first, and then they stop and watch us. When I went to a tryout in Gary (Ind.), one of the guys asked how we throw so hard without lifting our leg.

    "I just told him: Doc."

    The flight attendant dropped the letter off at seat 18A, and Jim Hendry, the man who runs one of baseball's storied franchises, opened it up.

    Alfredo Caballero, left, works out with fellow student Mike Farrenkopf. (David Manning / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

    "I wish the kid would have come up to me," Hendry said a few days later. "I'd have loved to talk to him."

    Joe Williams grew up a Cubs fan, so he might have been tongue tied about Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Eventually, Williams would have gotten to his point:

    "I played pro ball in the minors. Didn't get very high. But what Doc does is amazing. I threw to hitters Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. I threw a lot of pitches. And I could have thrown on Sunday. I wasn't sore. I wasn't hurt. And I'd love for you to see what we're doing, to come check us out. Can't hurt any, right?"

    It won't happen. Marshall resigns himself to this. He tries to slough off any bitterness. He can't fathom why businessmen would shoo away something that would save them tens of millions of dollars.

    At this point, he only hopes his ideas flourish. When Roger Clemens throws his fastball with a hard pronation of the wrist, Marshall beams. And, even better, during Clemens' first minor-league rehabilitation session, Marshall thought he saw a pendulum swing, a rarity among major leagues.

    "People are going to take bits and pieces," Marshall said, "and if that's the way this spreads, fine. They're eventually going to figure out how I teach that curveball, and it's going to dominate baseball. Then they're going to pendulum swing, and that's going to get rid of Tommy John surgery. And then if they get the arm up before the front foot lands, that will take care of the front-of-the-shoulder problems. And then … "

    Marshall kept talking. About different muscles, and where they attach, and what they do, and all of the things that make his theories, brilliant as they may be, so inaccessible. Only he stopped himself, like he knew he was getting off the point. As much as he is Dr. Mike Marshall, biomechanist, kinesiologist and anatomist, he's also just Doc, single-minded as ever.

    "And then, finally," Marshall said, "we'll develop the best pitchers anyone's ever seen."

  4. #3
    High five! nate's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Irvine, CA

    Re: Mike Marshall

    I think Marshall's site has video of how he modifies a pitcher's windup. It's a little different than normal but interesting to see.
    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

  5. #4
    nothing more than a fan Always Red's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Cincy West

    Re: Mike Marshall

    For the interested, here is a video of the motion, with Marshall narrating (warning- it's about 25 minutes long, and the motion is different than anything you've ever seen, so it looks a little weird to the eye).


    Mike Marshall is NOT a nut. He has a doctorate in exercise physiology, and knows what he is talking about. Plus, he "played the game" at the very highest level. For some folks, that is very important.

    Resting pitchers more, and pitching them less has NOT resulted in less pitching injuries. A sharp team would hire Marshall, and maybe have him work with minor leaguers first, guys who are not high draft picks and already have a "great arm." This can't hurt, it can only help.
    sorry we're boring

  6. #5
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    May 2000
    Cincinnati, OH

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Quote Originally Posted by Always Red View Post
    Mike Marshall is NOT a nut. He has a doctorate in exercise physiology, and knows what he is talking about. Plus, he "played the game" at the very highest level. For some folks, that is very important.

    The problem is, people think he's a nut.
    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor View Post
    I was wrong
    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor View Post
    Chip is right

  7. #6
    nothing more than a fan Always Red's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Cincy West

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip R View Post
    The problem is, people think he's a nut.
    True- they do.

    But what they're doing is not working to avoid injury.

    Baseball teams burn through arms- always have. Injured? Well try to get it fixed, if it can't be, then next one in line steps in.

    Not too many pitching coaches or baseball execs have doctoral degrees in physiology. I am convinced that most pitching coaches know very little about pitching. The job is open to almost anyone who pitched in professional baseball and is friends with the current manager.

    From what I hear, Marshall's problem is that he is too abrasive. If so, he should change his approach, you always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
    sorry we're boring

  8. #7
    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Quote Originally Posted by Always Red View Post
    I am convinced that most pitching coaches know very little about pitching. The job is open to almost anyone who pitched in professional baseball and is friends with the current manager.
    I think thats quite an understatement.

  9. #8
    Titanic Struggles Caveat Emperor's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    The 513

    Re: Mike Marshall

    That was an absolutely fascinating read.

    I watched the video, and the delivery looked nothing like I'd ever seen. It makes me wonder if someone couldn't be effective using it simply because the delivery is so damned awkward that it would throw timing off.
    Cincinnati Here We Go.
    26 Years and Counting...

  10. #9
    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Nov 2006

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Mike Marshall pitched 208 innings in 1974 and didn't start a single game (he made 106 regular season appearances).
    "This isn’t stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

  11. #10
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Oct 2000

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Greatest Relief year of my lifetime as a fan IMO.

    August 12, 1974
    He Also Serves Who Sits And Waits
    But baseball's best reliever—and most reluctant hero—seldom waits for long. Mike Marshall is busily working on his doctorate and a pennant for the Dodgers
    Ron Fimrite

    It is best that Mike Marshall never learn that his peers—if it can be said he has any—tend to think of him as a luxury item. As an academician and a libertarian, Marshall has little tolerance for those who would confuse a person with a commodity. The dignity of man is one of his enduring passions, a subject to be taken no more lightly than, say, physiological psychology, his field of scholarship at Michigan State University.

    Nevertheless, when Walter Alston was asked last week to describe what the addition of this indefatigable relief pitcher had meant to his team, the Dodger manager said, "Mike Marshall gives us the luxury to do things we could not do before." He cited as a perfect example the events of that very night when Andy Messersmith, the Los Angeles starter, mysteriously departed a game against San Diego after seven innings of nearly flawless, seven-zip pitching. Naturally, his replacement was Marshall, making his 70th appearance of the season. With the bristling efficiency that characterizes his every movement on and off the diamond, Marshall mixed his favorite screwball with a good fastball and a hard slider to retire the next six Padres and preserve the victory.

    "Why was Messersmith removed?" Alston was asked.

    "We talked it over and decided to rest Andy for the important games coming up with Houston and Cincinnati," he replied. "And we had a pretty good man out there in the bullpen."

    Was Messersmith, whose record is 13-2, miffed at being deprived of both a complete game and a possible shutout?

    "So what if I go nine and get a shutout?" he said. "That's personal baseball, and I don't believe in it. Besides, Mike had a day off yesterday and we were afraid he'd get rusty."

    Two nights later Marshall relieved starter Al Downing after that worthy walked the first San Diego batter in the seventh inning. Downing was leading 3-1 despite occasional fits of inaccuracy and seemed to be pitching effectively enough. No matter. In came the ubiquitous Marshall for the 71st time. Did the Padres score another run? Is a betting man a good credit risk? Marshall not only shut them out in the remaining three innings, he singled in two of the five runs the Dodgers scored after he appeared on the scene.

    But why was Downing taken out of the game so abruptly?

    "He kept getting in trouble with his control," said Alston.

    "We only had a two-run lead," said Downing, a gracious man. "And we've got a pretty good man out there in the bullpen."

    In both instances, Marshall was a luxury. He can work so often and with no appreciable diminution of skill that a manager can rest a Messersmith or remove a slightly shaky Downing with no fear of the consequences. Because of Marshall, Alston carries only nine pitchers on his roster, although he ordinarily prefers 10. He could just as well limit himself to five—four starters and that "pretty good man out there in the bullpen."

    "If he wasn't winning, I might complain about not pitching," said fellow reliever Charles Hough of Marshall. "What can you do when you're playing behind the best there is?"

    Not much. After relieving Don Sutton last Friday, Marshall had appeared in 73 of the Dodgers' first 109 games, including a record-breaking 13 in succession from June 18 through July 3. During that period he won six, lost none and saved two. In one six-game stretch, the Dodgers won five times by one run and Marshall was the winning pitcher in all of those narrow victories. Dodger pitchers have not had two complete games in a row since mid-May and have had only 26 this year.

    Complete games are indeed rare when Marshall is within hailing distance. Last year when he was with Montreal, which traded him during the off-season to the Dodgers for Willie Davis, he set a major league record by appearing in 92 games, a total he is certain to exceed this season. His record is already 11 and 6 and he has 16 saves. He could become the first pitcher to appear in 100 games in a season and the first reliever to win 20. He is, as Hough says, "fantastic."

    Marshall rejects such hyperbole. He is able to do what he does, he says, because he has spent 10 years studying both pitching technique and the workings of the human body. Despite the objections of several major and minor league managers, he developed the screwball to a fine art. But Marshall is not merely a student of the game. Sometime this year he should receive his doctorate in physiology from Michigan State as the result of a five-year program of study that he describes pedantically: "I am in the College of Education, Department of Physical Education, majoring in physiology with a cognate degree in physiological psychology. My specialty is child growth. The topic of my dissertation is Maturation at Adolescence in Males. No one ever seems to get all that straight."

    Marshall insists it is scholarship, not unusual physical prowess, that is the source of his durability. He can pitch more often than anyone else because he knows more about his body. He trains his own way, stubbornly ignoring baseball conditioning rules that were developed, if that is the word for it, in the days of the brothers Delahanty.

    "He's inventive in a game that hasn't had much inventiveness in the last 103 years," says Steve Garvey, the Dodgers' first baseman who was a student of Marshall's in a kinesiology class at MSU.

    "Mike believes in long-distance running, not sprints, in weight work and in a lot of muscle stretching," says Messersmith. "He knows more about what goes into the pitching motion than anybody in the world. He has lectured to me a lot about the functions of the body."

    Marshall's 31-year-old body is unremarkable. He is short for a pitcher—only 5'10"—and he weighs 180 pounds. He has big shoulders and a weight-lifter's arms, but he bulges at the middle. He has long sideburns and an impressive mustache, but his curly brown hair has thinned on top. Standing one sunny day last week in the doorway of the Lanai Coffee Shop at San Diego's Town & Country Hotel pensively chewing on a toothpick, he could have passed for a life-insurance salesman.

    What is remarkable about Marshall is his mind. Baseball may never have known one quite like it. "I am an educator," he explained from the improbable vantage point of the Dodgers' dugout. His teammates busied themselves with batting practice and shagging fly balls, activities that seemed increasingly trivial as Marshall ventured random opinions on the human condition. "Baseball is a hobby I pursue. Other than the actual playing of the game, I find the whole of professional baseball extremely boring and mind-dulling. Oh, certainly, there are some fellows here I enjoy, but it's not the same as in the academic community. Fortunately, I'm able to see some of my friends in education during the summer. They seem to recharge me."

    Marshall's idea of a night on the town scarcely coincides with the notions of the majority of his associates on the diamond. "I don't drink or smoke, so that lets me out of a lot," he says. "And I'm not interested in the idle chatter of groupies. I mean groupies of all ages, sizes and sexes, not just the young females but anyone who tries to sap some self-respect out of having us in his proximity."

    On the road, Marshall lets his teammates revel in the presence of "live ones." He prefers the company of corpses. During a recent trip, Messersmith accompanied Marshall to the Michigan State anatomy laboratory, where the scholar showed his fellow pitcher what it means to have a really dead arm. "I spent a couple of hours in the lab—cadavers, the whole bit," recalls Messersmith, who didn't take physiology during his undergraduate days at the University of California. "It was one of the most amazing and enjoyable things I've ever done. What impressed me was that the whole trip was totally devoted to me. Mike is a very blunt, very honest person. Some people can't handle that. I know a lot of people think he's some kind of a bad dude because he doesn't give autographs or talk to fans. Really he's a considerate and warm person."

    Autograph seekers might incline more toward the bad-dude conclusion. Once, refusing autographs to a group of youngsters, Marshall explained that he would willingly sign if the boys could show him that their autograph books also contained the signatures of their teachers and others who "were really meaningful in their lives." The kids were understandably stunned by such a preposterous notion, and since none could produce the requisite signatures, Marshall strolled pedagogically past them.

    "As an athlete, I am no one to be idolized," he explained in the dugout, urging teammate Jim Wynn's young son to take his bat and ball farther away. "I will not perpetuate that hoax. They say I don't like kids. I think that by refusing to sign autographs, I am giving the strongest demonstration that I really do like them. I am looking beyond mere expediency to what is truly valuable in life."

    All around him in the ball park, Marshall sees evidence of distorted values. He thinks that the fans who enthusiastically cheer his every appearance are probably doing so for all the wrong reasons. They should applaud his performance, not his person. And the fan foolish enough to approach this very private person in public had best be prepared for a cold pitching shoulder.

    "Just watching me perform does not give someone the right to steal my time off the field and thrust himself upon me," Marshall says. "To maintain that I have a responsibility to the fans is absurd. In my view, the fan either likes the quality of my craft or not. Either way he has no right to impose on my rights of privacy. A lot of people get upset because I won't talk to them in a public place where I'm eating. That doesn't bother me at all. There's something sadly missing in these people. I feel sorry for someone so shallow. Actually, if a person walks away from me saying, 'Those damn pro athletes,' I feel I've succeeded in convincing him that the professional athlete is not so important."

    The rabid, dog-loyal fan that team owners and most athletes feed off is to Marshall a woefully misguided, possibly even dangerous person.

    "The fan should enjoy the high skill level of the performer and not build anything more into it than that. For a fan to feel momentary elation or depression is a complete misapplication of values. He should enjoy the quality of performance, not the result. Our whole society is deluged with the concept that winning is all that's important. That is bull. All that's important is that the individual does the best he can. Victory does not elate me, nor does defeat depress me. The only victory for me is in the quality of the competition, not in the final score."

    Marshall pounded his glove. He was anxious to take a pregame turn at shortstop, a position he played with indifferent skill in the minor leagues. For a man so ferociously cerebral, he seems uncomfortable in repose. On the field before a game, he is everywhere, exercising in the outfield, playing all the infield positions, his tireless arm constantly in motion. It was time to get on with the day's workout, yet he felt compelled to assail one more philosophy he considers fraudulent.

    "Our Constitution is based on the integrity of the individual, but you hear coaches and managers preach that no individual should be more important than the team. Why, every individual is more important than the team. Every individual has an integrity that cannot be stolen by a team or any majority. What was it Franklin said?"

    He could not think of it. Maybe it was: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Anyway, Marshall was off and running, looking strangely like a small boy at play.

    That night he would jog in from the bullpen, carefully tamp down the mound, rescue Downing and, as a true team player, help achieve victory with his bat. Afterward, he would dress quickly, steer clear of journalists imposing on his privacy and retreat out of sight.

    Marshall has a wife and three daughters, but he refuses to discuss anything so private as family life. He is equally reluctant to reveal what plans he might have after he achieves his doctorate. He has said before that he is fully prepared to abandon the ball park for the groves of academe, although he cannot expect an educational institution, even one as affluent as Michigan State, to reward him with a salary comparable to the $87,500 the Dodgers reportedly pay him. The inordinate amounts paid big leaguers is merely an added incongruity in the life of an intellectual who plays a child's game so well that he keeps winning, even while deploring the concept of victory.

    Messersmith, also a speedy dresser, was happy with the victory that kept the Dodgers 5½ games ahead of the Reds, their opponents in a key three-game series this week. "I know what Mike says about winning, and how performance is all that really matters," he said. "But there's one thing: his kind of performance leads to winning."

  12. #11
    Member SMcGavin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Indianapolis, IN

    Re: Mike Marshall

    That was a really interesting article... thanks for posting it. It's not hard to see why a guy like Marshall would be shunned by the typical "baseball man".

  13. #12
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Re: Mike Marshall

    He's a cocky kid with a subtle sense of humor
    Jim Bouton on Mike Marshall in Ball Four

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2000

    Re: Mike Marshall

    No post from GM?

  15. #14
    Passion for the game Team Clark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2000

    Re: Mike Marshall

    I have always been impressed with Dr. Marshall and his methods. His web site has been up for years in different configurations. I'm not a master of his teachings but I have modified some of mine based on his, so to speak.

    I will say that for years my arm hurt like a knife was stabbing into it from throwing BP EVERY day. I did the rubber bands, stretching, you name it. I threw with pain and just got over it. About 3-4 years ago I modified my motion to reflect something very similar to Dr. Marshall's way. Now, I can throw at least 5 days in a row before getting any arm fatigue. We're talking 150+ pitches at a time. The guy is not crazy.
    It's absolutely pathetic that people can't have an opinion from actually watching games and supplementing that with stats. If you voice an opinion that doesn't fit into a black/white box you will get completely misrepresented and basically called a tobacco chewing traditionalist...
    Cedric 3/24/08

  16. #15
    All dyslexics must untie!
    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    SW Portland, OR

    Re: Mike Marshall

    Quote Originally Posted by Rojo View Post
    No post from GM?
    Pronate this

    The Marshall quote I remember from Ball Four was regarding the height of the mound (which was lowered following the 1968 season) Marshall told Bouton it would actually help the pitchers by reducing the distance between their release point and the plate ("something about the square root of the hypotenuse...")

    Has it been 40 years since those two were listening to Joe Shultz "pound the ol' Budweizer" in the Pilot's clubhouse?

    Baseball: the more things change, the more they stay the same
    Never overlook the obvious

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