Baseball lost a legend of the game on Tuesday who would’ve been a lot more at home in this current era of baseball than the one he inhabited.
1974 Cy Young-winning Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall, who came of age with the Expos and finished a remarkable 14-year career with the Twins before moving on to bigger and better things, passed away this week at the age of 78.
Somewhat of an outcast in his time due to the scientific views of pitching he espoused, Marshall’s teachings now feel like gospel rather than heresy in the modern game.
Though he disappeared from the game, we hope he got the chance to properly appreciate the impact he had upon it.
Armed with a screwball, a set of mutton chops, and a starring role in the seminal baseball book “Ball Four,” Marshall found himself floating through the game from team to team more than you’d expect one of the league’s elite pitchers to.
However, his rabble rousing for the Players Union and unique views on how a pitcher should take care of himself made him unpopular in a rigid game that thrived on conformity. Hmm … wonder if there are any Dodgers pitchers these days who battle the same thing regularly?
Dodgers Mike Marshall might’ve been the precursor to Trevor Bauer.
Marshall’s numbers from his Cy Young-winning campaign are stunning to the modern eye; he relieved in 106 games out of 162, throwing a starter’s workload of 208.1 innings. You read that right. I had to reread it several times, so you do, too.
That was a career high in innings pitched for Marshall, and he never quite got back to that level of durability (though he was an All-Star the next year, too, with his workload carved in half).
Remarkably (based on the way we remember him), those were his only two full seasons in Los Angeles. He also has earned our praise for the two preceding seasons in Montreal, when he finished fourth and second in Cy Young voting, as well as 10th and fifth in the MVP chase, respectively.
Following his time in MLB, Marshall continued to espouse his views on pitching science, earning his his Ph.D. in kinesiology mid-career (well, towards the end) at Michigan State in 1978.
Tell us, would you be shocked if Bauer ducks out to night school and manages the same thing in five or six years?
Though he was never asked back to work with a major-league organization (again, the unionizing), Marshall coached in college and authored two books on the art of pitching, ranking right up with Tom House as one of the uniquely prominent minds in that field. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but House also published a tribute upon Marshall’s passing.
Rest in peace to a Dodgers star whose numbers completely clash with what our eyes have come to expect from the modern game, but who would’ve likely tucked himself in more neatly in this current iconoclastic era.
Tragically, it took his death for him to get his just desserts in the game.