The book: “It’s What’s Inside the Lines that Counts: Baseball Stars of the 1970s and 1980s Talk About the Game They Loved, Vol. 3″
The author: Fay Vincent
The vital stats: Simon & Schuster, 328 pages, $25
Find it: At Barnes and Noble (linked here)
The pitch: The third installment of the former commissioner’s attempt to get the oral history of the game directly from transcribed conversations with players from the ’30s down through the ’80s comes together with interviews he’s done with Juan Marichal, Cal Ripken Jr., Willie McCovey, Dick Williams, Earl Weaver, Tom Seaver, Don Baylor, Ozzie Smith, umpire Bruce Froemming and, surprisingly, former players association chief Marvin Miller — who Vincent believes belongs in the Hall of Fame. To cover the game’s evolution during this time frame, a discussion with Miller is essential.
After reading several accounts, all with something to offer in different ways, our focus turned to Marichal, one of the game’s Latino pioneers who talks about the racism he faced for the first time when coming to the U.S.
Oh, yes, then there was the 1965 Roseboro incident.
Marchical explains: “I hate to talk about that now because Johnny passed away. … “
But then he does, and it really helps put things into context:
He remembers how on a Friday night, Maury Wills was awarded first base on catcher’s interference when he faked a bunt and his bat ticked catcher Tom Haller’s glove. Giants manager Herman Franks was upset, so he told Matty Alou to do the same to Roseboro — and he did. Roseboro got mad and “Johnny started hollering from the plate to the bench. We didn’t know what he said. I started hollering to him. He didn’t know what I said. …”
Marichal said Roseboro then sent him messages via Orlando Cepeda, Matty Alou and coach Cookie Lavagetto: “He told them to tell me to shut my mouth if I didn’t want to get one behind my ear.”
Then Saturday arrived and Marichal said “I forgot the whole thing.”
Sunday, Marichal pitched against Sandy Koufax. Wills led off with a bunt single, stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly. Next time up, Marichal brushed Wills back. Then Ron Fairly hit the deck on a pitch that Marichal said was “almost a strike.” As a result, the Dodger players were yelling at Marichal.
“When I came to bat, I said to myself, maybe they’re going to throw one at me. But I knew that Sandy doesn’t. I was 100 percent sure that he wasn’t going to do it.”
Marichal remembers taking the first two pitches, the second a strike down the middle.
“For some reason, I don’t know why, I looked back and I saw Johnny. When the ball hit his glove, he dropped the ball and it rolled back. I just looked at that point, then I went back and looked at Sandy. And I stayed there with my bat on my shoulder. And Johnny shot that ball from behind that hit my ear.
“I looked back and I said, what did you do that for? Let me tell you, he called my mother so many names that I couldn’t take it. When he first said that, I said, what? And he said, you heard me, you so and so and so, and then he started charging. A lot of people said that I hit him in the head with a bat, sure. But with a swing that I didn’t think could hurt anybody, because I just moved the bat forward trying to stop him from coming at me with all that gear and everything. Oh, my God, what a fight. That was ugly.”
Marichal said he felt “so bad” because of not only what happened, but how it was portrayed in the media. And he had also heard the story: “When they were leaving the hotel that Sunday to play us, they had a meeting on the bus and they talked to each other, saying, who do they want to get, and Johnny said, leave Juan for me. Leave Juan for me. So you know that was well prepared.”
Years later, Marichal said he talked to Koufax, and told him that he and Roseboro had become friends, that what happened was just part of the game. Koufax confirmed that they had asked him to knock Marichal down, but Roseboro said, ‘Don’t do it, let me do it.’
“But by using the bat, I was the bad guy.’”
Marichal was fined a then-record $1,750 and suspended for nine days.
How it goes down in the scorebook: You’d wish there was a book on tape version of this — and probably there is. But with the pages here, we can hear the voices clearly enough, get to the stories quickly enough, and enjoy them all just the same. We thank Vincent for taking the time and effort to complete this series … knowing there’s the ’90s and ’00s that could be worth looking into sometime down the road as well.
== “The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk about the Game They Loved” Vol. 1 from 2006 (linked here)
== “We Would Have Played for Nothing : Baseball Stars of the 1950s and 1960s Talk About the Game They Loved” Vol. 2 from 2008 (linked here)