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Juan Marichal: My Journey from the Dominican Republic to Cooperstownby Juan Marichal
Synopses & Reviews
From 1960 to 1969—the decade of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, and numerous other all-time greats—no pitcher in major league baseball won more games than Juan Marichal. The nine-time all-star was also a groundbreaking presence, debuting at a time when only a handful of Latin-born players were playing big league ball. Coming from humble origins in the Dominican Republic, Marichal went on to become a dominant pitcher in his time, an icon in two countries, and an international ambassador for the game of baseball.
In this first full account of his life and career, Marichal tells of his experiences growing up on a Dominican farm, where he had to fashion his own baseball equipment—balls made out of golf balls wrapped in cloth, bats from the branches of the wassama tree, and gloves cut from canvas tarps. Despite these limited tools, the young Juan could never get enough of his beloved game, and he vowed to his mother that she would one day hear his name on radio.
Marichal’s journey to stardom took him down some unexpected roads. As a teenager, he was enlisted by the family of the nation’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo, to play baseball for the Dominican Air Force. Although scouting by the majors was still in its infancy in Latin America, Marichal soon caught the attention of representatives from the San Francisco Giants, who brought him to the United States in 1958. Adjusting to a foreign culture and language while playing in towns from Massachusetts to Indiana to Washington was a challenge for the young hurler, but the greatest surprise and adjustment was the racial intolerance he encountered in his new home during the early 1960s.
Despite these obstacles, Marichal quickly established himself as an elite pitcher, throwing a complete-game one-hitter in his first major league game in 1960—242 more victories and 243 more complete games were to come.
More than 50 years after that auspicious debut, Marichal reflects on the bonds he established with teammates like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, and childhood friend Felipe Alou, as well as his battles and friendships with opposing hitters, from Roberto Clemente to Pete Rose and many more. He recounts the highs and lows of a 16-year career—from an epic 16-inning duel with fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to his regrettable altercation with Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro. He also shares the story behind how he came to develop the distinctive, high-kick pitching delivery that became his trademark.
Today Marichal is still close to the game, and he opines on the state of baseball in the 21st century, including the treatment and use of pitchers, the impact of performance-enhancing drugs, and the many Dominican-born players who have followed in his footsteps over the last half century. Self-described as a happy person, Marichal’s love of life, baseball, and his two home countries shine through in this intimate memoir.
In Juan Marichal, Marichal tells the story of his rise from a young boy living on a rural farm in the Dominican Republic to his status as one of the great pitchers of all time.
The life and times of the high-kicking, hard-throwing pitcher who dominated hitters and changed the face of baseball for generations.
"When people talk about great pitchers from the sixties and seventies they usually say, Koufax, Gibson, and Seaver, and they might mention Marichal at the end. But I'm telling you, the order could easily be Marichal, Gibson, Koufax. This man could be number one. Unbelievable control, and he threw hard. . . . The most amazing thing is that he joined the Giants as a complete pitcher. He didn’t need to learn how to pitch. He knew how to pitch when he got there." — Hank Aaron
“He didn’t give me the most trouble—Sandy Koufax did—but as far as being a pitcher, I think Juan Marichal was the best I ever faced.” — Pete Rose
“I can't conceive what Juan Marichal and all those guys went through before. Today you have so many Latin players, so many Latino superstars, they take care of the kids when they come up to the big leagues. It's different now. It's totally different.” — Mariano Rivera
“Winningest pitcher of the 1960s, almost 200 wins in a decade, 20-game winner for seven seasons, 244 complete games, 52 of which were shutouts. And yet, I think, Juan Marichal is underrated.” — Bob Costas
“Who gets into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Only the top one percent of major leaguers. This is Juan Marichal, this the top one percent. We all have a responsibility to show the way to the next generation, and no one has done it better than Juan Marichal.” — Dale Petroskey, former President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame
In a decade that featured such legendary hurlers as Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, and other Hall of Famers, no pitcher won more games than Juan Marichal in the 1960s. His unique, high-kick pitching style was imitated by kids from New York to San Francisco to Santo Domingo, and it is immortalized in a bronze statue outside of the Giants’ current ballpark. Marichal was the first Dominican-born player to play in an All-Star Game and the first elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he won more games than any of his countrymen. And while Dominican and other Latino players have come to dominate many aspects of baseball in recent years, Marichal was a trailblazer in his day, entering the league at a time when Latin American players were routinely discriminated against, underpaid, and presented with numerous obstacles on their journey to the big leagues.
In Juan Marichal, Marichal tells the story of his rise from living on a rural farm as a young boy in the Dominican Republic to his status as one of the great pitchers of all time. Along the way, he was enlisted by the son of the country’s dictator to play for the national team, was threatened at gunpoint to throw a game during a tournament in Mexico, fought homesickness as a minor leaguer in rural Indiana, and went head-to-head with some of the greatest pitchers and hitters the game has ever seen.
For the first time, Marichal gives his perspective on life as a Latino ballplayer in the 1960s, describes the highs and lows of a 16-year major league career, and explores what the recent influx of Dominicans in the majors has meant to baseball and to his home country. He offers reflections on lingering stereotypes, the impact of steroids, and the general state of the game in the 21st century.
About the Author
Juan Marichal is a Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 16 years in the major leagues. He has covered baseball on Spanish-language radio for both the major leagues and Caribbean leagues. He lives in the Dominican Republic.
Lew Freedman is a veteran sportswriter who has won more than 250 journalism awards. He is also the author of 44 books, including an autobiography of Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and several books on baseball history.
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