A CHAT WITH MARICHAL

Ken Hoffman tosses questions to baseball legend Juan Marichal

Marichal is hailed as one of baseball's greatest pitchers. Photo by Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Maybe the most under-appreciated player in baseball history — certainly the greatest modern-era pitcher for my beloved San Francisco Giants — is Juan Marichal. And I'm excited for the chance to meet him Sunday, February 10 at the 33rd Tristar Collectors Shows at NRG Arena.

Marichal, the Dominican Dandy, will join other sports legends like Roger Clemens, Jim Brown, Steve Carlton, Earl Campbell, and Big Red Machine mashers Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and George Foster at the autograph and memorabilia event.

Current sports stars like Clint Capela, DeAndre Hopkins, Jake Marisnick, and dozens more will be on hand to scribble their signatures and take photos, too.

Here are just a few notes from the back of Marichal's baseball card:

  • First Dominican player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (1983)
  • Played in every All-Star game during the '60s
  • Most wins by any pitcher in the '60s
  • Career 243-142 record
  • Joined Sandy Koufax as only pitchers to win 25 or more games in three different seasons in baseball's modern era
  • Once threw a 16-inning complete game shutout

Love this one: When Marichal was a rookie in 1960, Giants manager Alvin Dark told him, "you're going all the way today, the bullpen will be empty." In 1968, Marichal threw 30 complete games. Five different seasons, he had more than 20 complete games. Just for comparison and laughs, last year the entire Astros pitching staff recorded three complete games.

I spoke with Marichal on the phone from his home in Miami last week. I asked, is it true that when you were a kid in the Dominican, you played baseball with golf balls?

"Yes, we would find old golf balls on a local course and ask a shoemaker to wrap cloth around them. We used branches from trees as bats. We didn't have equipment, but we learned how to play. I loved baseball so much, it didn't matter that we didn't have money to buy real baseballs. I think I became a pretty good player," Marichal, 81, says.

Marichal and his friends made gloves from old burlap bags. He never dreamed that, 70 years later, people would stand in line for his autograph or take a selfie.

"It is amazing to me, but the fans are so nice. They ask about my career and the old days, my teammates like Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. They seem happy to meet me, but I'm happier to meet them," he says.

Continue reading on CultureMap and find out why Marichal ended his career playing for the Dodgers.

Bregman's great year not enough to overtake the best in the sport

Mike Trout wins 2019 AL MVP over Alex Bregman

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a close race, the MLB announced on Thursday that the winner of the American League Most Valuable Player Award is Los Angeles' Mike Trout. He edges out Alex Bregman, who many thought might be able to capitalize on missed time by Trout in 2019 to steal the award. Trout takes the award for the third time in his career, joining a list of only ten other players in history to win it three or more times.

Missed time not enough for Bregman to steal it

What some may have thought would put Bregman over Trout in the mind of voters is the sustained success he had in a complete season. Trout missed 28 games this season mostly due to injury, while Bregman played in 156 of the teams 162 games, sitting out just a handful of games with minor injuries or scheduled rest.

Still, Trout managed to put up incredible numbers that Bregman couldn't quite match. Trout led the entire league in WAR at 8.6 with Bregman right behind in 8.5. He also led the MLB in walk percentage (18.3%), on-base percentage (.438), and was second in OPS (1.083), which was best in the AL. Trout was second in the AL in home runs (45), sixth in runs (110), and ninth in RBIs (104) despite his missed time.

Still a terrific season for Bregman

Bregman finished with 41 home runs (3rd in the AL), 122 runs (4th), 112 RBIs (5th) while leading the entire league in walks (119) to put him third in walk percentage (17.2%). The walks helped boost his on-base percentage and OPS, finishing second to Trout in both categories in the AL at .423 and 1.015, respectively. Bregman did finish with a better batting average, posting a .296 to Trout's .291.

One of his most impressive stretches, though, came in his hot August, which earned him a player of the month honor. That month, he drove in 31 runs while hitting six home runs and fourteen doubles, working his way up to a 1.235 OPS over the 26 games he played.

2019 was by far Bregman's best performance in his early career and shows that the future is bright for the young third baseman who the Astros currently have tied up for the next five seasons. Though Mike Trout will likely still be the favorite for MVP for many years to come, Bregman showed this year that he could give him an honest fight for the award.

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