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.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For some reason this week really got to me. All the Antonio Brown stuff, Kevin Durant scolding the media, Justin Verlander whining about millionaire players not becoming billionaires, Odell posting a cryptic tweet because he might be traded.

There's so much drama now. Maybe there was in the past too but it was behind the scenes. We didn't hear about every player's every thought. I liked not knowing this much about our athletes.

Sometimes it was misleading not knowing them better. I didn't root for OJ because I was a Walter Payton guy but I admired what OJ did right up until he started killing people. Same goes for Rae Carruth. But those are extreme examples.

Today we know way too much about our athletes. Way too much. Back in the day I wouldn't have known that Josh Hader and Josh Allen were little racists. I'd be fine not knowing that.

I'd be good not knowing that Laremy Tunsil is a weed enthusiast and ready for nuclear holocaust at the same time.

I'd be better off not knowing that Kevin Durant has Twitter burner accounts. I just have a hard time understanding why one of the great basketball players of our time cares what some 18-year old thinks of him.

I didn't need to know every detail about the KD - Russell Westbrook cat fight. It just wasn't necessary.

I'd rather not hear about how LeBron's pee pee hurt because Phil Jackson used the word posse.

How Antonio Brown and Big Ben have hissy fits.

How the Steelers offensive line was so mad at LeVeon that they started talking about his money. That was a big no-no back in the day. You never talked about another man's money.

Of course none of the old rules apply today. Used to be, guys retired at the end of the season. Now they retire at halftime of the second game.

Used to be you didn't record your teammate admitting how he cheated on his girl and then make it public. That would have gotten you killed not just traded.

Used to be you respected the office of the commissioner of the league. Kennisaw Mountain Landis, Pete Rozelle and David Stern were icons. Now coaches and players wear Roger Goodell clown shirts.

Do we really need to know which player is gay and which isn't?

Who everyone is dating?

Do we need a red carpet at all-star games?

Do we need 9-hour pregame shows before the Super Bowl?

Are we really giving a penalty for horns down now? Are we that soft?

And do we really think that if we call it the Red River Shootout that we're promoting violence? Really?

Do we ever need to hear one more Lavar Ball thought again? For God's sake the man's an idiot. Why do we give him a national platform?

Now don't get me wrong. There is some good that comes from today's tell-all athlete. When Kobe threw Shaq under the bus after Kobe was caught cheating in Colorado, Shaq won the title with the Heat and came up with one of the great rap lines of all time. "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes." Classic.

I've also kind of enjoyed the off-season back and forth between Alex Bregman and Trevor (Tyler) Bauer. They don't like each other. Can't wait until they face each other for the first time this year. But I'm sure the media will make such a big deal out of it that they'll hug before the game and have a press conference about how much they respect each other. The media ruins everything.

Back in the day Bregman would have taken a 96 mile an hour fastball to the back and the benches would clear and we'd have a good old fashioned brouhaha. That's how men settled stuff back then. Sure you might throw it a little high and maybe kill him but that's the risk you took. That's what men did.

What's more fun, a press conference or a bench clearing brawl? Not even close.

I know I must sound like the "get off my lawn guy." Maybe I am. I don't shave with a Gillette razor. I use Schick.

Now give me back my sports without all this drama.

And get off my lawn.

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