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.

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