|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
1967 Sporting News
The Sporting News
August 12, 1967
by Watson Spoelstra
Young Mike Marshall pitched late-inning relief for the Tigers four straight days and someone asked if he was surprised by Manager Mayo Smith's confidence in him.
"I'm not really surprised," replied Marshall in a way that implied he meant it.
In the most curious happening of the season, the Tigers entered the decisive weeks of the pennant race with a 24-year-old righthander hardly anybody knew.  "Does it thrill you to do the things you are doing as an unknown?" a clubhouse visitor inquired after Marshall had hung no curve balls in hanging up another pitching save.  "It wasn't my fault that people didn't know me," he said with a grin.
When he began to gain status as a fireman, someone in Boston slyly suggested a nickname of "Fire"--get it, Fire Marshall?  The next person thought of "Court as the perfect nickname.  "Why not make it Mike?" he said simply when the two names were dropped on him in clubhouse conversation.
Last spring in Florida, the Tigers spent six weeks looking for "another Larry Sherry."  Fred Gladding and Dave Wickersham were foremost candidates.  In building up his relief pitching, Manager Mayo Smith made the point, "You need two good ones like Sherry."
Mike Marshall's introduction to the Tigers did not go unnoticed, although it failed to earn him an instant big league job.  One day, a short, squat righthander came over from the Tigertown minor league base to throw 15 minutes of batting practice.  "Who's that out there?" someone asked Jake Wood, then an extra man in the Detroit infield.
"I don't know," replied Wood, "but he's got me overmatched."  Norm Cash and Al Kaline watched from behind the batting cage.  "Look at that," said Cash. "He just reaches back for some more on his fast one."  "Hey Mayo," Kaline called to the manager, "move from behind the cage.  This guy's trying to impress you."
The performance arrested the attention of pitching coach Johnny Sain and his buddy, Hal Naragon.  "That young fellow could make it fast as a relief pitcher," said Sain.  "He really makes the ball move," ventured Naragon.
Sain had a sketchy background on Marshall and he invited the young pitcher to dress in the main clubhouse at Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., for a few days. Marshall didn't do his arm any good throwing so hard in February and he soon returned to the Tigertown base.
Marshall filled in details on his background.  For five years, he was a shortstop and third baseman for the Phillies in the minor leagues. Detroit obtained him in a player deal at the Double-A level.  "I did some pitching the last year," said Marshall, "but the Phillies didn't take me seriously."
In the Detroit organization, Marshall was assigned to Montgomery (Southern).  The manager was Wayne (Blackie) Blackburn, who served for a while as one of Charlie Dressen's coaches in Detroit.  "They tell me you do some pitching," Blackburn told the youngster.  "That's what I want to be," declared Marshall.  "You ought to make a good man in the bullpen," suggested Blackburn.
In 51 appearances last year for Blackburn, Marshall achieved an 11-7 record with a 2.33 ERA.
This failed to earn advancement to the Detroit roster this winter.
When the Tigers pulled out of Florida this spring, Marshall went north with Toledo in the International League. Despite a pulled muscle in his side, he showed a 2-0 record and 0.61 ERA for ten appearances.  "Mike can do the job in Detroit," insisted Jack Tighe, Toledo manager.
So Marshall moved up to the Tigers on May 28 and Manager Smith noted he was "a cool customer who just doesn't scare."
Sherry never did find himself as the Detroit relief ace and Gladding had some arm trouble that restricted his use of the curve after a great start.  Soon Marshall shot past everybody to No. 1 rank.
"Mike's great," Smith said, "but he can't keep doing it alone."
Marshall is another home-grown player, joining Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley as talented young men with Michigan backgrounds.
Marshall is from Adrian, center of Michigan's richest farming area.  He was playing ball professionally when he was 18 years old and made unbelievable academic progress along the way.  Last winter, he received his master's degree in physiology from Michigan State University.  Now he's after his Ph.D. in the general area of child growth and development.
"I've already written my doctor's thesis," said Mike.  "It's just a question of getting faculty approval.  I hope to have my doctor's degree in another year, possibly before we go to spring training in Florida."
He also works on the Michigan State physical education staff in the off season.  He has built himself up physically on a program of weight training.
Marshall's clubhouse conversation can be stunning.  "Did you keep your stuff from one day to another when you pitched four straight days?" he was asked.  "The difference was infinitesimal," he replied.  The writers had to retrieve their pens and pencils from the clubhouse floor.