Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

1974 Los Angeles Times

Mike Marshall just keeps on pitching.

Montreal, 1971 and 1972.  Mike Marshall pitches in relief for the Expos in 66 and 65 games and says that he's underworked.

Montreal, September 1973.  Mike Marshall pitches in the season's final game; his fifth straight and finishes with 92 appearances; a major league record.

Los Angeles, July 1974.  The uniform's different, but the machine pitches on; already 62 games for the Dodgers.  In one stretch, 13 straight; another record.  He ends the year with 106 appearances.

It's a baseball tenet that all pitchers require rest.  As Ron Perranoski, a relief pitcher in the 1960s puts it: "There are only so many bullets in a gun."

But, Mike Marshall, at age 31, is a physical and statistical anomaly; he appears capable of firing in every game; without tiring, without swelling, stiffness or soreness in his arm and without ice, liniment or a single rubdown.  And, without losing his stuff.

Look at Wayne Granger, whose 1969 record Marshall broke.  He's in the minors, his arm shot.  At 30.  Wilhelm, Farrell, Face, Regan, Radatrz and the like here called workhorses for averaging about 50 appearances and 100 innings a year: Marshall, by doubling those numbers, qualifies as a baseball marvel.

But, some wonder if Marshall isn't simply a special specimen with an idea blend of muscles, bones, nerves and tendons that enable him to throw hard daily without straining.

And, in a sport not noted for superbly-conditioned athletes, maybe he's just in better shape than the others.

You search for answers among baseball people.

Walter Alston, Dodger's manager says he has no answers.  Yogi Berra, the Mets manager, says that Marshall's so good, he's a freak.

Hoyt Wilhelm, whose 21 years made him perhaps the modern era's most durable pitcher sayd Marshall must have a rubber arm.

Johnny Sain, once Marshall's pitching coach, says it's determination.

Jim Brewer, displaced by Marshall as the Dodgers' premier reliever, says Marshall never overthrows, so his muscles are never strained.

Dr. Frank Jobe, the Dodger team physician and an orthopedist who has studied the effect of pitching on the arm, talks about body mechanics; balance, rhythm and alignment as the secret.  He says Marshall's are perfect.

Roy Campanella, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame catcher studies Marshall during the 13-game streak and at one point smiles, points to his head and says: "He thinks he can pitch every day, so he can."

Andy Messersmith, a Dodger starter, watches Marshall throw hard from shortstop in a pre-game warmup, a familiar scene, and says everyone's opinions are irrelevant, only the man knows.

And the man says matter-of-factly: "I know more about pitching than anyone in the game or anyone who's played the game."

But, he declines to elaborate, beyond crediting exercise physiology and superior physical conditioning (in the winter, he's a professor at Michigan State, his area of expertise: kinesiology, the study of anatomy in relation in human movement.)

"Baseball has endured as long as it has without my theories," Marshall says, "and it will continue to do so."

That was his tone in an interview at Dodger Stadium; clinical, concise, at times, abrupt.  The conversation, he sat staring at the baseball in his hand and almost staring down the reporter, went like this:

Reporter:  "Can anyone besides you work 100 games?

Marshall:  "It's possible for anyone to do it, given the knowledge I have."

Reporter:  "Can anyone acquire that knowledge?

Marshall:  "it's not likely.  How many Ph.D.s (Marshall has nearly completed his doctorate) are major league pitcher?"

Reporter:  "It's been suggested you have a rubber right arm."

Marshall:  "My arm's made of bone, muscle and nerve, same as everyone else's."

Reporter:  "It's been suggested your arm won't stand the test of time."

Marshall:  "I won't even comment on that, except to say that I can pitch as long as I want to, as much as I want to and as many years as I want to."

Reporter:  "You must have a secret."

Marshall:  "Physiology.  When pitchers are swollen or sore it's because they've, to some degree, injured tissue in their arms.  I don't go beyond the stress limitations of my tissue."

Reporter:  "And, your arm.  It's not inordinately strong?"

Marshall:  "Irrelevant.  Anyone else can throw as hard as I can."

Marshall's reluctance to expound can be traced to these words in April:

"Maybe it isn't in keeping with the essence of team spirit, but it's taken 15 years to educate myself to the point where I am now and I'm not ready to share it."

Messersmith sympathizes.  "It's taken the man a long time to get where he is.  Why should he tell what he knows?  You have to respect his right to the knowledge he developed."

Tug McGraw, the Mets' relief pitcher, doesn't.  "He may have a theory, call it a secret.  If he does, I wish that he'd share it.  Why shouldn't he?  That's what we're here for; to improve one another."

In any event, the interview over, Marshall was about to leave when Joe Moeller, a Dodger batting practice pitcher, appeared at the dugout after a 20-minute workout.  His face was red, his breathing labored, his uniform drenched with perspiration.

"Every time I go out there, he said to Marshall, I think how it's more and more amazing what you do."

His penchant for nonconformity, and academic credentials notwithstanding, there's little about Mike Marshall to set him apart from the others.

He's small for a pitcher, 5' 10", 180 lbs.  He's compactly built, very thick through the upper body.  Though he says he's in better shape that 95% of the players and says he eats only nutritious foods, you still notice a tiny ripple of flab on his flanks.

Besides a screwball, his pitching repertoire is basic and limited; fastball, slider.  He probably throws 45% screwballs, 45% fastballs and 10% sliders.

With this combination, he's more porne to injury and less prone to longevity than a 'junk' pitcher who throws knuckleballs or other slow stuff.  The screwball hasn't much speed but more than any pitch, it unduly strains the elbow because the arm is snap-twisted counter-clockwise on delivery.  His fastball and slider are above average velocity, which, in time, should strain the shoulder and bicep area.  Yet, Marshall doesn't seem to strain at all; on any pitch.

Marshall's husky shoulders, chest and back suggest he works with weights.  Most pitchers consider them taboo.

"I've heard that he lifts weights," Brewer said.  "This is something unheard of for pitchers; it's supposed to make you too tight.  And, he throws three times a week in the winter; also pretty much unheard of, so he's getting into areas everyone's been afraid of."

Tug McGraw said Marshall's innovations show that "just because baseball's told us for 100 years a pitcher can only pitch so often and can only train himself a certain way doesn't mean it's right.  Maybe it's right in relation to the way we've been told to do things and the way we've been doing them, but he's proving that the whole concept, at least for him and maybe for some others, is fallacious."

Brewer, in the seat Marshall vacated only minutes earlier, spoke of the fluidity of Marshall's motion, of how his compact delivery seems to waste no energy.

"He does one thing that no other pitcher I've seen could do," Brewer said.  "He never overextends himself, never overthrows, no matter what the situation.  I've tried to see why.  It looks like he's not working hard, like there's no effort.  He's trained himself never to strain and I don't know how the hell he does it.  No strain whatsoever.  In my opinion, it just can't be done; except by him."

Brewer touched on Marshall's avowed disdain for things individual, records, statistics, interviews.

"It's curious," Brewer said.  "He doesn't believe winning is the most important thing.  (Marshall says it's the competition), so he's probably blocked out the idea in his head.  He pitches as if he doesn't care who wins, yet his performance wins.  This is what he has over all pitchers I've ever seen."

Perhaps an overindulgence in superlatives, but others in baseball talk about him with the same reverence.  And they rarely mention his 15-12 record, his total saves, 2.3 ERA.  Or the series against the Giants in June when he was the winning pitcher in all three games.

Rather, they inevitably refer to the durability that lends new dimension to the name, Iron Mike, the automatic pitching machine.

Alston:  "He can go to the post more than anyone I've ever had, seen or heard of; and without apparent less of stuff."

Red Adams, Dodger pitching coach:  "I've never seen anything like it.  Someone may come close to the feat of performing that many times, but pitch well all the time?  I doubt it."

Tommy John, Dodger starter (on the 13 straight games):  "The greatest feat of pitching I've ever seen."

Berra:  "Who ever heard of this?  It's a freak.  By the way, if he has a twin brother, mail him to New York."

This season, his statistics were preposterous as he was used in almost every Dodger game that was on the line (assuming the started didn't finish.)  He'll undoubtedly see action as the Dodgers battle the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League playoffs.

Marshall's also a good bet to win the Cy Young or most valuable player award (only one other relief pitcher won it, Jim Konstant in 1950.  So good a bet, one Las Vegas oddsmaker quotes odds on it.

Now, in a speech that sounds prerecorded, Marshall says, "I have a simple job.  I pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they need a relief pitcher.  I don't count innings, appearances, wins, losses, saves or earned run average.  I'm just ready to pitch."

Alston doesn't pretend to understand it.  He just goes along.

"All I can say is that through observation, I've seen he's able to do it," he said.  "I firmly believe he can pitch every day and it doesn't hurt him physically.  The latter point he swears to, and I believe he's a totally honest man." "My only concern is overpitching him, but frankly, that doesn't seem possible, does it?"

Happy Pitching Everybody

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