Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

May 10, 1980 Sporting News

Mike Marshall: A Shortstop's Heart, a Pitcher's Back
The Sporting News
by Patrick Reusse
May 10, 1980

TWIN CITIES, MN:  Mike Marshall is baseball's most durable relief pitcher because a chronic back problem forced him to abandon a minor league career as a shortstop in 1964.

"I played four years in the Phillies' system as a shortstop," Marshall said.  "I have the heart of a shortstop, I loved playing every day.  But, I have the back of a pitcher.  After awhile, my back would not permit me to play every day.  The next-best thing was relief pitching, where there was at least a chance to get into the game every time you came to the park."

Marshall was the first relief pitcher to take that chance and turn it into a probability.  He was the first reliever to win a Cy Young Award, with the Dodgers in 1974.  He has twice pitched more than 162 innings--an average of one per game.  He holds the record for appearances in both leagues--106 with Los Angeles in 1974 (when he pitched 208 innings) and 90 with the Minnesota Twins last season.

The back?  Marshall was injured as a youngster, when he was riding in a car that collided with a train.  He resisted an operation because the procedure would have required cutting through the back muscles.

Finally, a couple of years ago, when his baseball career had waned, Marshall encountered a surgeon whose method was to separate, rather than cut through, those muscles, and Mike underwent the operation.

"There were times when I was with the Dodgers that I would virtually have to crawl into the trainer's room," Marshall said.  "Jack Homel, the Dodgers' assistant trainer, would twist and turn and get my back in place so I could pitch that day.  Now, I'm pitching pain-free, and it's wonderful."

Marshall has a doctorate in exercise physiology.  He applies his knowledge of kinesiology to virtually everything, including developing the screwball that has become his trademark.  The next step was finding a manager who would listen to him.  When he surfaced with the Montreal Expos in 1970, he found one--Gene Mauch.

"I had some theories on pitching relief," Marshall said.  "Basically, I believed that a relief pitcher could pitch most every day, that he should be allowed to play with the defense set for him and not the way it was set for the starting pitcher, that a relief pitcher be allowed to start an inning whenever possible, so he has some margin for error.  Things like that.

"Every other manager I approached and said, 'I would like to talk to you about how I believe relief pitching can be done,' would slap me on the back and say, "Work hard, son, and the best of luck to you,' and walk away.

"Gene Mauch listened.  That, in itself, cemented our relationship.  He liked some of my ideas.  He helped to refine them."

It was Mauch who brought Marshall back into baseball in 1978.  After being shipped out of L.A., he went to Atlanta and Texas and was available in the '77 free agent draft.  Only the White Sox claimed him and he didn't sign.  Marshall was finishing up his doctorate at Michigan State in May, 1978 when Mauch contacted him about a tryout with the Twins.

That tryout resulted in a three-year, $850,000 contract with the Twins that runs through 1981.  It's not a coincidence Mauch's contract also runs through 1981.

Happy Pitching Everybody

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