Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

July 07, 1982 Knight-Ridder News Service

Knight-Ridder News Service
Miami Herald
July 07, 1982

It has been a frightful bottom of the seventh.  The pitcher had coasted into the final inning with the score 11-3, but through a combinations of bloop hits and misplays by the defense, the lead had been reduced to five runs, and the bases were loaded with two outs.

Now, the batter lifted a sky-high fly ball to the outfield and, against the strong wind and the bright sun, the left fielder attempted to maneuver into position to make a catch.  There was no assurance this would happen, since the left fielder, among others, had gone through a difficult afternoon.

The pitcher moved off the mound and looked toward the outfield.  It was not a confident look and, when the fly ball plopped into his teammate's glove, the pitcher smiled and shook his head from side-to-side.

"Thank you," Mike Marshall shouted in the direction of the left field.  Then, he smiled some more and accepted handshakes from teammates, who seemed a bit sheepish in their congratulations after the half-inning of misplays.

Marshall tried to get the fellow members of the East Side Merchants off the hook by saying something about the bad hops in the infield and the difficult conditions in the outfield.  But Tim Kiemel, the Merchants' manager, came past and said, "Put something in the story about how lousy we played."

When he signed on with the Twins in 1978, and again as a free agent after that season, Mike Marshall contended it was not the money, but a passion for competition that kept him pitching.

Since Marshall's final contract with the Twins called for $850,000 over a three-year period, the talk about the thrill of the competition seemed simply to be more of Iron Mike's expansive rhetoric.

But there is no money in pitching for Marshall now, and that is how he has been spending his Sunday afternoons lately.  There does not seem to be a perceptible difference in the intensity Marshall brings to a game in the St. Paul senior amateur league and the emotion spent by Iron Mike while pitching for large dollars.

Mike Marshall 's stormy relationship with the Twins was chronicled in volumes, to the point most everyone ignored the reason Iron Mike was drawn to baseball in the first place.  Beyond all the words, beyond all the strong and often outlandish opinions, Marshall possesses an unwavering affection for the game of baseball, and for playing it right.

"I've been to the Metrodome to watch the Twins several times, and I tune in the televised games," Marshall said.  "Frequently, I wind up having to turn them off because I can't stand to watch bad baseball.

"I saw Bobby Castillo pitch a beautiful game, but the defense had no idea where to play.  If Castillo's defense had been positioned properly, he would have won the gime, 3-1.  Instead, he lost, 4-3."

Marshall paused for a moment and then said with disgust, "It has to be the manager.  He must not have an idea.  I can assure you Gene Mauch would not make those mistakes."

It was Mauch who brought Marshall to the Twins in 1978, it was Mauch who insisted Calvin Griffith give Marshall the large contract at the end of that season, and it was Mauch who insisted on Marshall's release in June 1980.

There were nasty words exchanged then, but, two years later, Marshall prefers to remember the happier moments of his relationship with Mauch, when they cooperated to turn Iron Mike into the most durable relief pitcher in baseball's history.

To Marshall, pitching was not trying to blow fastballs past a hitter.  It was throwing specific pitches in a specfic sequence to specific areas, so that the hitters would hit the ball in a specific way to defenders who were standing in a specific position.  Mauch was the first manager Marshall found who would listen to his theories.

Pitching was a mind game, not a power game, to Mike Marshall and, on a dusty ball field adjacent to Woodbury High School, it stays that way.

"I'm sure I could blow the fastball past some of these hitters, but I'm not interested in pitching that way," Marshall said.  "I treat this as I have always treated pitching.  I throw all of my pitches, and the idea is the same; to take the sting out of the bat."

It could not be a conversation with Marshall if that phrase was not included, "take the sting out of the bat."  When Iron Mike would enter a game and the result was not positive, more often than not, Marshall would explain it by saying, "I took the sting out of the bat.  It is all I can do."

The media and the populace, and finally Gene Mauch, tired of the explanation, but it was Marshall's theory and, perhaps, the defense mechanism that made him a great relief pitcher and it still is with him today.

Pitching for the Merchants, Marshall will turn to his teammates and wave them a few steps in a different direction.  Between innings, Marshall is involved in almost constant conversation with one teammate or another.

"I do offer advice.  I guess offering advice is in every Ph.D's nature," said Marshall, the doctor of kinesiology.  "I came from grassroots' baseball, and I feel very much at home here.

Marshall remains convinced he can pitch in the big leagues: would you expect any less from the good doctor?  But, he is convinced, finally, that it is over for him.  Marshall has suggested to friends he has been blacklisted, and he was asked about that charge.

"What do you think?  Last year, I pitched in 22 games for the Mets, with an ERA of 2.60," Marshall said.  "Does that sound like someone who can't pitch in the big leagues?"

Marshall was released as soon as the Mets fired his friend, Joe Torre, as manager and has not heard from a major league team since.  These days, Marshall, 39 last January, seems more intrigued by coaching college baseball than pursuing any remote chance to return to the big leagues.

"The opportunity to give instruction to college players fascinates me," Marshall said.  "I attended most of the University of Minnesota's games this season, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is unfortunate they do not have the chance to receive first-grade instruction."

Happy Pitching Everybody

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