juan-marichal

The Giants and the Dodgers were bitter rivals engaged in a pennant race on Aug. 22, 1965, when Juan Marichal came up to bat against Sandy Koufax. When Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro threw a ball back to Koufax that nicked Marichal’s ear, the San Francisco ace struck the catcher with his bat, setting off a melee and opening a two-inch gash on Roseboro’s head. Marichal was suspended nine days and fined $1,750. (Neil Leifer/SI)

GALLERY: Notorious Basebrawls

The Leg Kick

First, do yourself a favor and head to legendary sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr’s website and browse his portfolio. You’ve probably seen most of his photos by accident, and will find the rest you haven’t seen to be just amazing.

One of them is this photo above that captures Juan Marichal’s awkward yet effectively delivery, which you can see in video form here.

Marichal won more games than any other major league pitcher in the 1960s, including a 25-8 record in 1963, but never won a Cy Young. It probably didn’t help that Bob Gibson’s ERA was 1.12 in ‘63.

His wind up and high kick delivery was not added to his repertoire until late in his development as a pitcher.

At Single A ball, Marichal was a side arm pitcher, until his manager suggested that an overarm delivery would make him more effective, especially against lefties.

Marichal, who had won 21 games the year before, found all this change to be unnecessary: “I couldn’t do it without kicking my leg high in the air. And I couldn’t throw my screwball without kicking my leg high.”

He would master it and despite the unorthodox delivery, he had some of the best control in league history, issuing just 709 walks in his career.

The leg kick was not popular to all, rival Dodgers outfielder Ron Fairly once said: “I just didn’t like Marichal’s attitude on the mound and that bothered me. Plus there is the fact he was a Giant and the Giants-Dodgers was oil and water. We didn’t mix. We didn’t even like each other’s uniforms. It seemed to me that when Marichal was winning he kicked his leg up just a little bit higher and it just aggravated the hell out of me.”

Or it’s possible he was simply a great pitcher.

photo via Walter Iooss Jr.