Mike Marshall, who became the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young Award when he appeared in a major league 106-game season for the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers, died Tuesday at his home in Zephyrhills, Florida, near Tampa. He was 78.
His death was announced by the Dodgers, who said his daughter Rebekah told them, without further details, that he had been in a hospice.
Marshall developed exceptional stamina through his knowledge of kinesiology, the mechanics of body movement, long before pitchers used high-tech equipment to improve their performance and ward off arm injuries.
He received his PhD in exercise physiology from Michigan State University in 1978 while playing for the Minnesota Twins, and later taught there. His best pitch was a screwball that breaks in the opposite direction to a curveball.
In addition to his single season record for most games played, Marshall, a right-handed player who served 13 consecutive games in 1974, threw 208⅓ relief innings and finished 83 games – including major league records.
He only appeared relieved in 1974, his sideburns bent to his mouth, and Marshall was all too familiar to the thugs in the late innings. He had a 15-12 record in 1974 with an average of 2.42 earned runs and 21 saves.
But he gained a reputation for being condescending when baseball writers tried to interview him.
“I remember the Los Angeles sports journalists walking into the locker room and saying, ‘How are you going to do this? You will collapse, ‘”Marshall was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying. “I said, ‘Hey, it’s very easy. It’s kinesiology and you just need to understand what the latissimus dorsi muscle can do for you. And then you can use the triceps brachii and the inner teres. It’s right there. ‘ And they would go away. “
During the 1974 World Series, New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson wrote that Marshall had refused to provide anything more than superficial answers to reporters’ questions about the game. “In private,” he noted, “many of his teammates don’t need his distant, impersonal nature, but they tolerate it because of his persistence and talent.”
Indeed, Marshall’s influence on his fellow Dodger was undeniable. “I’ve been a better student of the hitter since Mike joined this year,” said Andy Messersmith, who won 20 games in 1974. Marshall had been traded to the Dodgers by the Montreal Expos.
When winning the National League’s Cy Young Award, the major league’s most coveted prize for a pitcher, beat Marshall Messersmith for the honor, garnering 17 out of 24 possible votes for first place. Eight relief mugs from both leagues have now won the award.
In his only postseason appearances, Marshall played two games of the National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1974 and every game of the World Series when the Dodgers lost to the Oakland A’s, 4 games to 1. In the only win of the Dodgers, he took off Oakland’s Herb Washington, their world-class sprinter, as Washington, representing the potential tie, took the lead from first base in the Dodgers 3-2 win in Game 2.
Marshall was All-Star with the Dodgers in 1974 and 1975. At 90 for the 1979 Twins, he holds the still-existing American League record for games in one season.
Michael Grant Marshall was born on January 15, 1943 in Adrian, Michigan, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in September 1960, but did not make his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers until 1967.
After developing a sore arm in his rookie season, Marshall investigated ways to reduce stress on his arm by changing the dynamics of his pitching motion.
The Seattle Pilots picked him up in baseball’s draft expansion when they added to their 1969 opening team after he returned to the minors for a season. He later lined up for the Houston Astros and the Expos, who traded him for the outfielder to the Dodgers Willie Davis. The Dodgers exchanged him for the Atlanta Braves in the 1966 midseason, and he later played for the Texas Rangers, the Twins, and then the Mets in his final major league season in 1981.
Marshall played 724 games in his 14 major league seasons, all but 24 in relief. He had a record of 97-112 with 188 saves and a earned run average of 3.14.
His survivors include his daughter Rebekah, his second wife Erica and his daughters Kerry and Deborah. All three children were from his marriage to his first wife, Nancy Marshall, who died in April, The Associated Press reported.
Marshall left his physical education teacher and senior baseball coach at West Texas A&M in 1994 and moved to Florida to start up a baseball clinic in Zephyr Hill.
He had his students tossed hard every day, wrapped 30-pound weights around each wrist, and heaved 12-pound iron balls onto a wooden backstop.
“No one who went through this program has ever been injured,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2001. “These kids are now safe from injury.”
“I was dismissed as a physical freak,” he said. “I’ve done things that no one had ever done before. For me, it’s silly not to be considered the best relief pitcher in baseball history. “