A Juan Marichal Memory: July 2, 1963

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A Juan Marichal Memory: July 2, 1963
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In my humble opinion, baseball, more than any other sport, lends itself to historical analysis and the reliving of its greatest moments. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" immediately come to mind.

Record breaking moments, amazing streaks, and heroic postseason plays are often times retold to the point they become legendary.

The game played between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Braves on July 2, 1963, was simply a mid-season game that surely would have been long ago forgotten if not for the pitching performance that would ensue.

There were only 15,921 fans in attendance at Candlestick Park for the Tuesday-afternoon affair as over 26,000 seats were unoccupied.

Warren Spahn took an 11-3 record to the mound for a Braves team that had split their first 76 games, both winning and losing 38 games.

The amazing young Dominican, Juan Marichal, came into the game boasting a 12-3 record for the Giants, who were 45-33.

To put the game in perspective, a total of seven future Hall of Famers would play in the match up. The Braves fielded future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Warren Spahn while the Giants were stacked with Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, and Marichal.

The 42 year-old Spahn ended up pitching 15.1 innings and giving up one run. Yes, you read correctly, 15.1 innings.

San Francisco's 25 year-old right hander outdid him. Marichal tossed 16 innings of shutout ball including holding Aaron hitless in six at-bats. I can imagine Braves' hitters trying to pick up the pitch out of his hand and being distracted by the famous high-kick delivery the Dominican Dandy possessed.

All told, the future Hall of Famers mustered five hits and a run in 38 at-bats. Surprisingly, one of the five hits was a two-out double to right field in the top of the seventh inning by Spahn that would have driven in a run if Del Crandall had not been caught attempting to steal second earlier in the inning.

Through 15 innings of baseball, a run did not score, and both starting pitchers were still in the game.

With one out in the bottom of the 16th, the great Willie Mays came to the plate. I'm sure you have an idea how the story finishes. One pitch, a screwball from Spahn, and Mays ended the game. He had hit one of his 660 home runs. This one was a game-winner over the left-field wall. The Giants won 1-0.

Marichal would get the victory and go on to win 25 games in 1963 while posting an ERA of 2.41.

That night in July, as is always the case in baseball, all that mattered was that the Giants had won. In hindsight, we can appreciate the amazing pitching exhibition Marichal and Spahn put on 46 years ago.

It is challenging to fathom what these two men would do in an era when pitchers are coddled, and more attention is paid to pitch counts than a pitcher's performance at a specific point within the game.

I, for one, simply wish I had been alive to see Marichal beat Spahn.

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