The Greatest Pitcher's Duel Of All Time

Dave DalbyContributor IMarch 5, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 31: Fans walk around the pavilion near the Warren Spahn statue before the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field March 31, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Pirates beat the Braves 12-11 in 12 innings.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

The bronze statue shown in this article is of one of the greatest pitchers that ever wore a Giants uniform.  In all fairness, his great deeds were accomplished in the Braves uniform he wore for over 20 years and not the Giants jersey in which he made his last pitch.  It is of course the statue of the legendary Warren Spahn.  He finished his glorious career as a Giant in 1965 with 363 wins, the most by a left hander in the history of baseball.

That leg kick of course brings to mind a Giants pitcher who was also his team's Ace during his era.  That of course would be Juan Marichal (aka Manito, the Dominican Dandy).  He of the high leg kick and dazzling assortment of pitches.  No one won more games than Juan in the 1960's. 

The story will unfold now of how these two great pitchers tangled in what is one of  the greatest duels in the history of baseball.  The date was July 2, 1963 and the game was played before less than 16,000 at Candlestick Park.  This was a time when pitchers went the distance.  100 pitches was not a limit that was forced on pitchers, be they young phenoms like Marichal or established stars like the then 42 year old Spahn.

Marichal recounts how he marveled at the old pitcher on the mound as the scoreless duel dragged on into the late stages of the game. Alvin Dark asked Marichal to come out but he refused stating that if a 42 year old could stay on the mound he would not leave either.

The game raged on into extra innings. The scorebooks ran out of boxes as the game passed on by 15 innings.  The two pitchers matched each other pitch for pitch the entire route.  In the top of the 16th inning Marichal retired the side allowing one hit to Dennis Menke.  He had faced over 55 batters and pitched over an incredible 200 pitches.

Spahn answered the call in the bottom of the 16th inning.  He had faced over 50 batters himself and had given up but one walk, an intentional pass to Willie Mays in the 14th inning.  Harvey Kuen, the tobacco chewing third bagger of the Giants, led off the inning with a flyout.  Willie Mays then came to the plate.  He was 0-5 for the night with the one base on balls.  Mays finally got hold of a pitch and drove the ball up and out of Candlestick Park.  Marichal recalls that he knew it was going out when hit and was the first one to meet Willie at the plate.

The 16 inning 1-0 shutout lasted 4:10 hours and not one pitch was made be a relief pitcher.  If the game was played today there is no doubt that both bullpens would have been worn out and the starters would not have seen the 10th inning. 

The two bronze statues, the one in front of AT&T Park and the one in front of Turner Stadium, are testimony to two of the greatest pitchers in the history of their respective teams.  On that day so long ago, the two showed why they are both revered to this day and why each has a place in Cooperstown.