Incident Forever Links Marichal, Roseboro 25 Years After Clubbing With Baseball Bat -- Former Enemies Want To Forget 1965 Clubbing

SAN FRANCISCO - It was a moment of madness in a summer of fury, a time when there seemed no relief from violence on the streets, in the news, or at the ballpark.

Twenty-five years later, Juan Marichal's clubbing of John Roseboro with a bat stands out as one of the uglier incidents in baseball history, an event recalled with chills by those who watched and regrets by those who participated.

The two men who stood in the center of that brawl at home plate in Candlestick Park on Aug. 22, 1965, now work quietly on the fringes of baseball, slipping through small towns and minor league cities, endless airports and lookalike hotel rooms.

Marichal, Hall of Fame pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, is director of Latin American scouting for the Oakland Athletics. A few years ago he signed outfielder Felix Jose, a switch-hitting rookie with home-run power and star potential.

Roseboro, a Los Angeles Dodgers catcher during the glory years of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, is a roving instructor for the Dodgers.

After years of bitterness, they became friends about a decade ago, getting together occasionally at old-timers' games or golf tournaments - former enemies reconciled and tied to each other in history as Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney once were.

But unlike those two champions, who gladly recounted their fights as they grew older, Marichal and Roseboro would like to keep their battle in the past and not hurt each other anymore.

``Our friendship is very good,'' Marichal said from his home in the Dominican Republic. ``I don't like to talk about (the bat incident). I was having a wonderful day until you mentioned that.''

The Dodgers-Giants rivalry, born in New York and transported to California in the late 1950s, remains one of the most heated in professional sports. But with the teams trailing Cincinnati in the National League West all season, the tension this year isn't nearly as high as it was in 1965.

During that hot summer, America was tense. Riots tore through the Watts section of Los Angeles, near Roseboro's home, in early August. Racial clashes broke out in other cities. U.S. troops had just begun fighting and dying in large numbers in a place called Vietnam.

In Marichal's native Dominican Republic, where he was a national hero, a civil war raged as American and other foreign troops landed to quell an uprising by communist rebels. The Summer of Love in San Francisco was still two years away, and the most popular song on the charts was ``Eve of Destruction.''

On the baseball front, the National League pennant race was close, with only 2 1/2 games separating the top four teams in the 10-team league on Aug. 22. Minnesota had a more comfortable lead in the American League as it headed toward its first pennant.

The Dodgers entered the game that Sunday in Candlestick Park leading the Milwaukee Braves by a half-game and the Giants by 1 1/2.

Marichal (19-9) a right-hander with a karate-kick delivery and five pitches from three directions, took the mound for the finale of the four-game series. He was opposed by Koufax (21-4) the Dodgers' left-handed master of the fastball and curve, and also a future Hall of Famer.

``Whenever the Giants and Dodgers got together there was a lot of electricity in the air, but you could really feel it that day,'' recalls former Giants catcher Tom Haller, now a businessman in Palm Springs, Calif. ``The tension began building on Friday night. We were leading 11-1. I was catching and Maury Wills swung his bat back and hit my mask. It was pretty deliberate, but he was entitled to first base for catcher's interference. In the ninth, Matty Alou attempted to do the same thing to Roseboro.''

Alou's bat touched Roseboro's glove, but the umpire ignored it and didn't give Alou the free base. Roseboro growled, ``The next guy who does that gets it in the head.''

Marichal, a countryman of Alou's, shouted at Roseboro from the Giants bench as players on both teams engaged in an exchange of taunts.

Marichal was known as the ``Dominican Dandy,'' a dapper dresser who favored blue and cream, a practical joker and sweet guy away from the field. In a Giants uniform, though, he was a fierce competitor, brushing back hitters with inside fastballs and protecting his teammates with ``payback'' pitches.

According to Marichal at the time, Roseboro told several Giants, ``Tell Marichal to shut his big mouth, or he's going to get one behind his ear.''

No fights broke out that night or Saturday, but on Sunday tempers boiled over. Wills, a cunning player and speedster who stole a record 104 bases in 1962 and was on his way to 94 in 1965, beat out a bunt and went on to score in the first inning.

Marichal, determined not to let that happen again, threw a fastball near Wills' head in the third that sent him sprawling and got the attention of the rest of the Dodgers. Ron Fairly also went down from a pitch that inning, but Marichal denied throwing at him, and most witnesses agreed.

Marichal came up in the third expecting to be brushed back by Koufax. The first pitch was a strike and the second was low and inside and harmless. Instead, Marichal was startled when Roseboro's return of the second pitch either nicked his ear or came near enough to make him feel the breeze.

``What I did was part of being a catcher,'' Roseboro said years later. ``It's retaliation. Somebody throws at you, and then it happens again, and our pitcher was a guy . . . who wouldn't knock guys down for fear of hurting them because he threw so hard. The catcher buzzes the guy. It's standard operating procedure.''

Marichal claimed he turned to Roseboro and asked, ``Why do you do that?''

Roseboro came out of his crouch, his fist clenched.

``He didn't say anything, just came at me,'' Marichal said. ``I thought he would hit me with his mask, so I hit him.''

Marichal raised his bat and quickly struck Roseboro at least twice on the top and side of the head, opening a two-inch gash that sent blood streaming down his face.

The crowd of 42,807 fans watched in amazement, then roared as both benches cleared and the ballplayers converged on home plate. Tito Fuentes, who had been in the on-deck circle, brandished his bat menacingly but didn't seem to do any damage.

Koufax raced in from the mound, as did Giants third-base coach Charlie Fox, and joined home plate umpire Shag Crawford in trying to separate Marichal and Roseboro.

Willie Mays, a teammate of Marichal's but also a close friend of Roseboro's, grabbed Roseboro protectively and looked as if he were about to weep as he studied the wound. Mays successfully calmed down players on both teams, most of whom remembered an incident in Pittsburgh in 1958 when Orlando Cepeda went into a battle waving a bat and Mays tackled him before any contact could be made.

Several players suffered minor injuries - the Giants' Willie McCovey said he got spiked on the leg - as the brawl continued for 14 minutes.

Crawford ejected Marichal, and Roseboro was led away to have his scalp stitched and bandaged. His head hurt but examinations showed no signs of concussion.

``Nobody would have been ejected,'' Crawford said, ``but (Marichal) used a bat.''

Bob Schroder finished Marichal's turn at bat and struck out, and Fuentes flied deep to left. But Koufax, still shaken by the fight, then walked Jim Davenport and McCovey in succession and gave up a 450-foot homer by Mays, his 38th of the year, to put the Giants ahead 4-3. Mays circled the bases with Roseboro's blood still on his shirt.

Ron Herbel took over for Marichal on the mound and shut out the Dodgers on three singles for the next 5 1/3 innings and, with relief help from Masanori Murakami, led the Giants to a victory that cut the Dodgers' lead in the pennant race to a half-game.

National League president Warren Giles fined Marichal $1,750, a record at that point, and suspended him nine days, or eight playing dates. Marichal missed perhaps two starts during that span. He also was prohibited from accompanying the Giants for a two-game series in Los Angeles Sept. 6-7 because Giles feared that Marichal's presence might provoke another incident on the heels of the recent riots in Watts.

Dodger fans, many of whom had watched the bat attack on television, were outraged by the penalty Giles levied. Wills called the decision gutless - he later apologized for the remark - and Fairly, now a Giants' announcer, said, ``They should have suspended him 1,750 days and fined him $9.''

Giles claimed he didn't punish Marichal more because that would have unfairly punished the other members of the Giants, but that wasn't good enough for some columnists and editorial writers.

``Giles theorizes that a longer absence would damage `the innocent,' meaning the teammates of the hot-headed Dominican in their fight for the pennant,'' said Arthur Daley of The New York Times. ``It's a cinch, though, that Marichal would have landed in jail if he perpetrated his outrageous attack at the corner of Market and Powell Streets in San Francisco instead of in Candlestick Park.''

Marichal received threatening letters, at least one of which led to an FBI investigation.

The Dodgers went on to win the pennant by two games - a margin that might have been wiped out if Marichal had not been suspended - and beat the Twins 4-3 in the World Series.

Marichal finished the season at 22-13. Koufax, 26-8, pitched a record fourth no-hitter in September, and was the unanimous winner of the second of his three Cy Young awards.

Roseboro filed a $110,000 damage suit against Marichal a week after the incident. But after numerous legal delays, they finally settled the suit out of court for $7,500 in 1970.

Marichal won 25 games in 1966, 26 in 1968 and 21 in 1969, but never won the Cy Young award. He pitched for 16 years in the majors, winning 243 games, 20 or more in six seasons, and striking out 2,303 hitters. Ironically, he ended his career in 1975 pitching two games for those once-hated Dodgers.

``I'd gotten away from baseball, but I went to watch him pitch (for the Dodgers) against Cincinnati,'' Roseboro said. ``He wasn't coming inside. The intimidation was gone. If you don't have overpowering stuff, you'd better brush some guys back or they'll knock your jock off. I stayed three innings. I saw he wasn't the pitcher he was before.''

``He's right,'' Marichal said. ``I was a different pitcher after that. So many people were watching me, every step I took.''

For all his achievements, Marichal was mostly, perhaps unfairly, remembered for that moment of madness in August 1965 when he walloped Roseboro's head with a bat. It was a memory that was blamed for twice defeating Marichal's nomination to the Hall of Fame.

``The first year I didn't make the Hall of Fame,'' he said after he was eventually voted in seven years ago, ``I looked at the records of the pitchers who were in there. At that time, there were 42. My record was better than 32 of them.''

Haller said it was sad that Marichal was plagued for so long by the fight with Roseboro.

``He never showed any aggression against anyone before or since,'' Haller said. ``It was instinctive, just one of those crazy things that happened in the heat of battle. There's always been a controversy over how deliberate it was. I don't think anyone on the Giants thought it was deliberate. It just happened.''