By MURRAY CHASS
Excerpt from New York Times, August 21, 2005
MIKE MARSHALL, perhaps the most durable relief pitcher in baseball history, is not a pariah, and he is not a leper. Yet baseball people avoid him like the plague.
"When I retired, I was silly," Marshall said, recounting his experiences since he retired in 1981. "I thought people would take a look at my career and say, 'I want to know what he did.’ Thirteen consecutive games, 208 innings, 106 games. I thought they'd want to know what I know, and nobody ever called. They still don't call."
Marshall, now Dr. Marshall with a doctorate in exercise physiology, recalled that he was an assistant coach of the University of Tampa baseball team when Brian Sabean was the head coach.
"The coach of that team is general manager of the San Francisco Giants, and he won't call me," Marshall said.
"I played with Bill Stoneman," he added, referring to the Angels' general manager. "I showed him what I did. Stoneman has never called me. I heard that the Pirates' general manager talked to a former assistant coach of mine, and they wanted to do a program he was using. He had no injuries for 10 years. The guy said it's Mike Marshall, and they said forget it."
Then there was his aborted flirtation with Cincinnati. "The Reds had an assistant general manager who was interested in my program," Marshall said. "He got the former general manager there to send me three kids who were released because they were injured. I trained them. The doctor said one of the kids would never pitch again. He came back and threw harder than before. But they changed general managers and they dropped me. Dan O'Brien wasn't interested in having me there."
Marshall, 62, isn't looking for a job. He's looking for a team or teams that are interested in his program for teaching young pitchers how to pitch without incurring arm injuries. He trains young pitchers at the Dr. Mike Marshall Pitchers Research/Training Center in Zephyrhills, Fla., but he said: "The kids who come to me don't get college scholarships or they can't make the team or they've had injuries. I'm not dealing with the star material of the world."
When he pitched in the majors, from 1967 to 1981, Marshall was unique. He was a closer before the era of last-inning closers, and he set records in 1974 by appearing in 106 games and throwing 208 1/3 innings. In today's world of the coddled pitcher, starters often don't pitch 200 innings.
But Marshall pitched for nine teams in his 14-year career, reflecting teams' discomfort with his strong personality and insistence on doing things his way. Gene Mauch, who recently died, was one manager who accepted Marshall's way of doing things, except for his activities as a players union representative.
"Without him, I don't have a major league career; it's as simple as that," Marshall said. He then explained how he joined Mauch with the Montreal Expos. "I once pitched against the Expos and struck out Rusty Staub. Mauch asked him what was that pitch - it was a screwball. Rusty said, 'I don't know, but I couldn't hit it.’ Mauch remembered that and traded for me."
In Marshall's previous stops, with Detroit, Seattle and Houston, managers and pitching coaches balked at letting him throw a screwball, saying right-handers couldn't throw screwballs. "Then I met Gene Mauch," Marshall said. "He wasn't concerned about the pitches I was throwing. He was concerned about how hard I worked and how I did my job. He gave me the chance, and I continued to get people out and I did well."
Marshall wasn't the best reliever ever, but he was the busiest, pitching more frequently and longer than others. "I was referred to as a physical freak, whereas I just knew better than others what I was doing, and I trained right," he said. "I understand the forces that are involved in pitching good and bad."
Marshall lamented that coaches "keep teaching the traditional pitching motion," even though pitchers keep hurting their arms. At his training center, where the students live for 40 or 48 weeks, he teaches his method of pitching, which employs Newton's three laws of motion.
"There's a better way of producing force without using the traditional pitching motion, which has flaws," he said. "This is an epidemic that needs to be researched. We have to teach them how to pitch so they don't have flaws."
To eliminate flaws, Marshall teaches a different pitching motion from the one pitchers traditionally use.
"I want the ball to go back toward second base, then toward home plate in as straight a line as possible," he said. "The traditional motion has anywhere from 5 to 9 feet of side-to-side movement in ways that put unnecessary stress on the arm and do no good for the quality of pitches and cause injuries."
Marshall's pitching motion also requires a pitcher to use his legs differently and not "reverse rotate" his hips as much as pitchers traditionally have.
Marshall said he told the Dodgers last spring that Eric Gagne, who had a record 84 successive saves, "reverse-rotated his hips too much; he's going to destroy his arm.” Gagne is out for the season with a sprained right elbow.
After watching their pitching motions, Marshall made similar observations about the Cubs' Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. "How many millions of dollars are they spending on them?” Marshall said of the two pitchers, who have made repeated visits to the disabled list.
"We need to eliminate pitching injuries," Marshall said. "I don't understand why baseball, with all the money they have invested in pitchers, doesn't research this. The stress that pitchers put on their elbow creates Tommy John surgeries. No pitcher I've trained has had a pitching arm injury."
Courtesy of the New York Times
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
By MURRAY CHASS