From 1960 to 1969—the decade of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, and numerous other all-time greats—no pitcher in major league baseball won more games than Juan Marichal. The nine-time all-star was also a groundbreaking presence, debuting at a time when only a handful of Latin-born players were playing big league ball. Coming from humble origins in the Dominican Republic, Marichal went on to become a dominant pitcher in his time, an icon in two countries, and an international ambassador for the game of baseball.
In this first full account of his life and career, Marichal tells of his experiences growing up on a Dominican farm, where he had to fashion his own baseball equipment—balls made out of golf balls wrapped in cloth, bats from the branches of the wassama tree, and gloves cut from canvas tarps. Despite these limited tools, the young Juan could never get enough of his beloved game, and he vowed to his mother that she would one day hear his name on radio.
Marichal’s journey to stardom took him down some unexpected roads. As a teenager, he was enlisted by the family of the nation’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo, to play baseball for the Dominican Air Force. Although scouting by the majors was still in its infancy in Latin America, Marichal soon caught the attention of representatives from the San Francisco Giants, who brought him to the United States in 1958. Adjusting to a foreign culture and language while playing in towns from Massachusetts to Indiana to Washington was a challenge for the young hurler, but the greatest surprise and adjustment was the racial intolerance he encountered in his new home during the early 1960s.
Despite these obstacles, Marichal quickly established himself as an elite pitcher, throwing a complete-game one-hitter in his first major league game in 1960—242 more victories and 243 more complete games were to come.
More than 50 years after that auspicious debut, Marichal reflects on the bonds he established with teammates like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, and childhood friend Felipe Alou, as well as his battles and friendships with opposing hitters, from Roberto Clemente to Pete Rose and many more. He recounts the highs and lows of a 16-year career—from an epic 16-inning duel with fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to his regrettable altercation with Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro. He also shares the story behind how he came to develop the distinctive, high-kick pitching delivery that became his trademark.
Today Marichal is still close to the game, and he opines on the state of baseball in the 21st century, including the treatment and use of pitchers, the impact of performance-enhancing drugs, and the many Dominican-born players who have followed in his footsteps over the last half century. Self-described as a happy person, Marichal’s love of life, baseball, and his two home countries shine through in this intimate memoir.