Doing Some Po-lice Work: The Marichal Myth of 1965

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.dodgerblues.com/images/roseboro-marichal.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.One of the more poignant tales in the long history of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry is undoubtedly the 1965 Juan Marichal-Johnny Roseboro brawl. Now, just about every article about the fight–and Marichal’s subsequent nine game suspension–mentions the poetic justice involved: Marichal missed two starts and the Dodgers eventually won the pennant by two games.

However, after an astute commenter wondered if the Giants actually lost Marichal’s two missed starts, we decided to do some po-lice work to determine whether or not Marichal actually cost the Giants the pennant that year. The problem, of course, lies in trying to figure out exactly which games Marichal would have started. Therein lies the po-lice work.

[Sidenote: If you don’t get the reference to “po-lice work,” then you’re missing out. The Wire is the best show on television.]

So, with the help of Baseball Reference, we delved into the box scores of August of 1965

The brawl took place on Sunday, August 22nd. That year, the Giants’ primary rotation consisted of Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Bob Shaw, who started 37, 26 and 33 games, respectively. More or less, the usual “rest period” for that trio was three days. Ron Herbel (21 starts), Bobby Bolin and a 44-year old Warren Spahn (signed on July 22nd as a free agent) made spot starts throughout the year, with Herbel and Bolin making more regular appearances in August and September.

So, Marichal was suspended for nine games. Of the nine missed games, the Giants won three and lost six. Here’s the timeline:

Sunday, August 22: brawl.

Monday, August 23 @ PIT: Warren Spahn starts–Loss

Tuesday, August 24 @ PIT: Bob Shaw starts–Loss

Wednesday, August 25 @ PIT: Bobby Bolin starts–Tie (Due to darkness/rain? The game was thrown away and a doubleheader was scheduled for the next day.)

Thursday, August 26 @ PIT: Ron Herbel starts Game One–Loss, Gaylord Perry starts Game Two–Loss

Friday, August 27 @ NYM: Warren Spahn starts–Win

Saturday, August 28 @ NYM: Bob Shaw starts–Loss

Sunday, August 29 @NYM: Bobby Bolin starts–Win

Monday, August 30: off-day

Tuesday, August 31 @ PHI: Ron Herbal starts Game One–Win, Warren Spahn starts Game Two–Loss

Wednesday, September 1: off-day

Thursday, September 2 @ PHI: Marichal returns

There are a couple of conclusions to be drawn. First of all, Warren Spahn made three starts in the nine-game period. In the three weeks prior to the brawl, he made exactly two starts. One of those starts took place at the end of an eight-day stretch without an off-day, and the other was at the beginning of a 17-consecutive gameday stretch. Once Marichal returned, Spahn reclaimed his role as spot starter, making only two or three starts in September. Suffice to say, Spahn was an emergency starter and very low on the depth charts before and after the suspension.

The other direct beneficiary was Herbel, who like Spahn, was a spot-starter. However, the difference between the two lies in the surrounding context. Whereas Spahn only appeared in 16 games all year, Herbel appeared in 47. Upon Marichal’s return, Herbel continued to start and became a fixture in the rotation. A “logical” conclusion? Herbel was higher up on the depth charts than Spahn.

If you incorporate the three days’ rest theory, you would figure that Marichal would have started the August 26th game lost by Herbel and one of the August 31st games. With Herbel was higher on the depth charts and having a much better season than Spahn (a supposition supported by the aforementioned discrepancy in appearances), we’d figure that Herbel and Marichal would have started that Philly doubleheader instead of Herbel and Spahn.

We’re definitely working on a lot of assumptions and possibly skewed logic here, but two lines of logic arise:

Considering that Marichal’s replacement in the rotation, Warren Spahn, lost two games during the suspension AND considering that the Giants lost games on the two days that Marichal (on his usual rest cycle) would have started, we would have to determine that …

Yes, Marichal’s suspension did indeed cost the Giants the pennant.

[Again, all this was gleaned from box scores and the like. Please feel free to refute the theory.]

One Response to Doing Some Po-lice Work: The Marichal Myth of 1965

  1. Mike White says:

    Then I guess we DO have a conspiracy theory. Roseboro was trying to instigate a reaction from Marichal, and even though he still has the scars, those scars won the pennant for the Dodgers in 1965. A very ballsy move on Johnny’s part.

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