There was blood on the pile of dirty towels inside the door of the Los Angeles Dodgers' dressing room in San Francisco's Candlestick Park Sunday afternoon, and there was blood in the Dodgers' eyes. The important four-game series with the Giants had been split, and so had Catcher John Roseboro's head. Giants' Pitcher Juan Marichal, swinging his bat like a headsman's ax, had opened a two"-inch gash and raised a swelling the size of a slice of cantaloupe on the left side of Roseboro's head. In so doing, he inspired the most spirited rumble the National Pastime has seen in at least a generation.
"I've never seen one human being attack another with a club," said mild-mannered Wally Moon, who offered to take on Orlando Cepeda in the 60-man melee that followed the clubbing, despite Orlando's 30-pound pull in weight. "If he doesn't get suspended indefinitely," said Howie Reed, another Dodger who went berserk in his pursuit of Marichal, "there's no justice."
With Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers leading 2-1, Marichal had batted first for the Giants in the third inning and had taken a strike and then a ball. Suddenly he and Roseboro stood eye to eye, and then Marichal began shuffling backward toward the mound, raising his bat menacingly. As Roseboro moved toward him, Marichal took three overhead swings at his head before Roseboro tackled him and Koufax moved in to grab the bat. It was evident to Dodger Manager Walter Alston, when he and everybody else arrived at the scene, that at least one blow had landed.
"I thought it had knocked Roseboro's eye out," Alston said. "There was nothing but blood where his left eye should have been. A man might as well have a gun as use a bat like that."
August 29, 1965
"He's a goddam nut," said Dodger Coach Danny Ozark, who was a peacemaker for the first 10 minutes and then made a charge at Marichal. "I went after him because he was making fun of the guy after doing a thing like that. He was asking Roseboro to come and get some more, I guess. A guy like that would hit a woman."
Most baseball fights are of the hold-me-back variety. You can tell when they are real, because the players make a second effort. The Dodgers' Lou Johnson tried again and again to reach Marichal, and it took a squad of men to restrain Reed, who had three superficial spike wounds on his left flank. "Marichal was kicking me," he said. "I wish I could have gotten to him."
After the game Roseboro was said to be at the airport, which presumably is a healthier place than a ball park for a man under observation for a concussion, and Marichal had been spirited away from the Giant clubhouse, wherein nobody knew anything. Nobody knew but Tito Fuentes, a rookie whose one week in the big leagues was insufficient to teach him that he isn't supposed to know things at certain times.
Fuentes had been shown a picture which depicted him with bat upraised. "I tried to break up," he said in Spanish to Cepeda and then explained to reporters. "I have the bat because I am on deck. I see Roseboro and Koufax grab Juan, so I go to help him. Juan said Roseboro threw the ball back to the pitcher on purpose so it hit Juan on the ear. I think they got a few words then, and that started it right there."
Not exactly right there. It had been a tough series, with the Giants containing the Dodgers' stealthy attack only to be beaten twice in extra innings. It didn't become a nasty series until the second inning of the fourth game, when Marichal knocked Maury Wills down with a pitch. Ballplayers like euphemisms like "brush back" or "pitch tight," but the term knockdown is used here because Marichal simply knocked Wills down.
He did it because Wills had led off the game by beating out a bunt and had gone on to score the first run. Baseball has come almost full circle since the Willie Keeler days. Pitchers now may accept home runs with equanimity, but bunts they take as personal insults. By bunting and stealing bases. Wills "shows up" the other team, and they resent it. He knows that, and he did not protest Marichal's duster pitch by anything more than a long look at the mound as he arose very slowly.
The Dodgers as a group did object. They had so far survived the loss of Tommy Davis, their only run producer, but it is Wills who makes the team go. It was up to Koufax to deliver the formal protest, and he did. His first pitch to Willie Mays in the second inning was high over Mays' head, all the way to the screen. "Yes, it was the token gesture," Koufax said. "But it was a lousy pitch. I meant it to come a lot closer." The gauntlet had been dropped—and accepted. Any little thing could mean war. Perhaps Roseboro didn't mean to nick Marichal's ear, but that did it.
The Dodgers had kind words only for Mays, who was first in peace as he had been first in the legalized combat for the Giants. (When the dust cleared, and Koufax, shaky even before the brawl, walked two men in a row, Mays poled the first pitch to him out of the park for enough runs to win the game. Willie had hit a home run in each of the four games, winning two and keeping the Giants close enough so that they could have, and should have, won the other two.) It was Mays who restrained Roseboro following the first confrontation, then again when Roseboro returned to the scuffle after Trainer Bill Buhler had wiped the blood off. Mays arrested Roseboro's charge and then cupped the enemy's head in his hands and surveyed his wounds with a look of deep anguish on his expressive face. It appeared from a distance that Willie Mays had tears in his eyes.
"He may have," said Willie Davis of the Dodgers, who was there. "He was saying things like it never should have happened, that nobody should hit anybody with a bat. I couldn't say I saw tears, but the way his eyes looked he might have been crying."
"Mays did a helluva job," said Moon.
"He was the only one of them who showed any sense," said Alston.
It is supposed to be as inevitable on the West Coast as it was supposed to be years ago on the East that "something" must happen in a Giant-Dodger series. But nothing exciting except some very exciting baseball had transpired until Marichal fired at Wills's hat.
On Saturday, the day before the big blow, the score was tied 4-4 in the 11th with a Dodger on third base and two out. The man on third was a pinch runner for Jim Lefebvre, a .235 hitter who had batted cleanup because, as Alston said, "he's swinging the bat as well as anyone we have." The cleanup hitter had gotten to first on a single and to second on a sacrifice bunt, and his pinch runner made it to third on a dribbler to the shortstop. It had been a typical Dodger onslaught.
The man at bat was Wes Parker, the Dodgers' first baseman, who owned a .236 average at the moment. He tried to bunt the first pitch but fouled it off. Bunting with two out with the winning run on third base is the sort of sneaky thing you come to expect from the Dodgers, who creep on little cat feet like the fog, but, of course, San Francisco was prepared. The pitcher, Frank Linzy, a sinker-ball specialist, kept the ball up instead so as to keep Parker from having an easy shot at a bunt, and Parker hit the next pitch over the right-field fence. The small-arms Dodgers had beaten the Giants again with the big bomb.
A home run by a kid with a .236 batting average was the kind of thing that had been happening to San Francisco Manager Herman Franks all through the Dodger series, even before the battle on Sunday. His troops had beaten the Dodgers handily on Friday, 5-1, and had contained the Dodgers' guerrilla attack through 14 frustrating innings on Thursday and 10 on Saturday and yet had been beaten on both Thursday and Saturday by the home run the Dodgers aren't supposed to have. Parker's homer was the Dodgers' 64th of the year; at that point the Giants' Willie Mays and Willie McCovey had 66 between them.
Managing a major league team does not notably improve a man's personality. After the defeat on Saturday someone helpfully pointed out to Franks that the Cincinnati Reds had won and were now "only one game behind you guys."
"The hell with Cincinnati," Franks said. "I don't worry about them. Why not worry about the Phillies? Where are they? Well, what's five and a half games, with 40 to go?"
Somebody asked what plans Franks had for Warren Spahn, who had been warming up when Linzy threw the home run ball to Parker. "I'm not worried about Spahn," Franks snarled. "What do you want to ask questions like that? If I'd wanted him to pitch to Parker, I'd have brought him in, wouldn't I?"
Among other things Franks wasn't worrying about was the soft earth the groundkeepers deposited near home plate before the Friday night game. But Maury Wills was very much concerned about it and during batting practice found a board and began scraping away the soft dirt. Later he called it to the attention of the umpires. "I'm out to win," said Wills, whose base-running potential is reduced if base paths are not firm and hard, "and I can't blame anyone for doing what they can to win. But I don't believe this should be allowed. This stuff looks like it contains peat moss."
If Candlestick's infield is too soft, it is a common complaint around the league that Dodger Stadium's is too hard. "Sure, our infield is hard," Wills said, "but I don't want it that way. It's too hard. If I could run on an infield like this [Candlestick Park], I could probably play a year or two longer. Anyway, I wouldn't have this."
"This" was an extra thickness around his right shin, a padding to protect the "strawberry" bruises he had incurred sliding and which had ultimately hemorrhaged internally. The condition gave Wills pause (he went nine days without stealing a base), but it didn't stop him. Theft No. 80 came in the Dodgers' 124th game. In 1962, when he stole his record 104, he didn't reach 80 until game No. 142.
This year's No. 80 set off a sequence that was—unlike the Marichal hassle—a model of the tight, clean baseball you like to see in a pennant race. After Wills zipped into second with one out, Alston took out John Kennedy, a .185 hitter who had a one-strike count, and sent up Don LeJohn, a come-lately .309 hitter. Manager Franks conferred with Pitcher Bill Henry, who held Wills close to second as he struck out LeJohn. On the second pitch to the next batter, Wills had third base stolen but the pitch was fouled off. Then the batter. Willie Davis, lined out to Mays.
Johnny Podres then went in to pitch for the Dodgers. It appeared that Alston, by using a starter in relief, was going all-out, but Podres is almost 33, his arm has been reconditioned surgically, and he isn't a regular starter any more. "I'd like to think he can help us," Alston said, "but he hasn't been able to lately."
The first man Podres pitched to was Mays, and the out was a screamer to Wills. Podres went on to retire all six men he faced in his two innings, finishing by striking out Len Gabrielson and Jesus Alou with big league fast balls. Parker hit his homer, and Podres was the winner. Then came Sunday and Marichal and the bat.
If Mays was the most valuable (as well as the most sensible) player of the big series, the public speaking prize for the weekend went to a cop, one of those who ringed the field and clustered at both dugouts after peace broke out. He was sitting on a camp chair outside the dressing room as the grim Dodgers filed in. Some people have to say something, simply because it's quiet, and now it was very quiet. "Don't forget, fellows," the cop said, "'it's only a game."
Nobody hit him with a bat.