Marichal honored by Giants

Giants pay tribute to 'Dominican Dandy'

SAN FRANCISCO -- The left foot is high above his head, his right arm extending toward the mound in a straight line, the ball gripped in his fingertips. His right foot is planted firmly on an imaginary rubber. His left arm, with the baseball glove nearly closed, is almost touching his elevated foot.

This is the way sculptor William Behrends perceived Juan Marichal in the moment before he released the ball thousands of times during his 16-year career, the first 14 with the Giants. And this is the way the bronze statue Behrends cast of Marichal will remain, a moment frozen in time, in Lefty O'Doul Plaza outside SBC Park.

"Making the Hall of Fame, that was deserved," Marichal said before Saturday's ceremony to dedicate the statue. "But this is a gift."

Marichal played for the Giants from 1960 to 1973 and left the game two years later after short stints with the Red Sox and rival Dodgers. He had a 243-142 record that included six 20-game winning seasons and was inducted at Cooperstown in 1983.

Marichal twice led the National League in complete games and shutouts and was the league leader in 1969 with a 2.10 ERA. During an 18-day period in 1963, he made Giants history. On June 15, he threw a no-hitter over the then Houston Colt .45s at Candlestick Park, winning the game, 1-0.

Only 18 days later, Marichal locked horns with Warren Spahn, the great Milwaukee Braves left-hander. The game was scoreless heading into the 16th inning. Marichal had already thrown 227 pitches, Jon Miller, Saturday's master of ceremonies, said, recalling the events of that long ago day -- July 2, 1963.

"In the bottom of the 16th, Willie Mays finally woke up and said, 'Wait a minute. We better get this over with.' And Mays hit a home run off Spahn," Miller said.

The final score again was 1-0.

Marichal never won the Cy Young Award, it was pointed out. But it should be noted that the Cy Young was given to only one pitcher per season for the first seven years of Marichal's career. During that period, the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax won it three times, and his teammate, Don Drysdale, won it once. And a left-hander named Whitey Ford, who pitched for the Yankees, also was given the honor.

Nice company.

But from 1963-69, Marichal, with a 154-65 record and a .703 winning percentage, won more games than any pitcher in baseball. More than Koufax, who retired in 1966. More than Ford, who was done for good in 1967. More than Cardinals great Bob Gibson, who lasted until 1975.

In his career, Marichal also completed 244 of his 457 starts. That's a lot of high-kick deliveries.

"Juan was just so delightful to watch," said Giants president Peter Magowan, just before dropping a four-sided black canopy to unveil the statue.

"He was one of the bravest players I every played with," said Felipe Alou, the 70-year-old Giants manager now, a teammate of Marichal's then.

Alou was there Saturday along with his brother, Matty.

So were the five living Giants Hall of Famers: Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry and Marichal. All played various parts of their stellar careers in San Francisco.

Mays and McCovey already have their own statues outside of SBC Park, which opened on the banks of San Francisco's China Basin Channel in 2000. Mays was the first and was honored in the plaza behind home plate carrying his name during that inaugural season.


"Thank you for honoring me with this impressive statue. But even more than that, I'd like to thank you for honoring the great tradition of our game of baseball, for keeping the Giants where they belong [in San Francisco], and for honoring the past, the present and the future."
-- Juan Marichal

Three years later, McCovey's statue was set in a park across the cove that bears his name.

Marichal shares his place of honor with O'Doul, a San Francisco native, who pitched in the Pacific Coast League and later returned to manage the PCL San Francisco Seals from 1935-51 after ending his Major League career.

The plaza and gate that honors O'Doul is on Third Street, which heads south across the Lefty O'Doul Bridge toward Candlestick Park, where the Alous, Cepeda, McCovey, Mays and Perry all played together during Marichal's career.

Leonel Fernandez, the president of the Dominican Republic, came with a large contingent to share the moment with Marichal, his childhood hero.

"This is a wonderful day for all Latin players," said Cepeda, a native Puerto Rican, who spoke for all of Marichal's teammates. "All Latin people should be proud."

A number of the 2005 Giants were also in attendance before they had to dress for the evening's tilt against the cross-Bay rival Oakland A's.

Shortstop Omar Vizquel sat in with Avance, a local 13-piece salsa band, and played the congas as the group entertained for hours before the festivities.

Barry Bonds, who is recuperating from multiple knee surgeries, was there with his mother, Pat, the wife of the late Bobby Bonds, who also played with Marichal.

"Barry, I'm glad you're here," Marichal said. "With you and Pat here, I feel like Bobby is also here."

Marichal then stopped for a moment and told Bonds, the most prolific hitter in Giants history: "I think I could get you out."

In honor of Marichal on Saturday evening, the Giants paid homage to their rich Latin history by wearing white home uniforms with the word "Gigantes" -- Spanish for Giants -- splayed across their chests. That's never happened before in the 122-year history of the ballclub that played in New York until 1957 and then moved to San Francisco.

Magowan called Marichal the greatest pitcher in Giants history, and he may just be right. A baseball aficionado would have to go back to Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson (1900-16) and Carl Hubbell (1928-43) to find a Giants pitcher who had an equal impact. Perry, who won 314 games, played only the first 10 years of a 22-year career with the Giants.

With all that as a backdrop, the Giants decided to place Marichal's statue outside the San Francisco ballpark.

"Thank you for honoring me with this impressive statue," Marichal said. "But even more than that, I'd like to thank you for honoring the great tradition of our game of baseball, for keeping the Giants where they belong [in San Francisco], and for honoring the past, the present and the future.

"And last, but never least, I'd wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Giants fans for all their love and support throughout my career. As the songwriter once said, 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.'"

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.