LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Mike Marshall, who became the first reliever in history to win the Cy Young Award while leading the Dodgers to the 1974 National League pennant, passed away today in Zephyrhills, Florida. He was 78.
The Dodgers acquired Marshall, who was known as “Iron Mike”, after the 1973 season from the Montreal Expos in exchange for outfielder Willie Davis. In his first year with Los Angeles, Marshall set MLB records for most appearances (106), relief innings (208 1/3), games finished (83) and consecutive games pitched (13). The right-hander went 15–12 with a 2.42 ERA and 21 saves.
Marshall played for nine teams in his 14-year Major League career—Detroit (1967), Seattle (1969), Houston (1970), Montreal (1970-73), Los Angeles Dodgers (1974-76), Atlanta (1976-77), Texas (1977), Minnesota (1978-80) and the New York Mets (1981). He had a 97-112 record with 188 saves and an ERA of 3.14.
“I had a deal with (manager) Walter Alston,” Marshall said in a 2003 interview. “If I warmed up, I was getting into the game.”
Marshall was a unique personality during his Dodger tenure. Although the team had a bullpen cart to drive the reliever to the pitcher’s mound, Marshall eschewed the ride and jogged in from the bullpen. He also counseled young autograph seekers that ballplayers were no different role models than educators and they should also seek the signatures of their teachers.
A Michigan native, Marshall originally signed with the Phillies as a free agent in September 1960. He began his pro career as a shortstop and switched to pitching in 1965. Marshall made his MLB debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1967. He was also a student teacher at Michigan State University while completing a PhD in physiology and a minor in physiological psychology during the offseason. While teaching a kinesiology class in the winter of 1968, one of his students at MSU was Steve Garvey, his future Dodger teammate when the first baseman won National League MVP honors in 1974.
Marshall became the fourth Dodger to win the Cy Young Award, joining Don Newcombe (1956), Don Drysdale (1962) and Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965, 1966). He finished ahead of teammate Andy Messersmith in the Cy Young Award balloting and third in the MVP race behind Garvey and Lou Brock (Cardinals). There have been eight Dodgers to win the Cy Young Award. In addition to Newcombe, Drysdale, Koufax and Marshall, Clayton Kershaw (2011, 2013, 2014), Eric Gagne (2003), Orel Hershiser (1988) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981) won the honor as well.
In the 1974 postseason, Marshall pitched in two NL Championship Series games against the Pirates and all five World Series games against Oakland.
Marshall’s most memorable moment in the World Series occurred in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. Oakland chased starter Don Sutton with a two-run rally in the ninth inning to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3–2. With no outs and Joe Rudi on first base, manager Alvin Dark opted against attempting a sacrifice bunt with power hitter Gene Tenace, who struck out.
Dark then replaced Rudi with Herb Washington, a world-class sprinter hired by Oakland owner Charlie Finley to be used exclusively as a “designated runner.” After throwing a first strike past pinch-hitter Angel Mangual, Marshall lobbed a pickoff throw to Garvey at first base. He also stepped off the pitcher’s mound three times and once faked another throw. With Washington poised to steal second base, Marshall whirled and fired a strike at the bag. Washington, caught leaning, was nailed attempting to return to first base as Garvey applied the tag. Marshall then struck out Mangual to save the Dodgers’ only win of the Series.
Mike Marshall was born January 15, 1943 in Adrian, MI. Marshall is survived by his wife, Erica, and three daughters—Rebekah, Deborah and Kerry Jo.