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When a Rivalry Turns Ugly : Giants' Marichal Struck Dodgers' Roseboro With Bat 25 Years Ago

August 22, 1990|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Roseboro had finished working with minor leaguers at Bakersfield Monday night when he heard some news that quickened his pulse.

There had been a fight at Dodger Stadium. It involved a Dodger catcher and an opposing hitter.

"I got home and turned on the TV, all of the news stations, but I couldn't see any highlights," Roseboro said of the fight between the Dodgers' Rick Dempsey and Philadelphia's Lenny Dykstra. "I picked up the newspaper the next day but I couldn't get any details. It was so frustrating. I was really wondering what happened."

He added with a chuckle: "I figured it must be something good. You know those rowdy catchers."

After 25 years, Roseboro can laugh. But on Aug. 22, 1965, in one of the most violent incidents in baseball history, Roseboro was one of those rowdy catchers.

Today is the anniversary of the afternoon in Candlestick Park when Giant pitcher Juan Marichal hit Roseboro over the head with a bat. The violence made Dempsey-Dykstra look like they were playing patty-cake.

"I've been involved in great no-hitters, I've seen great home runs, and I have forgotten most of them . . . but I will never forget that afternoon with me and Marichal," said Roseboro, a Dodger minor league instructor.

The Dodgers entered that Sunday afternoon game leading the National League, with third-place San Francisco trailing by 1 1/2 games. There was still bad feelings between the teams dating to the days when both were in New York, and a pennant race intensified those feelings.

"It was such a tremendous rivalry, with every little thing being magnified," said Ron Fairly, now a Giant broadcaster who played right field for the Dodgers that day. "The organizations just did not like each other."

Marichal, who with his Giant teammates had taunted the Dodgers throughout the game, knocked both Maury Wills and Fairly to the ground with pitches in the top of the third inning, and Fairly sensed there would be trouble.

"I didn't say one word to any of my teammates, but back then, you didn't have to," Fairly said. "Back then, guys knew when to get even."

Little did anyone know, however, that the player getting even would not be pitcher Sandy Koufax, but catcher Roseboro. This fight that began with a brushback pitch by the catcher.

With Marichal batting in the third, Roseboro returned a Koufax pitch by buzzing a throw near Marichal's ear.

"No, I wasn't trying to hit him in the head--if I was, I would have hit his head with my hand," Roseboro said. "I was just trying to get it near his ear, nose, whatever.

"It was part of baseball, it was retaliation, and he expected it. He just didn't know where it was coming from."

Marichal, the director of Latin American scouting for the Oakland A's, was away from his Dominican Republic home on assignment and could not be reached for comment.

But he told the Associated Press that he asked Roseboro, "Why do you do that?"

Then, according to Marichal, "(Roseboro) didn't say anything, just came at me. I thought he would hit me with his mask, so I hit him."

Roseboro remembered it different.

"He told me, 'You better not hit me with that ball,' so I got up . . . and here came the bat," Roseboro said. "I threw up my hand to block it, but I only half blocked it, and it hit the side of my head. Stung the hell out of me. Blood everywhere."

While historians say that Roseboro was struck twice with the bat, he claimed it only hit him once. Either way, a 14-minute, bench-clearing brawl ensued.

Roseboro, although he needed only about 14 stitches, suffered headaches for the rest of the year. He sued Marichal and was awarded $7,500 in damages.

Marichal was fined $1,750, suspended for nine days, and began receiving threatening letters. His image was so tarnished that, despite a brilliant career of 242 victories and 2,303 strikeouts, was not voted into baseball's Hall of Fame until his third year of eligibility.

Ironically, Roseboro said he finally began talking to Marichal again seven years ago, after an 18-year silence, because he thought the pitcher was being unfairly kept out of the Hall of Fame.

"There were no hard feelings on my part, and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with," he said. "So I saw him at a Dodger old-timers' game and we posed for pictures together and I actually visited him in the Dominican. The next year, he was in the Hall of Fame.

"Hey, over the years, you learn to forget things."

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