Ahead of his time? Meet Twins pitcher Dr. Mike Marshall
Mike Marshall was born in Adrian, Michigan on January 15, 1943. Mike pitched for nine different major league teams (Tigers, Pilots, Astros, Expos, Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Twins (1978-1980), Mets) between 1967 and 1981. Twice an All-Star, Mike pitched in 723 major league games, most of them in relief. Marshall, who went by the nickname of Iron Mike won the National league Cy Young award in 1974 when his Los Angeles Dodgers won 102 games and went on to play in the World Series. Unfortunately for Marshall and the Dodgers, they were upset by the Oakland A’s 4 games to 1. In his Cy Young 1974 season Marshall showed his amazing durability by appearing in a major league record 106 games, had a 15-12 record, an ERA of 2.42 and threw 208 innings, all in relief. Mike also appeared in 90 or more games with the Montreal Expos in 1973 and the Minnesota Twins in 1979. Mike also holds the record for pitching in 13 straight major league games. The fact that Marshall was often selected by his teammates as their “union rep” and the fact that he always did things his way, often irritated both teammates and management alike and in the end caused Mike to either be traded or released from several teams.
Mike attended Michigan State University during the baseball off-seasons earning three degrees and has a doctorate in exercise physiology. Dr. Marshall teaches and advocates a pitching method that he has developed that he believes could completely eliminate pitching-arm injuries. Dr. Marshall runs a pitching camp in Zephyrhills, Florida these days and more information on his pitching theories and camp can be found on his web site at www.drmikemarshall.com .
John – Mike, you signed as a free agent to play shortstop out of high school with the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1960. Was it always your dream as you grew up to be a professional baseball player? What was it like to sign that first baseball contract?
Mike – No, my dream was to become a high school football and baseball coach
and teach Physical Education. However, because my family did not have the money to finance my college education, I signed a professional baseball contract. I received a twenty thousand dollar signing bonus that they paid me over three years. I put that money in a bank account and only spent it on college tuition.
John – When you were growing up, was there a baseball player that you wanted
to be like?
Mike – We did not have a television until I was ten years old, so I did not know any major league baseball players. But then, I have never wanted to be like anybody else.
John – In the spring of 1965 you made the Phillies aware that you wanted to switch to pitching coming off an all-star year as a shortstop in AA ball, what did Philly management have to say about that?
Mike – When I was eleven years old, I was in a car accident that injured my lower back. After four years of playing professional shortstop, I was not able to bend forward to field ground balls or swing the baseball bat.
John – You made your major league debut with the Tigers against the Indians on March 31, 1967. What do you remember about that day?
Mike – I gave up a run.
John – Out of the 723 games that you pitched in the major leagues, you started a total of 24 games. Would you have liked to have been a starter or was being a reliever your calling?
Mike – In 1968, I started for the entire season for the Toledo Mud Hens. I learned that I cannot stand to watch a baseball game in which I have no opportunity to pitch. Therefore, I prefer closing.
John – You were known for your excellent screwball, what other pitches did you throw and what was the high side of your fastball clocked at?
Mike – I threw a two-seam Maxline fastball and a two-seam slider. I have no idea at what release velocity I threw my fastball. I always preferred movement to velocity.
John – I think I read somewhere that you called your own pitches and that you waited for the catcher to go through the signs until you got the sign you wanted, is that true or just a rumor? If this was true, did you catchers and managers find this to be a problem?
Mike – When I stepped onto the pitching rubber, I knew what pitch I was going to throw. I just had to find the easiest way to let the catcher know.
John – You played for the Tigers, Pilots, Astros, Expos, Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Twins, and Mets between 1967-1981 setting and holding a variety of MLB records to this day including the 1974 NL Cy Young award. You also made two All-Star teams. Why did a pitcher of your caliber change teams so often?
Mike – I finished in the top seven in the Cy Young Award five times, but was selected to the All-Star game only twice. My teammates always elected me to be their player representative and I took the job seriously.
John – What was the favorite team that you played on and why?
Mike – The 1978 and 1979 Minnesota Twins. My teammates were down to earth guys who worked hard.
John – When you played for the Minnesota Twins your manager was Gene Mauch
who was known as a no nonsense manager , the “my way or the highway” kind of guy, but the story goes that he was your all time favorite manager, why?
Mike – Gene allowed me to pitch as I wanted. I was with Gene for part of 1970, all of 1971, 1972, 1973, part of 1978, all of 1979 and part of 1980 and finished fourth in the Cy Young in 1972, second in the Cy Young in 1973, seventh in the Cy Young in 1978 and fifth in the Cy Young in 1979. I think that shows that letting me do it my way worked for both of us.
John – Who was the best pitcher you ever saw?
Mike – With the game on the line, I would trust me to keep the other team from scoring.
John – Who do you think was the best baseball pitcher ever?
Mike – I watched a lot of genetically gifted baseball pitchers who had no idea what they were doing. While I wish that I had greater genetic gifts, because I knew what I was doing, I still trust me first.
John – Mike, what do you think about pitch counts and the 5 man rotation?
Mike – The ruination of baseball.
John – In the past it was not all that unusual for good starting pitchers to throw 300+ innings and they weren’t babied like the pitchers are today. A guy that throws 200 innings today is known as a horse. Mike, why do you think that pitchers throw so few innings today?
Mike – Pitch counts, five man rotations, the injurious ‘traditional’ baseball pitching motion, wasting the off-season when they should be training and not knowing what they are doing.
John – I have looked at your web site and read a number of your documents and you have a lot of great information there. Your teaching methods however; remain very controversial, to say the least. Why do you think that all of baseball is treating you as if you had leprosy?
Mike – I know what I am doing and know that they do not know what they are doing.
John – Do you think your pitching methods will ever be accepted?
Mike – Yes.
John – Mike, is there any one single thing that every pitcher out today can do to help minimize his chances of suffering an arm injury?
Mike – Learn to pendulum swing their pitching arm to driveline height to arrive at the same time that their glove foot lands and powerfully pronate the releases of all pitches.
John – The Minnesota Twins organization preaches that the pitchers need to throw a strike on the first pitch and that the base on balls should be avoided pretty much at all costs. They feel that if the pitchers can keep the ball in the park, that their fielders will do their job. What are your thoughts on this philosophy?
Mike – Baseball pitchers should master the variety of baseball pitches that I teach and throw them in sequences that make it impossible for baseball batters to correctly anticipate which pitch they will receive.
John – Let’s for the sake of discussion say that a MLB team wants to hire you as their pitching coach for 2009, could you be a pitching coach today and what would you tell your pitchers to do to prepare for the 2009 season? Do you have a 5 man rotation? Do you have pitch counts?
Mike – It takes 724 days for baseball pitchers to develop the strength that I believe that they need to become properly trained to pitch. Most will not master the skills that they need in that time period. Therefore, for the majority of baseball pitchers, it will take four years for them to become the best, injury-free, highly-skilled baseball pitchers that they can be. Therefore, I would only take the new guys, the injured guys and the interested guys into my 724 day program.
With the remainder of the guys, during their first off-season, I would have them complete my 120 day program and see who most quickly masters the skills. They would have to use a somewhat hybrid baseball pitching motion, but they would be injury-free and more skilled than they were before. Nevertheless, I would have to show them how to get the most out of what they can do.
John – You pitched in the 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s? If you could have pitched in another era, what era would that have been and why?
Mike – Today, because the players are bigger, faster, stronger and harder to get out. Also, with what I know now, I would be a much better pitcher than I was then.
John – Can you share your thoughts Mike on the HGH and steroid controversy of recent years?
Mike – It is disgraceful that professional baseball did not prevent this problem. After I took an Advanced Neuroendocrinology course in 1977, I warned major league baseball of this potential problem.
John – What do you remember about your time in Minnesota pitching for the Twins?
Mike – I loved pitching outdoors at the Met.
John – What caused you to retire from baseball?
Mike – I was the player representative who got free agency into major league baseball.
John – What do you think of the state of ML baseball today?
Mike – Terrible,nobody has any idea how to teach and train baseball pitchers and pitching is ninety percent of baseball.
John– Mike, one final question, who do you think should be the next commissioner of MLB?
Mike – Another goof ball with no knowledge of baseball.
John – Thank you Mike, have a great day and thank you very much for your time.