50 years ago: a look back at Marichal and Spahn

1963 NL Pitching LeadersJuly 2nd was the 50th anniversary of the famous duel between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn. Both starters logged a complete game that was not decided until Willie Mays connected with a 16th inning walk-off homer for a 1-0 Giants win.

A fond look back at this iconic game after the jump.

Like this year, July 2nd was a Tuesday in 1963, with crisp, clear conditions in San Francisco for an evening tilt between the Giants and Braves, the first of a 3-game set. Weather records for the Alameda Naval Air Station, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, show a maximum temperature of only 69 degrees that day with sustained winds of 17 mph. Likely, it was as much as 10 degrees cooler and just as windy on the west side of the bay at Candlestick Park. In the crowd that night was a Braves’ fan making his first visit to San Francisco – Bud Selig recalls that “it felt like I was in Milwaukee in January”.

The Giants were the defending NL champions and had started 1963 on a 19-10 roll. A 7-game losing skid starting the month of June dropped them out of first place, but they had recovered with a 13-8 run coming into the Braves series and stood a close 3rd in the NL standings, a game behind the Dodgers and a game-and-a-half back of the Cardinals from whom the Giants had just taken 3 of 4. The Braves were in 6th at 38-38 but had themselves been on a recent roll with a 12-7 mark, including 10-5 in their most recent homestand.

San Francisco was the second stop on a six-city, 21-game road swing that had started with the Braves splitting a four game set at Dodger Stadium. Despite their recent run, the Braves’ offense had been rather anemic of late, being held to 2 runs or less in 6 of their last 12. The pitching though was superb with four shutouts over the same period and two other contests holding the opposition under 3 runs. The Giants offense was looking sharper with 12 straight games scoring 3 runs or more, though their pitching staff had held the opposition under 3 runs only once in that period.

Spahn was coming off a shutout in the Dodger series and had had another against the Phillies during the long homestand. Overall, though, his ERA over his last 8 games was just 3.58, even with those two shutouts plus a forgettable game against the Mets on June 5th when he allowed 6 runs over 5.2 IP, but lowered his ERA with all the tallies counting as unearned.

Marichal had a miniscule 1.10 ERA over his last 6 starts, including a shutout of the Dodgers followed by a no-hitter against the Colt .45s. Marichal had allowed over 3 runs only 4 times in his first 19 games, and hadn’t allowed over 4 runs since opening day. Marichal’s 103 strikeouts easily bested his mark of 74 over the same period in 1962 as he and other fireballers took full advantage of a rule change in 1963 that expanded the strike zone, formerly from from top of the knees to the armpits, but now from the bottom of the knees to top of the shoulders.

As they took the mound this Tuesday evening, both starters were working on 3 days rest, Marichal for the fifth time since the beginning of June, and Spahn for the third.

Here is the Braves’ lineup.

Milwaukee Braves AB R H RBI BB SO WPA aLI RE24 PO A
Lee Maye  LF 6 0 0 0 1 0 -0.172 1.24 -0.8 3 0 SB
Frank Bolling  2B 7 0 2 0 0 0 -0.128 1.30 -0.5 3 4
Hank Aaron  RF 6 0 0 0 1 1 -0.186 1.55 -1.0 3 0
Eddie Mathews  3B 2 0 0 0 0 2 -0.039 0.78 -0.3 0 0
   Denis Menke  3B 5 0 2 0 0 1 -0.023 1.69  0.0 1 1 SB
Norm Larker  1B 5 0 0 0 2 0 -0.163 1.59 -0.8 14 4
Mack Jones  CF 5 0 1 0 0 2 -0.149 1.59 -0.6 7 0
   Don Dillard  PH-CF 1 0 0 0 0 1 -0.067 2.93 -0.3 3 0
Del Crandall  C 6 0 2 0 0 0 -0.198 1.71 -0.9 5 0 CS
Roy McMillan  SS 6 0 0 0 0 0 -0.199 1.35 -1.0 4 7
Warren Spahn  P 6 0 1 0 0 3 -0.146 1.43 -0.7 3 4 2B
Team Totals 55 0 8 0 4 10 -1.470 1.49 -6.7 46 20

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 7/4/2013.

Interesting to note that though this was their eleventh season in Milwaukee, the Braves still had Spahn, Crandall, Mathews and (until he was traded on June 15th) Lew Burdette as holdovers from their Boston days.

And, the Giants’ scorecard.

San Francisco Giants AB R H RBI BB SO WPA aLI RE24 PO A
Harvey Kuenn  3B 7 0 1 0 0 0 -0.005 1.39 -0.3 5 2 2B
Willie Mays  CF 6 1 1 1 1 1 0.291 1.49  0.6 3 1 HR,IW
Willie McCovey  LF 6 0 1 0 0 0 -0.192 1.50 -0.8 4 0
Felipe Alou  RF 6 0 1 0 0 0 -0.198 1.87 -1.1 5 0
Orlando Cepeda  1B 6 0 2 0 0 0 -0.009 1.67  0.3 15 1 SB
Ed Bailey  C 6 0 1 0 0 0 -0.259 2.29 -1.3 12 1
Jose Pagan  SS 2 0 0 0 0 0 -0.058 1.17 -0.5 1 1
   Jim Davenport  PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 -0.071 2.95 -0.4
   Ernie Bowman  SS 3 0 2 0 0 0 -0.051 2.31 -0.2 0 2
Chuck Hiller  2B 6 0 0 0 0 0 -0.222 1.57 -1.0 2 2
Juan Marichal  P 6 0 0 0 0 1 -0.195 1.32 -0.8 1 3
Team Totals 55 1 9 1 1 2 -0.969 1.68 -5.5 48 13

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 7/4/2013.

Frank Bolling got the first hit of the night, a one-out single in the first, but was stranded right there. With two outs in the 2nd, Crandall reached second on a two-base throwing error by Harvey Kuenn, but could advance no further. In the Giant second, Cepeda had a one-out single, stole second, and advanced to third on an Ed Bailey flyout. But, Spahn induced a Jose Pagan pop-up to end the threat. Clean sheets for both pitchers in the 3rd, but the Braves made some noise in the 4th on a 2-out walk to Norm Larker followed by a Mack Jones single to left that held Larker at second. When Crandall followed with a single to right-center Larker tried to score, but was gunned down at the plate by Willie Mays.

The Braves put runners in scoring position with stolen bases in the 5th and 6th. But, when veteran catcher Del Crandall tried to do the same after a lead-off single in the 7th, Bailey threw him out (Crandall would go 1 for 5 in stolen bases in 1963, and 0 for 3 in 1964). That out would prove to be critical as Spahn followed with a two-out double, but was stranded by Lee Maye.

After retiring 11 of 12, Spahn surrendered two-out singles to Cepeda and Bailey in the Giant 7th. That prompted a move to the Giant bench with regular 3rd baseman Jim Davenport summoned to pinch-hit for Pagan, who was just 7 for 47 (.149) against Spahn. Davenport was 19 for 79 (.241) lifetime against the lefty, with two homers and three doubles, so the move made some sense. This time, though, Spahn got the upper hand, inducing a flyout to Mack Jones in center. That would end Davenport’s night as Lee Bowman took over for Pagan at short.

The next big moment came with one out in the Giants’ 9th. McCovey hit a towering shot over the right-field foul pole and deep into the seats. The game may have ended right there as the ball appeared fair to many observers. But the umpire called it foul, and McCovey ended up grounding out. After the inning, Giant manager Al Dark asked Marichal whether he wanted to come out – Marichal declined the offer, unwilling, at age 25, to be outlasted by the 42 year-old Spahn. So, on to extras.

Nobody made it past first base from the 10th to the 13th. A lead-off single by Bowman in the home 13th went for naught when Spahn picked him off first before the Giants could sacrifice Bowman into scoring position. A one-out walk in the Braves’ 14th brought up Don Dillard to pinch-hit for Mack Jones. Dillard had never had a hit off Marichal and didn’t get one now, striking out as he would do against Marichal 3 other times that season. In the Giant 14th, Kuenn led off with a double that had the unfortunate effect (for the Giants) of inducing an intentional walk to Willie Mays. Spahn then retired McCovey and Alou but a booted grounder by Dennis Menke (who had replaced Mathews at 3rd base) loaded the bases for Ed Bailey. For the second time in the game, Bailey could not connect with RISP, flying out to Dillard in center.

Nothing of consequence in the 15th or the Braves 16th, the latter ending with a come-backer to the mound by Norm Larker on Marichal’s 227th pitch. After Spahn retired Kuenn to start the home 16th, Willie Mays deposited Spahn’s 201st offering into the seats to send the fans (what remained of the 15,000 plus) home happy.

Here are the pitchers’ final lines:

Warren Spahn, L (11-4) 15.1 9 1 1 1 2 1 2.84 56 97 0.970 1.68  5.5
Juan Marichal, W (13-3) 16 8 0 0 4 10 0 2.14 59 112 1.470 1.49 6.7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original TableGenerated 7/4/2013.

As remarkable as this game was, it was certainly not something that hadn’t happened before. It was the longest shutout since an 18-inning 1-0 shutout by Carl Hubbell, exactly 30 years before, to the day. Spahn himself had two earlier 15 inning games, in 1951 and 1952, and a 14-inning game in 1948. Spahn would have 22 more complete games after this contest (the last at age 44 playing with Mays and the Giants), but this was his final time going into extras. For Marichal, it was his first game of longer than 10 innings, but 5 more games of 11+ innings would be in Marichal’s future.

At the time, this game drew comparisons to a virtually identical game  in 1954 when Jack Harshman of the White Sox outlasted the Tigers’ Al Aber, with the only run scoring on a Minnie Minoso triple in the home 16th. But, Harshman and Abel are not Marichal and Spahn. The star value of the protagonists and the diminishing frequency of similar games quickly elevated this 1963 contest to iconic status. Indeed, there have been no shutouts or complete games since that have gone as many innings.

The progressive decline in marathon starts is shown in the chronological list below. The numbers in the cells for each game are the number of innings pitched that correspond with the indicated event. Each game shown is the most recent of the type and length indicated.

One Pitcher Both Pitchers
Game, Pitcher(s) Start CG Shutout Start CG
1920-05-01, Leon Cadore (ND), Joe Oeschger (ND) 26 26 26 26
1920-05-03, Dana Fillingim (W), Sherry Smith (L) 18.1
1920-08-27, Art Nehf (W), Ray Fisher (L) 17
1927-05-17, Bob Smith (L) 22 22
1929-05-24, George Uhle (W), Ted Lyons (L)  21 21 20
1933-07-02, Carl Hubbell (W) 18 18
1934-07-01, Dizzy Dean (W), Tony Freitas (ND) 17
1936-04-29, Ray Parmalee (W), Carl Hubbell (L) 16.1 16.1
1944-09-24, Mort Cooper (W), Ken Raffensberger (L) 16 16
1945-07-21, Les Mueller (ND) 19.2
1952-09-06, Robin Roberts (W) 17
1955-07-19, Vern Law (ND) 18
1963-07-02, Juan Marichal (W), Warren Spahn (L) 16 16 15.1 15.1
1963-07-23, Mudcat Grant (W), Camilo Pascual (L) 12.2
1965-10-02, Chris Short (ND), Rob Gardner (ND) 15
1966-05-26, Juan Marichal (W) 14
1967-09-01, Gaylord Perry (ND) 16
1969-10-02, Bob Gibson (W), Grant Jackson (L) 11.2
1974-04-17, Gaylord Perry (ND) 15
1974-05-22, Ross Grimsley (W) 12
1974-06-14, Luis Tiant (L) 14.1 14.1
1976-06-05, Mark Fidrych (W), Bert Blyleven (L) 11
1976-08-27, Catfish Hunter (ND), Frank Tanana (ND) 13
1980-05-16, Jesse Jefferson (W), Mike Norris (L) 10.2
1980-05-17, Matt Keough (W), Dave Stieb (ND) 12
1980-08-10, Steve McCatty (L) 14 14
1983-07-30, Tommy John (L) 12
1984-09-23, Dave Stewart (W), Jim Slaton (L) 10
1986-06-11, Charlie Hough (ND) 13
1987-10-02, Jeff Sellers (ND), Teddy Higuera (L) 11.1 11
1990-07-06, Andy Hawkins (L) 11.2
1990-08-01, Dave Stewart (W), Erik Hanson (ND) 11 11 11 10
2005-04-23, Mark Mulder (W) 10
2007-04-13, Roy Halladay (W) 10
2012-04-18, Cliff Lee (ND) 10


Despite their 200+ pitches, both Marichal and Spahn answered the bell for their next starts (though both did get 4 days rest), and both did so without noticeable ill effects. The 42 year-old Spahn completed 9 of his next 10 starts and 12 of 15, going 12-3 the rest of the way to finish 23-7 for the season. Marichal closed out the season going at least 7 innings in 20 of 21 starts, with a 12-5 record to finish at 25-8 for the year.

The Braves won the next two days to take the series from the Giants, continuing what would be a 54-35 run that propelled them to within 7 games of the front-running Dodgers on Sep 9th. But, they stumbled badly after that, finishing 4-13 and well back. The Giants fell as far as 10 games back on July 20th but miraculously closed that to only 3.5 games just 10 days later on July 30th. They would get a half-game closer by August 15th, but a 20-22 finish left them well back of the Dodgers and Cardinals at the end. The Dodgers would crown their 99-win season with a convincing World Series sweep of the Yankees, holding the Bombers to just 4 total runs for the series.

To close, who can spot the error in this contemporary box score of the game?


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48 Comments on "50 years ago: a look back at Marichal and Spahn"

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Richard Chester

None out when winning run scored is in error, there was one out.


Here’s a photo of Juan Marichal celebrating with Willie Mays after the game in the locker room. http://pinterest.com/pin/167759154842452385/


You could probably find four players in a single game from the last 20 years who exceed this, but Aaron/Mays/McCovey/Matthews = 2448 HR. (Throw in Cepeda and you’re at 2827, but that would undoubtedly be easier to beat for five players.)

Dalton Mack

Amazing that the only XBH by the Braves was Spahn’s double.

no statistician but

Re the Harshman/Aber game: Guess who was the leadoff hitter on the losing team.

Mike L

The interesting thing about Spahn was that he was completely done after 1963. 23-7, and ERA+ of 124, and 4.0 WAR, in 1963. 6-13 with an ERA+ of 67 and -1.9WAR in 1964, and 7-16 with an ERA+ of 89 in 1965. Like an incandescent light bulb glowing extra bright before it burns out.

Lawrence Azrin

Stating the incredibly obvious – I think being 43 years old in 1964 had a lot to do with that; yes, rather amazing what he did at age-42.

Great quote from Spahn: “I pitched for Casey Stengel both before (Braves/1942) and after (Mets/1965) he was a genius”.

Richard Chester

I wonder if any other player has done that, played for the same manager 23 years apart on two different teams.

Mike L

LA at 21, I agree, to a point, Spahn was a machine. Ages 40, 41 and 42: 263, 269, 260 IP. ERA+ of 122, 125 and 124. WAR of 4.1, 5.6, and 4.0. Led the league in Wins, ERA, CG, and WHIP at age 40, and led in complete games all three years. And then he got old at 43. Very sharp decline.

e pluribus munu
Advanced stats tell an unfamiliar story. I started following baseball statistics in ’56 and believed that the sun rose in the East every day and Spahn won 20 games every year. Then in ’62 he won 18 – as unsettling as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world as we had known it was no more and I had no doubt Spahn was done for. (This is really true – 18-14 ought to be fine, but my friends and I saw Spahn differently.) Then in ’63 he matched his best year ever (Spahn was defined by W-L) – a miracle: time… Read more »

I posted a link to this on another message board I’m on, and someone dug up an article on the same game:


John Autin

Nice history, Doug! And Willie was due:

(1) His 18 career HRs off Spahn were 4 more than anyone else, with a .305 BA and .955 OPS.

(2) It was his 7th PA of the game. In 31 such games, Willie hit 14 HRs in 230 PAs, or 6.1% — better than his career rate of 5.3%.