By Robert Dominguez
No one realized it then, but April 16, 1975 was the last time baseball fans would get to see a baseball giant’s trademark high leg kick and whipsaw delivery.
On that day, right-hander Juan Marichal put a cap on his 16-year Hall of Fame career when he appeared in his final game — for his longtime rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dominican Dandy, 37, who won all but five of his 243 victories with the San Francisco Giants, had signed with the Dodgers before the start of the 1975 season after a mediocre year with the Red Sox.
It was a stunning move, considering the decades-long rivalry between the two former New York teams that continued after both clubs moved to the West Coast. Highlighted, of course, by Marichal’s infamous bat-wielding brawl with Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro in 1965.
But Marichal’s stint with L.A. didn’t last long. Ailing from a sore back and feeling his age, he took the mound in an April 16 home game against the Big Red Machine of Rose, Morgan, Bench and Perez, and barely lasted two innings after surrendering four runs.
It was his second poor start in a row for his new team, and Marichal knew it was time to go. He promptly retired — as the winningest Latino pitcher in MLB history at the time, with a stellar 2.89 career ERA and six 20-win seasons during his 1960s San Fran heyday.
He was an obvious lock for Cooperstown, but it took three years before baseball writers — the memory of an enraged Marichal bopping Roseboro in the head with a Louisville Slugger still relatively fresh — finally elected him into the hallowed Hall in 1983, making the native of Monte Christi the first Dominican-born player to grace a plaque.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”