Mike Marshall, who set the Major League Baseball record for games pitched in a season in 1974 with 106 when he won a Cy Young Award for the Dodgers has died.
The Associated Press reported Marshall, 78, died Monday night at home in Zephyrhills, Florida, where he had been receiving hospice care, according to the Dodgers, who spoke Tuesday to his daughter, Rebekah. She did not give a cause of death..
Marshall pitched three seasons with the Twins from 1978 to 1980 and lived up to his nickname “Iron Mike” when he set a franchise record for games pitched in a single season with 90 in 1979, a record that stands today. The closest any Twins pitcher has come to breaking the mark was Eddie Guardado in 1996 with 83.
But it was his 1974 season with the Dodgers that made MLB history. Marshall finished the season 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA over 106 games, with 143 strikeouts in 208⅓ innings.
No other pitcher in baseball history has pitched even 100 games in a season. Marshall represents three of the nine times a pitcher has thrown in at least 90 games.
He finished first in National League Cy Young voting and third in the race for MVP, trailing only teammate Steve Garvey and the Cardinals’ Lou Brock.
Marshall’s years with the Twins was driven in large part by his relationship with manager Gene Mauch, and it nearly ended before it began.
Owner Calvin Griffith was reluctant to sign Marshall in 1978, after he had posted a 4.75 ERA between stops with the Braves and Rangers in 1977 — leading Griffith to believe that Marshall’s best years were behind him.
Griffith also stated that Marshall’s salary demands were too high and it would upset other players on the team such as Rod Carew and Dave Goltz.
When Griffith announced he wouldn’t sign Marshall, Twins players revolted.
“There’s no chance of my staying here,” Carew told the Star Tribune on May 13, 1978. “When you don’t try to help the club, what do you expect the players to think? And I’m not different. We could have used Mike Marshall. He could have helped the ballclub.”
Goltz was just as steadfast in his support of signing Marshall.
“It would be the greatest thing that ever happened if they signed Mike Marshall,” he said. “I saw him throw in Chicago. He was outstanding. I don’t know what [salary] he’s asking, but as long as I’m satisfied with what I make, I don’t have any concerns with what anybody else makes. It sounds like Griffith is making me a scapegoat for his feelings.”
Marshall was signed the next day.
“All I know is that [Griffith] had a misunderstanding about the quality of my recent seasons, what my injuries were and my recovery from them. And there were other things about my image which were not always true,” Marshall told Star Tribune staff writer Gary Libman after Libman informed him that Griffith planned to sign him. “But he was able to straighten out what I am, what I believe in and what kind of effort I put forth.
“Obviously, he did it in a very short time because you caught me off-guard. I knew things were in the works, but I didn’t know they were this close. This is good news.”
He was a unique and enigmatic personality and made an impression right from the start.
One of the reasons Griffith didn’t want to sign Marshall was because he hadn’t participated in spring training in 1978, instead deciding to go back to Michigan State to finish his Ph.D. degree in exercise physiology. Then he got into an altercation at the rental car counter at Twin Cities International Airport only four days after the Twins signed him.
Marshall denied that he did any fighting.
“He attacked me,” Marshall said of his accuser. “He threw punches at me. I never threw punches at him. It was simple restraint on my part.”
He was one of the best pitchers on the Twins staff in 1978, going 10-12 with a 2.45 ERA in 54 games. He signed a three-year contract the following year worth $300,000 per season, going 10-15 with a 2.65 ERA in 90 games and 142⅔ innings in ’79.
Still, despite his longstanding friendship with Mauch, he butted heads with management and the media and was released outright in June of 1980 after posting a 6.12 ERA in 18 games.
When Twins President Howard Fox tried to get Marshall to sign his release form, Marshall refused. Griffith was forced to pay Marshall $250,000 for the 1980 season and $300,000 for the 1981 season, all guaranteed.
“Maybe it will clear the air, and this will give us a fresh start,” Griffith said.
Mauch, who reportedly asked for Marshall’s release, said that, “I hate useless rhetoric. Mike Marshall has had a great career; he has a great family, and he is financially secure. Let it rest at that.”
Marshall would pitch in 20 games for the New York Mets in 1981, ending a 14-year pro career.