50th anniversary: the Marichal-Spahn duel

Fifty years ago today, one of the greatest and most famous pitching duels in all baseball history took place, a marathon match up featuring Hall of Fame studs Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves and Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants. It was a 16-inning game with both hurlers going the distance. And why not? Not a single runner crossed the plate until the bottom of the 16th.

This is exactly what you’d want in an all-time great pitchers’ duel. Not only was it a never-ending double shutout, it featured two clearly deserving Hall of Fame pitchers.

At the time, it wasn’t obvious that both men would make it into Cooperstown. Well, it was clear that Spahn would. He entered this game with a career record of 338-212. That’s the most wins by any pitcher of his generation. It’s the most by anyone since Pete Alexander. Yeah, he was Cooperstown-bound.

Not only that, but Spahn was also an ageless wonder of the world. He was 42 years old and showing no signs of slowing down. Sure, in 1962 he won “only” 18 games, breaking up a streak of six straight 20-win seasons, but so far 1963 was proving to be one of Spahn’s best seasons ever. He was 11-2 with an ERA just a little over 3.00. He had a five-game winning streak going for him and hadn’t allowed a run in 12 innings.

While Spahn’s place in baseball lore already was firmly established, Dominican Dandy Juan Marichal still was proving himself. In July, 1960, he made his big league debut in historic fashion, fanning 12 in a complete-game one-hitter against the Phillies. That proved he had the talent, but Marichal still needed to develop a bit.

Each year he improved bit over the season before. Marichal pitched well as a rookie in 1960, but in just 11 games. In his first full season, Marichal won more than he lost but with a middling ERA. Marichal took his first real step forward in 1962, going 18-11 with a 3.36 ERA and earning his first All-Star squad selection.

But 1963 was the year Marichal arrived. As June ended, he rode an eight-game winning streak to a 12-3 record and a miniscule ERA of 2.38. He was one of the best pitchers baseball, and today the young 25-year-old would get to prove his mettle against the old master. He surely would do so, but the old man wouldn’t make it easy.

Both teams had solid lineups. In fact, Marichal’s Giants and Spahn’s Braves each finished in the top three in runs scored on the year. And both lineups featured all the biggest names: Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews for the Braves, and fellow immortals Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda for San Francisco. So this wasn’t just a great duel, it was a great duel against impressive hitters.

Through nine innings, neither team scored, of course. Even threats were rare. Milwaukee had two opportunities but blew both with outs on the bases. With two outs in the fourth, the Braves put together a mini-rally with a walk and a single that put runners on first and second. When catcher Del Crandall singled, the team waved the lead runner around third to score, but Mays gunned him down at the plate to end the inning. It wouldn’t be the last time Mays made a big play in this game.

In the seventh, Crandall singled again off Marichal but promptly was thrown out in a botched stolen-base effort. That proved to be key because a few minutes later, Marichal surrendered a double to Warren Spahn. Had it not been for the attempted steal, Spahn might have won the game for himself right there.

For his part, Spahn had a much easier time of it. His worst inning came in the seventh when he allowed back-to-back singles, but both came with two outs, and he recorded the third out without too much difficulty.

Okay, so it was scoreless through nine frames. That’s fun, but that’s not too uncommon. But it was the overtime that made this game so special.

After his early struggles, Marichal got into a groove and got stronger as the game went on. From the eighth through 13th innings, he retired 16 straight batters at one point. Spahn was nearly as effective. From the 10th to 13th, he allowed just two base runners, one on a bunt single and the other he immediately picked off. The hitters couldn’t do anything against these men.

In the bottom of the 14th, the Giants finally looked ready to blow the game open as Harvey Kuenn led things off with a double. With the winning run in scoring position, the Giants had the heart of their order coming up: Mays, McCovey, Felipe Alou, and Cepeda. This was damn near a worst-case scenario for Spahn.

Okay, time to show them you don’t win 338 games without having some gumption. First, Spahn intentionally walked Mays. As great as McCovey was, there was only one Willie Mays. McCovey had the chance to be the hero, but instead he popped it up to the catcher. One down. Time for Alou, who had some legitimate power, with 20 homers and 31 doubles on the season.

But if Spahn could take out McCovey, he could take on Alou, who flew out to center, advancing neither runner. The crisis appeared to be passing for Spahn as he was just one out away from escaping the inning. But the always-dangerous Cepeda stepped up to the plate. He hit a grounder to third, which should have ended the inning, but the ball was fumbled for an error on Denis Menke, and all the runners were safe.

Please tell me a game this good won’t end on an unearned run. That seems so unworthy of the day. Warren Spahn agreed and got the next batter out to end the inning. On to the 15th frame. Neither side scored then, so onto the 16th.

In the top of the 16th, Marichal allowed a single, just the second hit he’d allowed in the last nine innings, but the runner never made it to second, let alone home.

All things must end, though, and that included this majestic dual pitching performance. With one out in the bottom of the 16th, Mays came back to the plate. He’d already been a hero on the field and now he was a hero at the plate, homering to end the game as a 1-0 Giants victory. Juan Marichal had outlasted Warren Spahn.

Marichal would go on to have his first great season, posting a 25-8 record, the first of six 20-win campaigns in a seven-season stretch. Spahn also had a terrific year, tying his personal best with 23 wins, but it proved to be his last hurrah. In 1964, he fell apart, and 1965 was his last year in the majors.

The primes of Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn barely overlapped, but they overlapped in truly tremendous manner 50 years ago today.


1,000 days since Roy Halladay joins Don Larsen as the only pitchers to throw postseason no-hitters when he blanks the Reds in Game One of the NLDS.

4,000 days since Carl Crawford makes his big league debut.

6,000 days since the Reds sign free agent third baseman Terry Pendelton.

8,000 days since Schottize, the Reds’ mascot, is put to sleep. The Saint Bernard dog is buried at the home of owner Marge Schott with a Reds cap on its head.

8,000 days since Mike Trout is born.


1885 Hall of Fame slugger Sam Thompson makes his big league debut.

1892 The Pittsburgh Pirates sign future Hall of Famer Joe Kelley from Omaha in the Western League for $500.

1903 Ed Delahanty dies one of the stranger deaths in baseball history. He’s been having something of a personal breakdown lately. He chases teammate Highball Wilson with a knife and is near Niagra Falls when he is tossed off the team train. He says, “I don’t care whether I’m in Canada or dead!” and apparently ends up going over the falls. He’s never seen again.

1909 The White Sox steal 12 bases versus the Browns, including three steals of home. Pitcher Ed Walsh has one of the swipes of the plate.

1911 Ty Cobb’s hitting streak reaches 40 games.

1912 Veteran infielder Larry Gardner hits two inside-the-park home runs in one game.

1913 The Reds select Jimmy Sheckard off waivers from the Cardinals.

1915 The A’s sell Jack Barry to Boston for $8,000. Barry was one-fourth of Philadelphia’s star $100,000 infield.

1920 Benny Kauff plays his last game in the big leagues, as the Giants trade him to Toronto. He was a star for a few years but soon will be banned from baseball for throwing games.

1923 Branch Rickey manages his 1,000th game. His record is 473-512 in the dugout.

1923 Hall of Fame pitcher and all-time White Sox win leader Ted Lyons makes his big league debut

1925 Gabby Hartnett gets a personal-best 11 total bases in one game when he goes 4-for-5 with a double and two homers in an 11-6 Cubs win over the Cardinals.

1925 Jack Fournier gets seven RBIs despite no extra-base hits, which is at least tied for the record since 1920 for most RBIs in a game with nothing beyond a single. He’s 4-for-5 with a sacrifice bunt as his Dodgers torch the Braves, 20-7.

1927 Pittsburgh signs former star third baseman Heinie Groh.

1930 Hall of Fame skipper Bucky Harris manages his 1,000th game. His record: 529-461.

1930 Carl Reynolds of the White Sox smashes three home runs in one game. He gets them in the first, second, and third innings. Two of them are inside-the-park shots.

1931 Babe Ruth enjoys his 11th straight game with an RBI. He has 18 RBIs total in this stretch.

1933 Jimmie Foxx gets a double, triple, and two home runs but misses the cycle by a single. In fact, Foxx homers twice in both ends of a doubleheader for four long balls on the day.

1933 Carl Hubbell has one of the greatest pitching performances of all time, tossing a complete-game shutout in an 18-inning, 1-0 Giants win over the Cardinals. Hubbell allows just a half-dozen hits, walks none and fans 12 for a Game Score of 132. Yeah, that ain’t too bad.

1936 Bruce Campbell of the Indians gets six hits in one game. He recently got over a bout of spinal meningitis and is in the game to replace injured star center fielder Earl Averill.

1940 Ted Williams comes to the plate three times in one inning, an inning in which the Red Sox score 14 times. Williams twice walks and once grounds out. Boston tops the A’s, 15-9.

1941 Joe DiMaggio extends his hitting streak to 45 games in style with a three-homer day.

1946 Yankee hurler Spud Chandler walks nine in the first four innings but has a no-hitter going until the ninth, when Boston’s Bobby Doerr singles with one out.

1947 Cleveland signs Larry Doby, becoming the second big league team and first AL squad to break the color line.

1950 Bob Feller wins his 200th game, giving him a record of 200-118.

1951 Bill Veeck gets the necessary 75 percent of Browns stock to buy the option on the team from Bill and Charlie DeWitt. It’s a good thing he did it today, too, because this was the last day he had that option

1953 AL slugger of the 1980s Tony Armas is born.

1954 Don Zimmer makes his big league debut.

1956 NBC pays $16.25 million for the rights to the All-Star Game and World Series. Six-tenths of the money will go to the players’ pension fund.

1957 Cincinnati signs amateur free agent pitcher Claude Osteen.

1958 The Indians release former ace hurler Bob Lemon.

1958 The Dodgers break the 1,000,000 fan mark in just their 35th game of the season and their first year in Los Angeles.

1961 Boston signs amateur free agent Rico Petrocelli.

1961 Halfway there: Roger Maris hits his 30th home run on the year. Teammate Mickey Mantle gets No. 28 on the day, as well.

1964 Controversial slugger Jose Canseco is born.

1966 Ernie Broglio, famous for being the guy the Cubs stupidly traded Lou Brock for, plays in his final game.

1966 For the third time in five days, Mickey Mantle belts two home runs in one game.

1966 Whitey Ford experiences the worst start of his career. His line: 6 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K for a Game Score of 16. Well, at least most of the runs were unearned.

1968 Fergie Jenkins’ only steal attempt of his career ends in failure. It’s part of a strikeout-throw out double play, and thus likely a blown hit-and-run.

1969 Reds pitcher Gerry Arrigo hits three batters in one inning, something that won’t happen again in the majors for 41 years.

1969 Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in one game for the first time in his career.

1970 The Royals sign amateur free agent Frank White.

1970 Tony Horton hits for the cycle.

1972 Jim Kaat is having a great season, but now it’s over. He breaks his hand while sliding, ending his season. He is 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA.

1973 (Ill-deserving) Hall of Famer Chick Hafey dies.

1973 Detroit signs amateur free agent and former jailbird Ron LeFlore.

1974 Sean Casey, Reds first basemen, is born.

1975 Don Baylor of the Oriole hits three homers in one game. Including the day before, that gives Baylor home runs in four consecutive at-bats.

1975 Fred Lynn’s hitting streak snapped at 38 games.

1975 Gaylord Perry loses his seventh straight decision, the worst stretch of his career. His line in this time: 55.1 IP, 80 H, 48 R, 44 ER, 17 BB, and 28 K for a 7.16 ERA. Yeah, that’s pretty bad, indeed.

1975 Jim Rice is installed as the regular Red Sox left fielder and hits two homers in the game, including one that’s one of the longest ever hit at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

1976 For the second time in five weeks, Houston gets 25 hits in a game. They need them, as they barely beat the Reds, 10-9 in 14 innings. Pete Rose gets five hits for the Reds in the loss. One of the only batters having a bad day is Hall of Fame backstop Johnny Bench, who is 1-for-7 with a career-high four strikeouts on the day.

1980 White Sox starting pitcher Ross Baumgarten nearly throws a no-hitter, allowing just a seventh-inning single by Rod Carew in Chicago’s 1-0 win. Baumgarten needs to be this good, as some of the most dreadful run support any pitcher ever experienced will give him a 2-12 record despite an above-average park-adjusted ERA.

1985 Paul Molitor gets his 1,000th hit. It takes him 835 games to do it.

1985 Aging knuckler Joe Niekro wins his 200th game, giving him a 200-174 career record.

1986 Dave Winfield plays an inning at third base, one of only two times he ever does that.

1986 Roger Clemens loses his first game of the year, giving him a record of 14-1.

1988 Wade Boggs legs out the only inside-the-park home run of his career.

1990 Montreal signs amateur free agent Ugueth U. Urbina.

1990 For the 22nd consecutive season, Nolan Ryan gets his 100th strikeout. That breaks Don Sutton’s old record of 21 straight years doing that.

1991 Oops. Catcher Benito Santiago manages to accidentally brain a pair of coaches. Upset at a groundout, Santiago tosses his helmet, which bounces into the dugout, hits pitching coach Mike Roarke in the head, ricochets off and nails coach Greg Riddoch, who gets a concussion. How hard did Santiago throw that helmet anyway?

1993 A Padres-Phillies game ends at 4:40 a.m. It’s the second game of a doubleheader, and it started at 1:26 a.m. after the first game endured three rain delays. The Phillies win the late show, 6-4 in 10 innings.

1993 The Royals rename Royals Stadium to Kaufmann Stadium.

1993 Sammy Sosa gets six hits in a game.

1994 Jeff Bagwell plays in right field for seven frames. It’s the only time he ever takes the field at any slot other than first base.

1994 Hubie Brooks plays in his final game.

1995 Eddie Murray breaks two ribs when Twins catcher Matt Walbeck tags him at the plate. The DL beckons.

1995 A woman is arrested with a .22 caliber pistol at the SkyDome Hotel. She had threatened to establish a relationship with Roberto Alomar because she couldn’t “establish a relationship” with him. Creepy.

1996 Mark McGwire belts his 303rd home run with the A’s, passing Jimmie Foxx as the all-time franchise leader. McGwire still holds that slot. In that same game, Jason Giambi enjoys the only five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5.

1997 Long-time closer Lee Smith appears in his last game.

1998 Wade Boggs appears in his sixth straight game without a hit, his longest slump. He’s 0-for-17 with five walks.

1999 Florida signs amateur free agent Miguel Cabrera. Good move.

1999 Padres Phil Nevin and Carlos Baerga hit back-to-back, pinch-hit home runs.

1999 Scott Rolen legs out the only inside-the-park home run of his career.

1999 It’s a brotherly decision. When Texas tops Seattle, 7-6, Jeff Zimmerman gets the win while Jordan Zimmerman gets the loss.

1999 Umpire Tom Hallion is suspended for three games for actions taken on June 26. On that day, Hallion bumped a pitcher who was complaining to a different umpire about a call.

2000 Boston signs amateur free agent Hanley Ramirez. It’s a good signing, but Boston won’t reap the benefit of it.

2002 Baseball players combine for 62 homers, a one-day record. A total of 53 different men homer on the day.

2002 Due to a mix-up by the attendant in the umpire’s locker room, today’s Cubs-Astros game is played with non-regulation baseballs. Practice balls are used instead, and those aren’t up to game-time snuff.

2004 Arizona fires former world champion manager Bob Brenly.

2004 According to WPA, Jim Thome experiences the worst game of his career. He’s 0-for-8 with five Ks and a GIDP.

2005 Houston releases aging reliever John Franco.

2005 Kenny Rogers is suspended for 20 games and fined $50,000 for on-field actions that sent a cameraman to the hospital and launched a police investigation. (Wait, what?)

2006 Chipper Jones’s 341st career home run is his first pinch-hit one.

2007 Roger Clemens wins his 350th decision. He’s 350-181 for his career at this point.

2008 Dustin Pedroia hits a homer, triple, and two doubles but never does get that single to complete the cycle.

2009 Sources reveal that major league baseball loaned around $15 million to cash-strapped Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

2009 A swarm of bees invades today’s Houston-San Diego game in the top of the ninth. There’s a 62-minute delay as part of the stands by left field have to be evacuated and an emergency call to a beekeeper is made.

2010 Washington signs free agent and eternal pitcher Orlando Hernandez.

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9 years ago

There’s a pitch count estimator in existence and it shows that Spahn threw 190 pitches and Marichal threw 212.  It also shows Hubbel threw 216.

Al Peterson
9 years ago

“1999 It’s a brotherly decision. When Texas tops Seattle, 7-6, Jeff Zimmerman gets the win while Jordan Zimmerman gets the loss.”

Uh, both Zimmerman’s worked in the game but neither got a decision. Jordan gave up the game-winning walk-off hit but not charged with the loss.

Chris J.
9 years ago

JIm – thanks for the info.

Al – thanks for the correction.

Bazzill Stern
9 years ago
Tom Dockery
9 years ago

I was at another Marichal scoreless extra inning duel at Shea Stadium on Aug.19,1969.This time, he lost 1-0 on a 14th inning homer by Tommie Agee.Right after Agee hit it,a fan was coming up the tunnel to the seating area with a couple of beers for him and his friends while everyone was leaving.In those days,there was no alcohol cut off.