Juan Marichal makes his final MLB start with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Written by: Alex Coffey

The leg-kick was still there, but something was definitely different.

As Juan Marichal stood atop the Dodger Stadium mound on April 16, 1975, his new teammates looked on from the dugout, seeing the future Hall of Famer on their side for just the second time during the regular season.

It turned out to be the last time on a big league mound for Marichal, whose extraordinary career was coming to an end.

“If I don’t have any problems with my back, I can win for this team,” Marichal told the Sporting News after signing a one-year contract with Los Angeles on March 15, 1975. “Everyone asks me, ‘How’s your arm?’ It’s not my arm. It’s my back that’s been the problem. If I’m not okay and can’t pitch I’ll tell them. I signed a contract with that agreement.”

True to his word, Marichal’s outing on April 16, 1975 – when he allowed four earned runs in 2.1 innings of work – would be his last. But the Dominican Dandy had no regrets, as he had entered the 1975 season with an open mind, fully aware that his performance would hinge on his health.

“I would really like to have pitched for the Dodgers,” he told United Press International. “They have a chance to win the pennant and I would have loved to be a part of it. In Spring Training I promised myself that if I couldn’t do the job, I would get out.”

Marichal had blazed across the diamond in his 16 big league seasons, successfully establishing himself as the standard for countless Dominican baseball players to come. His career record was 243-142, and he retired with the all-time record for wins among Latin American pitchers. A 10-time All-Star, Marichal won 20 or more games six times, recorded 2,303 strikeouts and a career ERA of 2.89.

So by 1975, he felt fulfilled. Unsure of what the future held, Marichal told the Dodgers before the start of the regular season that they should only pay him for games in which he actually pitched – just in case he didn’t last the full year.

Juan Marichal pitched in the final game of his career at Dodger Stadium on April 16 1975. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Despite the short-stint, his teammates were sad to see him go.

“He is one helluva nice guy,” said catcher Joe Ferguson. “I hated to see it happen this way. It became a matter of pride to him, and he didn’t want to push anymore….to force the issue. I only wish I’d have the privilege of catching him in his prime.”

All-Star first baseman Steve Garvey agreed, telling the Washington Post that “it takes a lot of courage to do what he did, probably more than anything else he’s done.”

With that, Marichal headed back to his 1,065-acre rice and banana farm in the Dominican Republic, where his family resided. The Hall of Fame would come calling in 1983, when he would become the first Dominican player to be elected. But while he waited for that moment in the sun, he was completely content with taking a step back from the limelight.

“I’ll just go back to my farm and listen to the games on the radio,” Marichal said to the Post. “I’m going to be happy on my farm. I was before I came here.”

Alex Coffey was the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame

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