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Chapter One:  El Rey de Ponche


Junot Diaz, the decorated literary writer born in Santo Domingo, writes in his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao of Rafael Trujillo: “A portly, sadistic, pig-eyed mulato who bleached his skin, wore platform shoes, and had a fondness for Napoleon-era haberdashery, Trujillo (also known as El Jefe, the Failed Cattle Thief, and Fuckface) came to control nearly every aspect of the DR’s political, cultural, social, and economic life through a potent (and familiar) mixture of violence intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror; treated the country like it was a plantation and he was the master.”  Not exactly the picture that Juan Marichal got from the Trujillo-controlled press while growing up in the DR.



Junot Diaz on Ramfis Trujillo: “a frozen-hearted demon with a Humanity Rating of 0 who personally dictated the indiscriminate torture-murders of 1959 (the year of the Cuban Invasion) and 1961 (after his father was assassinated, Ramfis personally saw to the horror-torture of the conspirators).” This was the man who jailed Marichal and the rest of his Air Force team for losing both games of a doubleheader.


Horacio “Rabbit” Martinez, the scout who signed Juan Marichal, had been a smooth-fielding shortstop himself.  Read his SABR bio at




Alejandro Pompez was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the role he played in opening doors in Major League Baseball for Caribbean players. Read his SABR bio at


Vic Power, First Baseman With Flair, Is Dead at 78” Read the New York Times obituary from November 30, 2005.

Minnie Miñoso broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball for Latin players in 1949. The seven-time All-Star inspired a generation of talent.  Watch an MLB video clip at


Andy Gilbert, the minor league manager who taught Marichal his overhand delivery, played six major league games for the Boston Red Sox in the 1942 season before serving in the military from 1943-1945. He played two more games with the Red Sox in 1948.  During his eight MLB games, Gilbert managed one hit (a single) in twelve at-bats for a career .083 batting average. In the outfield, he had six putouts on six chances, for a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. Gilbert made his mark as a manager over 29 seasons with the Giants (1950-1980) and the Atlanta Braves (1981-1982) with a .514 winning percentage, including five league championships. He also coached four seasons (1972-1975) for the San Francisco Giants.

Ty Cobb, the player-manager of the Detroit Tigers in 1926, discouraged 22-year-old prospect Carl Hubbell from throwing his screwball because Cobb thought it would hurt his arm. John McGraw, New York Giants manager who acquired Hubbell in 1928, proved more supportive, and King Carl enjoyed a Hall of Fame career underwritten by his screwball. His most famous moment came in the 1934 All-Star Game when he struck out five straight future Hall-of-Famers:  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Read his SABR bio at


When Tom Sheehan, a former big-league pitcher and longtime minor league manager, succeeded Bill Rigney as the San Francisco Giants’ skipper in June 1960, at age 66, Sheehan became the oldest rookie manager in MLB history. His best move was promoting Juan Marichal from the minors. But he didn’t make enough good moves. The Giants went 46-50 under Sheehan and dropped from second to fifth place. His MLB managing career ended with that season.



The Cuban Dolf Luque is won two World Series and 194 games in his 20-year MLB career (1914-1915, 1918-1935) yet he is more frequently remembered for punching Casey Stengel in the jaw, a moment uncharacteristic of his personality. Read his SABR bio at



Chapter Two:  My Own Little Bailiwick

The Cleveland Buckeyes played at League Park from 1943-1948 and again in 1950 after a season in Louisville, Kentucky. They won two Negro American League titles (1945 and 1947) and defeated Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays in the Negro League World Series in 1945. Catcher-manager Quincey Trouppe, centerfielder Sam Jethroe, pitcher Gene Bremer and third baseman Parnell Woods were among the stars on that championship team.

Johnny’s younger brother Jim Roseboro led the Ashland High football team to 21 straight wins. He scored 25 touchdowns but was even better on defense, a strong tackler who was an All-Ohio linebacker. Jim captained the football, basketball and baseball teams at Ashland High and lettered ten times (four in football, four in baseball, two in basketball). Woody Hayes recruited Jim to play at Ohio State, where he was a three-year starter and played in the Rose Bowl. Jim was drafted in the 11th round by the Green Bay Packers but never played in the NFL. He played professionally for the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League and the Cleveland Bulldogs in the United Football League. Johnny always said Jim was the better athlete.

Sheboygan, where John Roseboro started his professional career playing for the Class D Indians in 1952, was home to Ron Rabinovitz, who as a thirteen-year-old struck up a lifelong friendship with Jackie Robinson.  Their friendship was the subject of a documentary “Letters from Jackie.” Nevertheless, Ron said that narrow-mindedness haunted Sheboygan, where bigots scrawled racist comments on his father’s law office building for showing kindness to Robinson.




Life magazine ran a cover story on Dodgertown in its April 5, 1948, issue, but many of George Silk’s photos did not make it into the magazine. You can view them here

Clay Bryant, Johnny’s manager in Maracaibo, spent 45 years in baseball as a pitcher, coach and minor league manager. He led the National League in strikeouts and was 19-11 for the 1938 Chicago Cubs, helping their cause to win the pennant, but his best day as a player came on August 28, 1937, when the right-hander got the win by hitting a tenth-inning grand slam.

A favorite trivia question:  Who was the only person to play for the Dodgers, Knicks and Rangers?  The answer, of course, Gladys Goodding, the organist at Ebbets Field and Madison Square Garden. She started at MSG in 1937, and Dodgers’ president Larry MacPhail brought her to Brooklyn in 1941. She became a fan favorite in Flatbush with her antics, such as playing “Three Blind Mice” when the umpires took the field.

In his 2011 biography, Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella, Neil Lanctot asserts that in the early morning hours of January 28, 1958, Roy Campanella had been coming home from an extramarital tryst when he lost control of his rented Chevrolet—Lanctot posits Campy fell asleep at the wheel around 3:34 a.m.—and crashed into a telephone pole. The accident left Campanella paralyzed from the shoulders down and, obviously, ended his baseball career.

Chapter Three:  The Pride of the Dominican

Clay Dalrymple, the Philadelphia catcher better known for his mitt than his bat, was not only the unlikely player to break up Juan Marichal’s debut no-hitter on July 19, 1960; Dalrymple also is the only major leaguer whose career World Series batting average is 1.000 with hits off two Hall of Fame pitchers. In the 1969 World Series, Dalrymple had hits off the Mets’ Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. The Phillies also relied on Dalrymple’s bat to end their 23-game losing streak in 1961 when the catcher stroked the game-winning hit, raising his season batting average to .193.  



While “I Love Lucy” lampooned Ricky Ricardo’s malaprops, he wasn’t the show’s only victim of stereotyping. The sitcom also typecast Lucille Ball as a dumb blonde with red hair, a role she never managed to escape in the subsequent incarnations “The Lucy Show,”  “Here’s Lucy,” and “Life with Lucy.”

Peter Bjarkman points out that the historic first MLB game played on the West Coast on April 15, 1958, had “a decidedly Latin American flavor.”  Ruben Gomez of Puerto Rico pitched a six-hit shutout for the San Francisco Giants in their 8-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. His countryman and Giant teammate, rookie Orlando Cepeda, powered the charge with his first major league home run.


Though President John Kennedy and pitcher Juan Marichal both endorsed Joaquin Balaguer, Dominican novelist Junot Diaz condemned “the Demon Balaguer.”  From 1966-1978, “he unleashed a wave of violence against the Dominican left, death-squading hundreds and driving thousands more out of the country. It was he who oversaw/initiated the thing we call Diaspora. Considered our national ‘genius,’ Joquin Balaguer was a Negrophobe, an apologist to genocide, an election thief, and a killer of people who wrote better than himself, famously ordering the death of journalist Orlando Martinez.”

The story goes that someone once asked President John Kennedy, “Who is the only man ever to hit a home run off Sandy Koufax and catch a pass from Y. A. Tittle?” Kennedy answered, “Alvin Dark.” Close, but not quite. Dark did homer off Koufax and he was a star halfback at LSU with a 7.2 rushing average in 1942, but he played for the Tigers before Tittle arrived on campus.  Read Dark’s SABR bio here

Jim Kaplan writes about Warren Spahn that he was “an oracle whose every word on pitching was eagerly awaited. ‘A pitcher needs two pitches -- one they’re looking for and one to cross ‘em up,’ Spahn said at one point. On another occasion, he stated, ‘Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.’” Spahn, of course, was Marichal’s counterpart in the 16-inning duel on July 2, 1963. Read more about Kaplan’s account of The Greatest Game Ever Pitched here

The Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia is built on the site where legend has it that a young girl with a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary lived. The girl had asked for a portrait of Mary, and her father gave her one as a gift. The girl placed the portrait in her house but in the morning found it outside underneath a small tree. She brought it back inside but the next morning again found it under the tree. This continued until she told her parents. The villagers considered the place sacred and built a church (the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia) where the tree stood as a testament to Mary’s grace.

Chapter Four:  Filling Campy’s Shoes

Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg bought the “Go-Go Sox” at just the right moment to enjoy their success in the 1959 season. But Chuck Comiskey, grandson of “the Old Roman” who had brought the White Sox to Chicago, did not make it easy for them.  An ego-maniac with a drinking problem, Chuck fought the new owners’ efforts to buy him out in a protracted struggle that one Chicago newspaper called a “comic opera.”

William Leggett described the Los Angeles Dodger’s “Swift Set” (Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, Tommy Davis, Willie Davis and John Roseboro) in his June 25, 1962, Sports Illustrated article: “These five have stolen 62 bases in 79 attempts this season, far and away better than the team total of any other club in either league. (The Cardinals are second in base stealing with a total of 44.) The Swift Set likes soft music and singing in harmony. It likes all kinds of new gadgets, like transistor radios that can be converted into walkie-talkies. It likes the sound of the Clavietta. When The Swift Set sits in a hotel lobby everyone marvels at its splendid sweaters. When it runs it brings baseball fans to their feet. As a group these five have become the biggest thieves to hit baseball since the 1919 Black Sox.”

Not everyone praised John Roseboro for his speed. Jimmy Cannon wrote, “You know what they say about Roseboro when his name comes up?  They say he can run. That’s an insult when it is used to describe a catcher.”


Ted Williams’ scouting report on Roseboro, the hitter:  “I saw Roseboro in the 1959 All-Star Game. He impressed me with natural power at the plate, but he has several faults, and one of them is waggling his bat too much in anticipating the pitch.” Too bad Roseboro didn’t get to know Williams until late in his career, when Roseboro played for the Washington Senators managed by Williams–The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived might have been able to raise Roseboro’s career .249 batting average.



John Roseboro was featured in a closeup in the Blake Edwards’ film Experiment in Terror, starring Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Ross Martin and Stefanie Powers.  The story of a psychopath who kidnaps a young woman for ransom climaxes at Candlestick Park during a Dodgers-Giants game.  The thriller played in theatres the summer of 1962.



Roseboro wore glasses briefly during the 1963 season. He had been advised a couple of years earlier to wear glasses after an eye examination but did not try them until the lights on the scoreboard started appearing fuzzy. The Sporting News commented, “When he whips off his mask, he looks like a motorcycle cop pulling up to give a citation.” Johnny thought they would help with his hitting, but the experiment did not last long. “I gave them up because they bothered me,” he said. “Although I still use them for reading.”

Juan Marichal wasn’t the only one John Roseboro sued for damages. In 1962, after he suffered a painful eye injury from a foul ball that struck his mask and broke the bars, Roseboro sued Rawlings Manufacturing Company, claiming the mask was defective for not protecting him. The Los Angeles Superior Court agreed and ordered Rawlings to pay Roseboro $20,000 in damages. (Roseboro had asked for $25,000.)

Roseboro got angry like any man, but he was also capable of making amends. In a game at Forbes Field on May 4, 1963, he dropped an easy foul popup and was charged with an error. Roseboro thought the error assessed to him had resulted from a wild pitch that had been deemed a passed ball. After the inning, he phoned the press box from the dugout and reamed out the official scorer, Les Biederman. The next day, a sheepish Roseboro sought out Biederman and apologized.

Chapter Five:  Summer of Fury

On March 7, 1965, a group of about 600 marchers set out for the Alabama capital in Montgomery from Selma to support voting rights for blacks. Local and state police formed a blockade at the Pettus Bridge to stop the group of predominantly African Americans and attacked them with tear gas, whips and batons. They sent fifty marchers to the hospital. The press dubbed the incident “Bloody Sunday.”  Two days later, a group of 2,500 marchers successfully crossed the Pettus Bridge and turned around. A week later, Martin Luther King Jr. led a march of protestors protected by almost 4,000 soldiers and National Guardsmen that made it to Montgomery.


The outbreak of civil war in the Dominican Republic and President Lyndon Johnson’s deployment of U.S. marines “to prevent another Cuba” became Time magazine’s cover story for the May 7, 1965, issue.



The comedian Dick Gregory had become active in the Civil Rights movement and implored blacks in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Maryland to stop rioting. When the Watts Riots broke out, Gregory happened to be performing in a Los Angeles area night club. On Thursday night after his show, he addressed the crowd on the streets with a bullhorn provided by the police. The scene was lit by burning buildings. “Get your wives and children off the street,” he told the crowd. “Go inside before somebody gets killed.” They jeered at him. Someone fired a shot from a rifle. The bullet grazed Gregory’s thigh. Police took him to the hospital. (paraphrased from Burn, Baby, Burn by Jerry Cohen)

The rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants is among the most storied and bitter of all sports. It was within this context that Marichal and Roseboro had their altercation.


Rafeal Avila, the Dominican scout and coach who talked Juan Marichal into signing with the Dodgers, has a grandson playing in the major leagues, Alex Avila, catcher for the Detroit Tigers and 2011 All-Star.


Roseboro compared the difference between catching the Dodgers’ pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale: “Koufax is easier to catch.  For all his speed, his ball is light and it is simpler to anticipate because it doesn’t sink or sail.  Drysdale throws a heavy ball. When it hits your glove, it hurts.”



Rumors swirled through Los Angeles that Roseboro’s roommate Maury Wills was having an affair with Dodgers fan and screen actress Doris Day. Wills claimed they did; she said they didn’t. Roseboro also said it didn’t happen.

Chapter Six:  Bloody Sunday

“I was eight years old and was part of a family of Dodger fans living in Anaheim. The August 22, 1965, game was televised, but alas, I had to be in the car with my parents on some errand or another. We heard the Marichal incident on the radio, and Jerry Doggett was the announcer. Vinnie was probably doing his TV innings.”  (Paul Hirsch in email to John Rosengren)

Bruce Macgowan was at Candlestick Park for his best friend’s thirteenth birthday party sitting in left field. They had felt the tension in the ballpark, sensed something might happen, but when it did, when Marichal turned and hit Roseboro, they were stunned. “We were like, ‘Did he just him in the head with the bat?’  My god.” (phone interview with John Rosengren)

Abe was seventeen.  At his first ballgame, sitting in the top tier with his brother and their dad. “It looked like Marichal was just trying to protect himself and he just happened to have a bat in his hand. Roseboro looked like he was on the offensive.”  (from the website

“When it happened, fans, players, managers, everybody was completely flabbergasted. You just couldn’t believe what you had just seen within three feet of you. You just couldn’t believe it. Then the furor and the excitement that the whole thing encompassed, with Roseboro going down and him [Marichal] still trying to hit him with the bat and finally players and what have you got him away.  Then he went down between first base and the plate swinging the bat and the Giants were behind him on their side of the field, the Dodgers were out in front of him, and I’m coming down the side, from home plate to first base. So I knew I had to do something because the players weren’t making a move. He would’ve hit other guys.” –Home plate umpire Shag Crawford’s account of the event, given in an interview recorded by Larry Gerlach

Chapter Seven:  This Ain’t Over




Despite Marichal’s high leg kick, he was hard to steal on because he had a quick delivery and a good pickoff move.

George Vecsey wrote in Sport magazine in 1967 about the violence inherent to baseball:  “Baseball does have violence ingrained in its mores--in the way folks do things around here. It is all right to slide hard to break up a double play. It is all right to pitch tight to a batter. An outfielder is expected to risk his collarbone diving for a sinking line drive. A pitcher is expected to protect his teammates by low-bridging the enemy pitcher who has thrown too many close ones.”

Charles Stoneham “Chub” Feeney, who headed the Giants’ baseball operations during the 1965 season, was the nephew of Horace Stoneham, the team owner. Feeney began his baseball career as a batboy for the New York Giants (owned by his grandfather Charles Stoneham) and became ateam vice president at age 24 in 1946. He became National League president in 1969, a position he held for 17 years, until 1986. He served as president of the San Diego Padres for fifteen months until late in the 1988 season, but was forced to resign after he flipped off fans waving a “Scrub Chub” sign at Fan Appreciation Day.


Chapter Eight:  That’s Not How the Story Goes

John Roseboro had started college but regretted not finishing his education, he told a group of students. “Because when you see old ballplayers like myself who haven’t prepared themselves for the day when they leave baseball, you see men in trouble. Most people today must have a college education to get a decent job.”


On May 31, 1966, Roseboro was batting .233, but decided to forego batting practice. He hit .360 since, knocked in 16 runs, and raised his average at the All-Star break to .302. “I would have my timing down perfect,” he said. “Then I would go into the game and I was not good.  After batting-practice lollipops, pitches in the game looked like aspirin tablets.”

After the 1969 season, when Juan Marichal was home in the Dominican Republic, he spoke with Alvaro Arvelo Jr., a sports columnist for the newspaper El Caribe.  Arvelo wrote that Juan told him Willie Mays’ temperament and attitude dampened the spirit and enthusiasm of some other Giant players. He also quoted Juan saying, “Mays plays when he wishes and does not when he would be facing a fastball pitcher who might hurt him.” Juan claimed he had been misquoted. Arvelo stood by his copy. Regardless, the words salted the wound between Marichal and Mays.

Roseboro changed his number with the Twins from 10 to 13 in the middle of the 1968 season to bring him luck. It did, but not much. He raised his batting average from .195 before the All-Star break to .239 after it. He averaged .216 on the season.


Jeri Roseboro liked living in Minnesota during Johnny’s years with the Twins, 1968-1969. She reconnected with Vikings’ All-Pro defensive end Jim Marshall, a high school classmate from Columbus. Despite being part of the famed Purple People Eaters and retiring with the NFL’s longest consecutive games started streak (270), Marshall, unfortunately, is probably best remembered for the fumble recovery he returned the wrong way against the San Francisco 49ers on October 25, 1964.


Roseboro teamed up with several other players to sing the jingle “See the USA in your Chevrolet”–made popular by Dinah Shore–for radio commercials played during Dodger games. Dodger announcer Jerry Doggett was unsparing in his analysis of Roseboro’s talent. He declared the Dodger catcher’s “singing career was destined to go nowhere.”

Chapter Nine:  Johnny, I Need Your Help

John Roseboro wasn’t the only person who resented Calvin Griffith. Bill Gildea captured the feeling of many Washington Senators fans with the opening of his Washington Post obituary upon Griffith’s death in 1999: “The first thing to remember about Calvin Griffith, who died yesterday at the age of 87, is that he was not Clark Griffith. Clark gave big league baseball to Washington. Calvin took it away.”


Shelley Roseboro claims that her father “did a lot of creative work” in his autobiography Glory Days with the Dodgers. Some of the family members were not pleased with what he said. John Sr. thought the book was unnecessary. “But he had a sense of mischief about him,” Shelley said. “He didn’t mind stirring things up.”


The actor Roger Guenveur Smith, who as a ten-year-old burned Juan Marichal’s baseball card after he clubbed Smith’s hero John Roseboro, created a one-man play about the relationship between Marichal and Roseboro called “Juan and John.” Marichal attended a performance with Dominican president Leonel Fernandez and the first lady. “I love the play,” Marichal writes in his autobiography. “I like the way it worked. It made me cry.”

Brooks Robinson, who was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame along with Marichal in 1983, played third base for the Baltimore Orioles for 23 seasons. His Hall of Fame plaque begins “Established modern standard of excellence for third basemen,” which pretty much sums up his incredible fielding ability–“The Human Vacuum” won sixteen consecutive Gold Gloves. Umpire Ed Hurley elevated Robinson even higher with the observation, “He plays third base like he came down from a higher league.”


Chapter Ten:  The Man Behind the Mask


Before Tommy Lasorda took over for Walt Alston as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager at the end of the 1976 season, he spent seven years working his way up the ranks as a minor league manager, moving from the rookie league team in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1966 to the AAA Spokane Indians in 1972. He also managed Los Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter Baseball League in 1972-1973, leading them to the Caribbean World Series title eighteen years before John Roseboro would repeat the feat.


Johnny Roseboro coached his son Jaime in Little League. Shelley Roseboro thought her dad was a little too competitive for that level: “He was telling them to pitch inside.”  An outfielder who batted and threw right-handed, Jaime attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, on a baseball scholarship. The Mets drafted him in the 11th round of the 1986 amateur draft. Jaime played seven years in the Mets’ system, including one at the AAA level, but never tasted that cup of coffee in the big leagues. He was a .272 career hitter.


John Roseboro’s inside knowledge of baseball fascinated his daughter Shelley. She remembers a game they attended at Angel Stadium during the Nineties. “He saw the game from a whole different perspective,” she said. “It was crazy the way his brain was working. He got into a zone with what he knew. He was brilliant.”


In 2005, the San Francisco Giants unveiled a bronze statue of Marichal, fashioned by sculptor William Behrends that immortalized the Hall of Famer’s signature leg kick. Marichal’s statue joined others of his former teammates Willie Mays and Willie McCovey outside the Giants’ ballpark.