Mike Marshall: 1968-69 Mayagüez Indios to Record-Setting AL and NL Reliever (Part I)

It is rare for a Cy Young Award winner to earn a Ph.D. in exercise physiology while still an active big leaguer. Mike Marshall did just that, becoming the first reliever in big league history to win the Cy Young—with the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers—four years before obtaining his 1978 Ph.D. from Michigan State University, where he secured his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Per his SABR bio by Warren Corbett, Marshall worked out with weights and ran long distances instead of sprints; believed in pitching more, not less; threw a screwball; refused to sign autographs for the majority of his career since he didn’t think ballplayers should be heroes; and, his pickoff move turned the wrong way. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/mike-marshall/ Marshall was the shortest Cy Young recipient at 5-8 and one-half inches, the same height as the shortest 20th century U.S. President, Harry S Truman. Part I will focus on Marshall’s career through the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Part II covers his 1970-1976 timeframe with Houston, Montreal, and the Dodgers. Part III concludes with Atlanta, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and New York Mets, 1976-1981.

Detroit Tigers and their Connection to Mayagüez Indios, 1958-59 to 1978-79

Marshall was born in Adrian, Michigan, on January 15, 1943. In his senior year at Michigan State (1964-65), Mayagüez formalized a working agreement with the Detroit Tigers that continued into the 1970s. The 1964-65 Indios, managed by Bob Swift, featured a pitching staff with Dennis McLain, Joe Sparma, and Bob Dustal, among others. Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, and Mickey Stanley were a trio of young Tigers who plied their trade with Mayagüez. The Indios reached the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) finals before losing to Santurce. The 1965-66 Indios did win the PRWL crown, topping Ponce in the finals. Wayne Blackburn managed them; Northrup won the batting title; Detroit prospect Billy Graham won 12 games; and lefty John Hiller pitched well. Northrup and Stanley returned; Ray Oyler played shortstop, and Fritz Fisher contributed to the mound. Between 1958-59 and 1963-64, a handful of Tigers reinforced Mayagüez, ranging from pitchers Bob Bruce, Pete Burnside, and Jerry Davie in 1958-59 to Phil Regan (1960-61), to Gates Brown and Fred Gladding in 1963-64. Jorge Colón Delgado’s superb 2019 book, documenting the history of the Mayagüez Indios, and Héctor Matías Marrero’s 2023 book with Mayagüez team rosters and stats are must-reads on this franchise, 1938-39 to present. The Detroit-Mayagüez connection ended after the 1978-79 season when Jack Morris and Sheldon Burnside pitched to Lance Parrish with the Indios.

Parrish recalled: «To be able to play with Jack down there just kind of furthered our growth as pitcher and catcher in the Detroit organization. I caught him a couple of seasons in the minors, then had the opportunity to catch Jack in the PRWL, and then worked with him in the majors. It was another step in our progression as major leaguers.»

Marshall, a Cy Young Winner 50 Years Ago

Table I includes all Cy Young winners who pitched in the PRWL, beginning with Bob Turley (1958 Yankees) and concluding with David Cone (1994 Royals). Ten AL recipients and eight NL recipients had PRWL experience. Dwight Gooden pitched for San Juan a decade after winning his 1985 Cy Young. Mike Cuéllar continued pitching in the PRWL after sharing the 1969 Cy Young Award with Detroit’s McLain. Just three big league relievers who pitched in the PRWL—Mike Marshall (1974 Dodgers), Willie Hernández (1984 Tigers), and Mark Davis (1989 Padres)—won the Cy Young. Marshall was a starter for 1968-69 Mayagüez; Hernández started and mostly relieved for PRWL teams; Davis only relieved for 1992-93 San Juan, trying to resurrect his career after his 1989 Cy Young NL season. Turley recalled that the New York Yankees scouted him in the PRWL before a 17-player trade between Baltimore and the Yankees a year later, sending Turley to the Bronx Bombers. «Puerto Rico was crucial for my career,» stated Turley. «I took the bus from my San Juan apartment to Sixto Escobar Stadium and later [1962-63] pitched one game for San Juan at the new stadium [Hiram Bithorn] before returning home.»

Table I: Cy Young Winners who pitched in the PRWL

PitcherAL TeamsPRWL TeamsPitcherNL TeamsPRWL Teams
Bob Turley#1958 NYY1953-54 San Juan SenatorsSandy Koufax#1963 LAD1956-57 Caguas-Rio Piedras
Jim Lonborg1967 BOS1970-71 San JuanKoufax#1965 LAD 
Dennis McLain1968 DET1964-65Koufax#1966 LAD 
McLain1969 DETMayagüez IndiosBob Gibson1968 SLC1961-62 Santurce
Mike Cuéllar1969 BALVarious (1963-83)Gibson1970 SLCCrabbers
Vida Blue1971 OAK1984-85 AreciboFergie Jenkins1971 CHC1964-66 Caguas
   and Ponce Lions   
Jim Palmer1973 BAL1968-69 SanturceSteve  Carlton1972 PHI1965-67 Ponce
Palmer1975 BAL Carlton1977 PHI 
Palmer1976 BAL Carlton1980 PHI 
Pete Vuckovich1982 MLW1975-76 PonceCarlton1982 PHI 
LaMarr Hoyt1983 CWS1980-81 PonceMike Marshall1974 LAD1968-69 Mayagüez
Willie Hernández1984 DETVarious (1973-83)John Denny1983 PHI1974-75 Arecibo
David Cone1994 KCR1985-86 AreciboDwight Gooden1985 NYM1995-96 San Juan
  1986-87 PonceMark Davis1989 SDP1992-93 San Juan

#Koufax and Turley won it for both leagues. Sources: PRWL books and publications, and Baseball-Reference.

Marshall in the Minors, 1967 Detroit, and 1968-69 Mayagüez

Philadelphia signed Marshall as an amateur free agent on September 13, 1960, but he did not pitch in their minor league system until 1965. The Phillies sold him to Detroit on April 11, 1966. Marshall went 11-7 in 51 relief appearances for the 1966 Montgomery (Alabama) Rebels, managed by Wayne Blackburn, long-time Indios manager, along with Cal Ermer. Marshall’s 2.33 ERA and 1.27 WHIP were in 108 innings. Daryl Patterson and Tom Timmermann mostly started for Montgomery and were part of a deep minor-league pitching pool in Detroit’s system. «I was taking off-season college courses at Southern Illinois-University/Carbondale,» recalled Timmermann, who was 26. Timmerman finally made it to the majors in 1969, at age 29, following several fine winter seasons for the Caguas Criollos. Patterson surfaced on Detroit’s 1968 World Series championship ballclub and could start or relieve. «The competition for a spot with Detroit was intense, then,» recalled Patterson. «I later [1971-72] pitched for a PRWL championship team—Ponce Lions.» Twenty-eight-year-old third baseman Eddie Olivares, Brooklyn-born of Puerto Rican parents, played for Montgomery.

Marshall was promoted to Detroit in 1967 and was retroactively credited with ten saves in 37 games. He was 1-3 with a 1.98 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, recording 41 strikeouts to 20 outs. Yet Detroit demoted him to the 1968 Toledo Mud Hens (83-64), winners of the regular season title by a half-game over the Columbus Jets (82-64). Marshall, primarily a starter, made the 1968 International League (Triple-A) All-Star Team, going 15-9, with a 2.94 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He started 28 of 31 games. In 211 innings, he fanned 190 and walked 52. Dick, «The Monster Radatz,» began and relieved for Toledo, who also featured Dick Drago (15-8) and Jim Rooker (14-8) in the rotation. Twenty-year-old prospect Les Cain went 7-5 in 13 starts, while Timmerman’s 35 games included seven starts.

Detroit sent Marshall to Mayagüez as a starter for skipper Wayne Blackburn. Marshall went 6-6, with a 3.06 ERA for the fifth-place Indios, with a 2.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (63-26), in 103.1 innings. Blackburn opined that Marshall had a «solid work ethic,» albeit «his routine was completely different than other PRWL hurlers.» Ike Brown, Les Cain, and Ozzie Virgil Sr. were three of Marshall’s teammates. Brown was the last Negro Leaguer to play in the PRWL when he suited up for Mayagüez in 1968-69 and 1969-70. Santurce, led by 33-year-old rookie skipper Frank Robinson, won a franchise-best 49 games, per Table II. Sparky Anderson managed San Juan to a fourth-place finish, followed by an upset win over arch-rival Santurce in the best-of-seven semi-finals. «Santurce was loaded,» said Anderson. «They had the best club, with George Scott, Julio Gotay, Leo Cárdenas, Joe Foy, Elrod Hendricks, Paul Blair, Jim Palmer, Juan Pizarro, and Rubén Gómez…» Palmer (5-0, 2.79 ERA) was Santurce’s fourth starter, having missed half of the season due to shoulder issues, behind Pizarro (8-5, 1.93), Gómez (9-1, 2.05), and Wally Bunker (8-4. 2.06). Other league managers were: Rocky Bridges (Ponce), Luis «Tite» Arroyo (Caguas), and Vic Power (Arecibo).

Table II: PRWL 1968-69 Regular Season Standings and Most League Wins

TeamW-LPCTGBPitcherTeamWins
Santurce Crabbers49-20.710Bill KelsoPonce10
Ponce Lions*43-25.6325.5Rubén GómezSanturce9
Caguas Criollos37-33.52912.5Dennis RibantPonce9
San Juan Senators36-34.51413.5Wally BunkerSanturce8
Mayagüez Indios23-45.33825.5Juan PizarroSanturce8
Arecibo Wolves19-50.27530Darrell BrandonSan Juan7

*Won playoffs. Source: José Crescioni Benítez, El Béisbol Profesional Boricua, 1997.

1969 Toledo Mud Hens and Seattle Pilots

On October 15, 1968, Marshall was selected by the Seattle Pilots (53rd overall pick) from Detroit in the expansion draft. He started 11 games for the 1969 Toledo Mud Hens before Seattle promoted him. Coincidentally, Tom Timmermann also started 11 times for Toledo before his call-up by Detroit in mid-June 1969. Table III compares Marshall’s Mud Hens pitching stats to those of Timmermann. Marshall went 3-10 with a 5.13 ERA with Seattle, starting 14 games and relieving six times. He pitched three CG and one SHO in 87.2 innings. Sal Maglie, Seattle’s pitching coach, discouraged Marshall from throwing the screwball, his (Marshall’s) favorite pitch. (Mayo Smith, Detroit’s skipper, also told Marshall to discontinue throwing the screwball in 1967.) Jim Bouton—a 1969 Pilots teammate of Marshall—became well known after writing Ball Four, a baseball classic.

Table III: Mike Marshall and Tom Timmermann’s 1969 Statistics: Toledo Mud Hens

PitcherGGSCGSHOW-LIPHKBBERAWHIP
Mike Marshall1111916-4877960273.101.22
Tom Timmermann1111919-2866474202.410.98

Source: Baseball-Reference.

Mike Marshall and other PRWL Pitchers: Career and Single-Season Big League Saves

Tables IV (Major League Career Saves) and V (AL/NL Single-Season Saves) place Marshall with 188 career saves, 60th all-time, and a three-time single-season saves leader with the 1973 Expos, 1974 Dodgers, and 1979 Twins. His Expos and Dodgers campaigns will be in Part II. The Minnesota years are addressed in Part III.

Table IV: Most Major League Career Saves (SV), Former PRWL Pitchers (100+ SV)

PitcherSVTeam^SeasonsPitcherSVTeam^Seasons
Lee Smith#478Santurce1980-81Ron Perranoski178Caguas1960-61
Billy Wagner*422Santurce1996-97Bryan Harvey177San Juan1987-88
Jeff Reardon387Arecibo1979-81Jeff Brantley172Mayagüez1987-89
Troy Percival358Santurce1994-95Stu Miller153San Juan1955-56
John Wetteland330Santurce1988-89Don McMahon152San Juan1957-58
Roberto Hernández326Mayagüez1987-93 1994-97Willie Hernández147Caguas Mayagüez Caguas Santurce1973-77 1977-78 1978-79 1979-80 1981-83
Tom Henke311Santurce1984-85LaTroy Hawkins127Santurce1997-98
Goose Gossage#310Ponce1972-73 1974-75John Hiller125Mayagüez1965-66 1969-70 1972-73
Doug Jones303Ponce1986-88Mark Wohlers119Ponce1992-93
Gene Garber218Santurce1980-81Al Worthington111Santurce1955-56
Dave Smith216Bayamón1979-81Ron Kline108Ponce1969-70
Mitch Williams192Santurce1985-86Bill Caudill106Santurce1979-80
Roy Face191Caguas1952-53Tom Burgmeier102Caguas1967-68
Mike Marshall188Mayagüez1968-69Craig Lefferts101Ponce1982-84

^PRWL teams pitched for. #Cooperstown inductee.*Cooperstown chance (2025).

Sources: www.beisbol101.com and Baseball-Reference.

Table V: AL/NL Single-Season SV Leaders, Former PRWL Pitchers

AL PitcherTeamSeasonSVNL PitcherTeamSeasonSV
Tite ArroyoNYY196129Roy FacePIT195820
Stu MillerBAL196327Don McMahonMLW195915!
Ron KlineWSH196529Roy FacePIT196117
Jack Aker+KCA196632Stu MillerSFG196117
Al WorthingtonMIN196818Roy FacePIT196228
Ron PerranoskiMIN196931Phil ReganLAD196621
Ron PerranoskiMIN197034Phil Regan LADCHC>196825
John HillerDET197338Fred GladdingHOU196929
Goose GossageCWS197526Mike MarshallMTL197331
Goose GossageNYY197827Mike MarshallLAD197421
Mike MarshallMIN197932Lee SmithCHC198329
Goose GossageNYY198033#Jeff ReardonMTL198541
Tom HenkeTOR198734Mark DavisSDP198944
Bryan HarveyCAL199146Lee SmithSLC199147
Lee SmithBAL199433Lee SmithSLC199243
John WettelandNYY199643Jeff BrantleyCIN199644^

+Jack Aker managed Santurce, 1981-83. !Tie with Lindy McDaniel. #Tie with Dan

Quisenberry. ^Tie with Todd Worrell. >Traded to Cubs. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Post Script

When Caguas radio broadcaster Héctor Rafael Vázquez told listeners, in 1967-68: «Warming up in the bullpen, Tom Timmermann,» it sent chills up the spines of opponents’ fans, such as the author, who avidly followed Santurce.

Thanks to Sparky Anderson, Wayne Blackburn, Lance Parrish, Darryl Patterson, Tom Timmermann, and Bob Turley. Jorge Colón Delgado, who furnished Marshall’s PRWL 1968-69 pitching stats, did the editing and photo placements.

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