One of the most deft descriptions of the 16-inning pitching duel of July 2, 1963, between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn appears in the recently published “Willie Mays, the Life, the Legend,” by James S. Hirsch.
“By the time Mays came to bat in the bottom of the sixteenth with one out, he had gone 0-for-5 with a walk,” Hirsch writes. “But Spahn, after 276 pitches, finally made a mistake — a screwball that ‘didn’t break worth a damn’ — and Mays hit it over the left-field fence, ending the four-hour, ten minute marathon. He says it was one of his biggest homers: it allowed Marichal to win a historic duel.”
Fine writing and a surprisingly fine biography. Surprising only in that as a lifelong Giants aficionado, I thought I already knew Mays’ life story. But Hirsch’s book, which I finally devoured on recent cross-country flights, is beautifully written. It gently and skillfully presents, I imagine, about as complete a picture as any outsider will ever get of baseball’s all-around greatest player (with the possible exception of Babe Ruth). I highly recommend Hirsch’s book.
This being the 47th anniversary of that 16-inning, 1-0 Giants’ win over the Milwaukee Braves, it might be fun to list some of the game’s more intriguing trivia.
Giants manager Al Dark wanted to lift Marichal after 13 innings. Marichal, though, told the manager that if Spahn, at 42, was still out there, then he, at 25, wasn’t coming out. The logic worked.
Mays batted second that night. He had usually batted third or fourth. It was an imposing lineup that Spahn stymied: Harvey Kuenn, 3B; Mays, CF; Willie McCovey, LF; Felipe Alou, RF; Orlando Cepeda, 1B; Ed Bailey, C; Jose Pagan, SS; Chuck Hiller, 2B; Marichal, P.
The Braves’ lineup included Lee Maye, Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews.
Spahn’s final pitching line: 15 and one-third innings, 1 run, 9 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts (and 277 pitches).
Marichal’s final pitching line: 16 innings; 0 runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts (couldn’t find a pitch count).
Paid attendance at Candlestick Park: 15,921. But how many were there for Mays’ walk-off homer in the 16th?