SF Giants History

A look back at greatest pitching duel: Spahn vs. Marichal

By Mark ONeill

I am pinch-hitting for Erin this week in Giants’ history.

On July 2, 1963, one of the greatest pitching duels in major league history took place at Candlestick Park, when 25-year-old Juan Marichal, of the San Francisco Giants, out-dueled 42-year-old Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves, 1-0, in a marathon sixteen-inning game.   The contest was ultimately won by the Giants when Willie Mays hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixteenth.  

In an era of pitch-counts and specialization of bullpen personnel, it is inconceivable that any pitcher today would ever engage in this kind of lengthy appearance, but back in the day such was not the case.  Complete games were the norm and guys prided themselves on their durability.

But 227 pitches worth of durability?  That’s the number of pitches that Marichal is said to have thrown on that momentous night.  When it was suggested that he leave the game, Marichal’s response was something to the effect that as long as that old geezer (Spahn) was still out there, he wasn’t going anywhere.

The two top home run hitters of that season, Willie McCovey and Henry Aaron, who tied for the league lead at 44 big flies, both played the entire game, along with the numbers three and four home run hitters that year, Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda, but none could get the job done until Mays hit one out, with one out in the sixteenth. 

The time period was a different one, the summer before President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas.  The Houston Colt 45’s played their only year of existence, before changing their name to the Astros.  Al Davis became the head coach and general manager of the Oakland Raiders that year, and Pete Rose tripled in his first at-bat in the bigs.

President Kennedy signed a law that year requiring equal pay for equal work for men and women.  On June fifteenth, only seventeen days before the sixteen-inning marathon, Marichal no-hit the Colt-45’s, 1-0.  Warren Spahn won twenty games for the thirteenth time and set the all-time strike out mark for left-handed pitchers at 2,382.  The Beatles released “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Even for a starting pitcher to complete a game is considered quite a feat today.  With that standard in mind, it allows us to reflect back on an era when two guys guys faced off for sixteen innings, truly Giants among men.