Juan Marichal hits catcher with bat, instigating epic MLB brawl

At San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 22, 1965, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal steps up to the plate to lead off the home half of the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the second pitch, a ball low and away, catcher John Roseboro returns the ball to pitcher Sandy Koufax, but he offends Marichal by throwing it close to his head. Marichal’s reaction is unprecedented—he attacks Roseboro, hitting him in the head with his bat and setting off an epic, 14-minute brawl.

Years later, Roseboro admitted he intentionally threw close to Marichal’s head in retaliation for Marichal “brushing back” Dodgers hitters. This may have been a means of sending a warning while keeping ace Koufax, who did not like to throw at hitters, out of trouble. The teams were locked in a tight race for the National League pennant, and, as Leonard Koppett wrote the next day in the New York Times: “Fights that erupt under pennant pressure are not unusual, but they are always fist fights.” Indeed, home plate umpire Shag Crawford said after the game that he would not have ejected Marichal “if he had fought with his fists.” Using a bat in a brawl, however, was unheard of. In an apology issued the next day, Marichal claimed he used his bat because he was worried Roseboro would hit him with his catcher’s mask.

Marichal hit Roseboro at least twice, drawing blood, although the catcher’s wounds were superficial. Koufax rushed to try to break up the fight, and on-deck hitter Tito Fuentes also joined the fray, bat in hand. Players from both benches streamed onto the field, some fighting and others trying to calm things. In the chaos, umpire Crawford tackled Marichal, and Giants star Willie Mays restrained Roseboro and tended to the cuts on his head.

When the brawl was over, multiple players on both sides and the umpire had suffered injuries. Marichal, who was ejected from the game, was suspended eight games and fined $1,750. Asked to comment on Marichal’s actions, Dodgers manager Walt Alston told reporters, “I don’t think you want the comment I would give you about that character.”

Improbably, Roseboro and Marichal developed a friendship after reconnecting at an old-timers’ game. Roseboro subsequently visited Marichal in his native Dominican Republic and lobbied for Marichal to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Marichal, who won 243 games during his career, was inducted into the Hall in 1983. When Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal—whose bat-wielding attack was called “arguably the ugliest moment in MLB history” by ESPN—was a pallbearer at his funeral. 

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