COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The San Francisco Giants knew they had a quality young pitcher in Juan Marichal, but perhaps not until June 15, 1963 did they realize how special he really was.
On that day 48 years ago, Marichal took the mound with a five-game winning streak on the line. His last loss came against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax. Koufax launched a no-hitter against Marichal's Giants, as the Dodgers won 8-0.
From that day on, Marichal and his team appeared to be on a mission to prove that they were a better ball club than the one that got no-hit. They also seemed set to prove that Marichal was not only a potential ace but a future Hall of Famer.
It all seemed to come together this day for Marichal as he crafted his way through a complete game no-hitter, needing only 89 pitches to accomplish the task against the Houston Colt 45s.
"It takes three pitches to strike a man out," said Marichal, "but only one to get a man out with a ground ball."
Even with the no-hitter intact, Marichal was not in line for the win until the Giants scored a single run in the eighth inning. Giants third baseman Jim Davenport led off the eighth with a double, but Houston pitcher Dick Drott struck out pinch hitter Matty Alou and got Marichal to fly out.
With only a single out remaining to preserve the scoreless tie, Drott was unable to get Giants leadoff hitter Chuck Hiller out. He lined a double to right, scoring Davenport for the lone run in the game.
For the game, Marichal was only a pair of walks away from perfection. He finished the game with five strikeouts and went on through the rest of the year posting some of his careers most impressive numbers.
Marichal finished the season with a 25-8 record, a 2.41 ERA and a career high 248 strikeouts while pitching in a league leading 321.1 innings. He shared league lead in wins for the season with Koufax.
By the end of the season, Marichal was the unquestioned ace of the staff. On the year he ran off a win streak of nine consecutive wins, sandwiched between losses to future Hall of Famers Koufax and Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of the eight losses Marichal suffered during the '63 season, four of them came against future Hall of Famers. The two others were Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves and Don Drysdale of the Dodgers.
Marichal went on to win more than 20 games in five of the next six seasons. For his career, he posted a record of 243-142 and had an ERA of 2.89.
In 1983, Marichal was inducted to the Hall of Fame.
"You knew that it was 'win' day when he went out there," said Hall of Fame teammate Willie McCovey, "and the bullpen was going to get a rest. Those were the two things you could bank on."
Kevin Stiner was the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum