King Juan reigns in New York
By Craig Muder
He strolled through the Yankee Stadium press box Monday evening with a smile that made you stop and take notice.
Juan Marichal turns 73 on Wednesday, but everything about him seems young and vital. He is a living link to baseball’s past – and still very much a part of its future.
Marichal is at the American League Championship Series as a broadcaster for ESPN Deportes. He’ll remain in the role through the World Series.
The Hall of Fame pitcher, who posted a 2.25 earned-run average in a pair of postseason starts for the Giants during his career, witnessed first-hand the brilliance of Cliff Lee on Monday night. In many ways, it must have been like looking in a mirror.
The right-handed Marichal was the Lee of the 1960s – a strike-throwing machine who piled up huge strikeout numbers while issuing virtually no walks. Marichal led the National League in strikeout-to-walk ratio three times, issued less than two walks per nine innings pitched and finished with a career K/BB ratio of 3.25, the 28th-best figure of all time.
Lee, the Texas Rangers’ smooth lefty, led the American League this season with an other-worldly K/BB ratio of 10.28 and has a ratio of 3.10 during his regular-season career. In the postseason, Lee’s ratio is 9.4 strikeouts to walks in eight career games.
As for Marichal today, he’ll broadcast the action this postseason to legions of fans who not only follow Lee but also the tremendous Latin American stars on the ALCS field like the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz, both of whom are from Marichal’s native Dominican Republic.
Then there’s Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero, another son of the Dominican who appears on track to join Marichal in the Hall of Fame sometime in the next decade.
Marichal, the first Dominican Republic native to be elected to the Hall of Fame, paved the way for all of them. And the greatness of the Dominican Dandy remains obvious to anyone fortunate enough to cross his path.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.