From Hardball to Hard Time and Back
by Orlando Cepeda with Herb Fagen
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The 1965 season was a disaster. I came to bat only 34 times. I had 6 hits for an average of .176, with 3 home runs. Pinch-hitting for Masanori Murakami on September 30, I homered off the Reds' Joe Nuxhall to break a 3-3 tie and nail a 4-3 Giants win.
But the big story of the year was the Juan Marichal/ Johnny Roseboro fracas, which stole the thunder from an otherwise exciting pennant race. My good friend Juan is a fine man, a lovely person, a great guy. Juan was a tough kid. Most Latins fight back when abused. Juan and I, and others like us, had to prove ourselves. Once we did we usually had to prove ourselves again. Then, when you raised a little hell, you were considered a troublemaker.
There was bad blood between the Dodgers and us. We hated each other. And the bad blood that overflowed that August day went back a few years-in fact, way back to 1961 when we played the Dodgers in the Coliseum. Actually, Maury Wills started the whole thing. Maury would do anything to get on base, which is good heady baseball. Then he'd go crazy making us look bad by stealing base after base.
Juan had a great move to first base, which annoyed Maury to no end. Juan would throw to first five or six times to hold Wills tight. He wouldn't give Maury an inch. John Roseboro couldn't hit Juan with a broomstick. I could hear guys like Roseboro, Gilliam, and Wills from the bench taunting Juan with catcalls.
The feud just got worse over the years. Friday night before the big fight we were playing the Dodgers at home. Wills as usual did everything he could to get on base. One particular turn at the plate he pulled his bat back and got Ed Bailey to get his glove on the ball. The umpire called interference and Maury took first. When Matty came up to the plate in the bottom of the inning, Herman told him to do the exact same thing. Matty did and hit Roseboro in the hand. Roseboro started chewing Matty out, calling him all sorts of names. Now, Matty was a quiet guy, so Juan shouted from the bench, "Matty talk back to him! Don't let him talk to you like that!"
In the Giants' clubhouse the two teams come out the same corridor. After the game I came out as John Roseboro was coming out. He told me to tell Juan that if he didn't want him to kick his ass Juan should shut up. I said, "John, Juan is not a weak guy. Cool it."
On Sunday Juan was on the mound against the Dodgers facing Sandy Koufax. Juan was a real gamer, in the mold and tradition of a Gibson or a Drysdale. It was simply not a good idea to take too many liberties with him. I can attest to that. We may have been the best of friends, but after I was traded to the Cardinals Juan brushed me back and sent me sprawling on more than one occasion.
As we prepared for the game Juan didn't say a word. Maury Wills was the first Dodger hitter. Juan knocked him down of course. Roseboro wanted Sandy Koufax to throw at Juan, in fact to hit him in the head. But Sandy Koufax didn't throw at anybody. So he pitched high and way over Juan's head. When Roseboro threw the ball back to the pitcher he nicked Juan's ear. Juan said, "Why did you try to hit me?" That's when Roseboro hit him with his mask. Daryl Spencer (who was with the Dodgers then), Ron Fairly, and Roseboro went after Juan. Juan backed up and went for the bat. The whole incident was ugly.
Sunday afternoon we left right after the game. There was almost a riot. We traveled to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. Wherever we went we'd get threatening phone calls. I got one anonymous call telling me they'd find my body in the river. When we got to the LA Airport there were policemen assigned to take us to the hotel. We had to have bodyguards. I pinch hit in LA and received boos and catcalls from 53,000 people. As I said, there was really bad blood between the two teams. We wouldn't even talk to Maury Wills or Tommy Davis. Fortunately we're all good friends now.
The press didn't treat us well either. I felt sorry for Juan. The only writer who really stood up for him was Dick Young.
From Baby Bull: From Hardball to Hard Time and Back copyright © 1998 by Orlando Cepeda with Herb Fagen. Reprinted with permission.