Being a life-long Dodger fan, I love the pennant race. . . especially when the Boys in Blue are in it! Well this year they are in it and they are doing their best to stay one step ahead of their rivals from San Francisco. Monday night, my brother and I experienced the rivalry up close and personal as the Dodgers took Game One of the series 4-3 in 14 innings! It was a great game having all of the drama that you might expect from these two teams.
The Dodgers and Giants both moved West to California from New York in 1958 and continued the deep seated hatred for one another. There have been many special moments throughout their history and a few that have been tragic. The pinnacle of the rivalry, however, had to be confrontation between Juan Marichal of the Giants and John Roseboro of the Dodgers, which took place 50 years ago last week.
Just like today, the Dodgers and Giants were in a pennant race to see who would represent the National League in the World Series. Both teams had thrown brushback pitches: Sandy Koufax throwing one to Wills Mays and Juan Marichal to Maury Wills. Marichal took it a step further by knocking down Ron Fairly. When that happened warnings were issued to both teams signifying that the next pitch thrown at a hitter would result in the pitcher being ejected from the game. Roseboro said he would handle it for Koufax.
The next time Marichal came to plate, Roseboro threw the ball back to Koufax buzzing it right by Marichal’s ear. This caused the benches to clear as Marichal clubbed Roseboro with his bat. It was perhaps the ugliest event to ever happen on a baseball field and causing the bad blood between the two teams to sour even more. But the good news was that while this event may have at times characterized the rivalry, it would not define the men.
Seventeen years later, Marichal was attempting to be elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He was sure that this incident was the one thing that was keeping him from getting enough votes to be elected. He decided to solicit help from an unlikely source. Marichal called Roseboro and asked him for help.
Roseboro hopped on a plane and headed to the Dominican Republic to participate in Marichal’s golf tournament. At the tournament, Roseboro announced to the world that he had forgiven Marichal and was endorsing his election to the Hall of Fame. That endorsement turned the tide for Marichal who was elected at the induction ceremony. It also began a friendship that would last for the rest of Roseboro’s life.
At Johnny’s funeral, the most moving part of service was when Juan Marichal got up to give the eulogy. You could have heard a pin drop as Marichal spoke of his friend, John Roseboro. “Johnny’s forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life,” he said. “I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher.”
The events 50 years ago may have defined the pinnacle of this great rivalry. . . but it would not define the two men involved. The friendship, forgiveness and redemption that followed showed us all a great lesson in what truly matters in this life.