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There was blood on the pile of dirty towels inside the door of the Los Angeles Dodgers' dressing room in San Francisco's Candlestick Park Sunday afternoon, and there was blood in the Dodgers' eyes. The important four-game series with the Giants had been split, and so had Catcher John Roseboro's head. Giants' Pitcher Juan Marichal, swinging his bat like a headsman's ax, had opened a two"-inch gash and raised a swelling the size of a slice of cantaloupe on the left side of Roseboro's head. In so doing, he inspired the most spirited rumble the National Pastime has seen in at least a generation.
"I've never seen one human being attack another with a club," said mild-mannered Wally Moon, who offered to take on Orlando Cepeda in the 60-man melee that followed the clubbing, despite Orlando's 30-pound pull in weight. "If he doesn't get suspended indefinitely," said Howie Reed, another Dodger who went berserk in his pursuit of Marichal, "there's no justice."
With Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers leading 2-1, Marichal had batted first for the Giants in the third inning and had taken a strike and then a ball. Suddenly he and Roseboro stood eye to eye, and then Marichal began shuffling backward toward the mound, raising his bat menacingly. As Roseboro moved toward him, Marichal took three overhead swings at his head before Roseboro tackled him and Koufax moved in to grab the bat. It was evident to Dodger Manager Walter Alston, when he and everybody else arrived at the scene, that at least one blow had landed.
"I thought it had knocked Roseboro's eye out," Alston said. "There was nothing but blood where his left eye should have been. A man might as well have a gun as use a bat like that."
"He's a goddam nut," said Dodger Coach Danny Ozark, who was a peacemaker for the first 10 minutes and then made a charge at Marichal. "I went after him because he was making fun of the guy after doing a thing like that. He was asking Roseboro to come and get some more, I guess. A guy like that would hit a woman."
Most baseball fights are of the hold-me-back variety. You can tell when they are real, because the players make a second effort. The Dodgers' Lou Johnson tried again and again to reach Marichal, and it took a squad of men to restrain Reed, who had three superficial spike wounds on his left flank. "Marichal was kicking me," he said. "I wish I could have gotten to him."
After the game Roseboro was said to be at the airport, which presumably is a healthier place than a ball park for a man under observation for a concussion, and Marichal had been spirited away from the Giant clubhouse, wherein nobody knew anything. Nobody knew but Tito Fuentes, a rookie whose one week in the big leagues was insufficient to teach him that he isn't supposed to know things at certain times.
Fuentes had been shown a picture which depicted him with bat upraised. "I tried to break up," he said in Spanish to Cepeda and then explained to reporters. "I have the bat because I am on deck. I see Roseboro and Koufax grab Juan, so I go to help him. Juan said Roseboro threw the ball back to the pitcher on purpose so it hit Juan on the ear. I think they got a few words then, and that started it right there."
Not exactly right there. It had been a tough series, with the Giants containing the Dodgers' stealthy attack only to be beaten twice in extra innings. It didn't become a nasty series until the second inning of the fourth game, when Marichal knocked Maury Wills down with a pitch. Ballplayers like euphemisms like "brush back" or "pitch tight," but the term knockdown is used here because Marichal simply knocked Wills down.
He did it because Wills had led off the game by beating out a bunt and had gone on to score the first run. Baseball has come almost full circle since the Willie Keeler days. Pitchers now may accept home runs with equanimity, but bunts they take as personal insults. By bunting and stealing bases. Wills "shows up" the other team, and they resent it. He knows that, and he did not protest Marichal's duster pitch by anything more than a long look at the mound as he arose very slowly.