“Juan Marichal: My Journey from the Dominican Republic to Cooperstown”

Garlic Fries and Baseball’s  Book Review

Juan Marichal: My Journey from the Dominican Republic to Cooperstown  By:  Juan Marichal, Lew Freedman  October 7, 2011

I was in sync with this book from the moment I first began reading it.  It was an easy read, which is exactly what I was in the mood for at the time.  The book is about Juan Marichal, a young Pitcher from the Dominican Republic whose talents earn him a trip to the United States to try for a spot in the major leagues.

Young Juan Marichal as a SF Giant

The book offers a different perspective; each chapter begins with a professional analysis of Juan’s life during that chapter’s specific time period and ends with Juan telling  his story, in his own words, to end the chapter.  He writes as he talks.  His English is that of someone who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic but has spent many years in the United States with his fellow Latinos and also with a wide variety of friends and teammates, speaking and writing with a bit of Latino character  which I found endearing.  He was very careful not to use curse words and was able to convey his message with some laughable moments to get his point across.  But some of the stories he shared from his early days in this country  were heartbreaking.

Marichal’s Trademark “High Kick”

Marichal talks in detail about the typical black-in-a-white country problems that his Latino teammates shared with him.  He was able to overcome those civil rights issues because he could play baseball.  He could play it better than the majority of the other ball players and he overcame the prejudice and intolerance because of that.  He writes with great humor sharing stories about teammates, victories, defeats and the genuine homesickness he felt when he first left his country for the United States, his baseball career with the San Francisco Giants,  the Hall of Fame and back home again.   The one regret during his career was the fight he had with Johnny Roseboro in a Giants-Dodgers game on August 22, 1965.  He writes painstakingly about the events that lead to the altercation, the remorse he felt for years afterwards, and the friendship that developed between the two men until Roseboro’s death in 2002.

Juan Marichal Today. Photo courtesy Mikemccan.blogspot.com

There’s much more in the book of course.  The one thing Marichal is most proud of besides his baseball career is his family and we’re allowed to meet them, his beautiful wife and children, through his stories and photographs .  I find Juan Marichal to be one of the most interesting baseball players I’ve studied, maybe because of that crazy baseball duel he pitched nearly 50 years ago against  Warren Spahn.  He writes about that game with great enthusiasm, obviously one of his favorite moments in baseball.   But he’s also one of my favorite athletes, probably because he’s a true gentleman and he remains truly humble after all the honor and accolades that have been given him.  And after reading the book I came away with the feeling he deserved each and every one of them ~ the honor and accolades I mean.

I enjoyed this book very much.  I’ve heard others  asked who they’d most like to have a long conversation with.  I think I’d like to visit with Juan Marichal.  Don’t you just know he’d have some interesting and wonderful stories to tell?  And I’d like to hear each and every one of them, but for now I’ll have to settle in and wait for another book.  It’ll be worth the wait it I’m sure.

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