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MLB: ‘Iron Mike’ Marshall, history-making reliever, dies at 78

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Mike Marshall, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who in 1974 became the first reliever ever to win a Cy Young Award, died Tuesday. He was 78.

The Dodgers, who announced his death, said in a statement Marshall had been in hospice care, according to his daughter, Rebekah. No cause of death was given.

Marshall, nicknamed “Iron Mike” for his ability to pitch seemingly every day in his heyday, played for nine teams in his 14-year career, but he’s remembered mostly for a four-year run from 1972-76.

In the first two of those seasons, with the Montreal Expos, Marshall went a combined 28-19 out of the bullpen with 49 saves, covering 295 innings. He finished as runner-up to Tom Seaver of the New York Mets for the National League Cy Young Award. Marshall received nine first-place votes to Seaver’s 10, with the final overall tally at 71-54 for Seaver.

In December 1973, the Expos dealt Marshall to the Dodgers for outfielder Willie Davis, who was an All-Star for two of the previous three seasons.

In his first season with the Dodgers, Marshall appeared in an astounding 106 games in relief and threw 208 1/3 innings, finishing with a record of 15-12.

He was the overwhelming choice for the Cy Young Award this time, getting 17 of 24 first-place votes. He finished with 96 points, 30 better than the runner-up, his teammate and starting pitcher Andy Messersmith.

Marshall’s first stops in the majors were short stints for the Tigers, Seattle Pilots and Astros before his arrival in Montreal, and after about 2 1/2 seasons with the Dodgers he pitched for the Braves, Rangers, Twins and Mets.

His career record was 97-112 with a 3.14 ERA in 724 games, all but 24 of them coming in relief. He had 188 saves.

Marshall made waves in his era for not following traditional approaches to caring for his arm and tinkering with his delivery to throw pitches.

“I’m afraid Mike’s problem is that he’s too intelligent and has too much education,” pitcher Jim Bouton wrote in “Ball Four,” a 1970 baseball memoir.

Reporting by the Los Angeles Times indicated Marshall’s disdain for how pitchers were taught.

“Without listening to what I have to say, ‘traditional’ baseball pitching coaches, orthopedic surgeons, biomechanists, general managers and almost everybody else that coaches baseball believe that all baseball pitchers will eventually suffer injuries,” Marshall wrote on his website.

Keith Olbermann, a former host of ESPN SportsCenter, tweeted that Marshall was “one of the most intelligent, most independent, most interesting — a kinesiologist — baseball players of all time.

“And he really did pitch 220 relief innings in 113 games for the 1974 NL Champion Dodgers without burning out his arm,” Olbermann wrote.

–Field Level Media

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