On Aug. 22, 1965 in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, one of the most shocking brawls in MLB history unfolded.
The Giants were hosting their hated rivals, the Dodgers, and the game, which occasioned a Sandy Koufax-Juan Marichal match-up, was freighted with tensions between the two contenders (the Giants would finish two games behind the World Series-winning Dodgers that season).
In the third inning, Marichal brushed back Maury Wills and Ron Fairly, and then when Marichal came to the plate in the home half, Dodger catcher John Roseboro called on Koufax to come in high and tight on his opposite number. As Koufax was wont to do, he made a half-effort at plunking Marichal (to the lefty's enduring credit, he had strong misgivings about hitting batters intentionally), so Roseboro decided address matters himself.
After one of Koufax's pitches settled into his mitt, Roseboro rifled it back to his pitcher and in doing so came perilously -- and intentionally -- close to striking Marichal in the head. By some accounts, the throw even nicked Marichal's ear.
Here's some grainy footage of the frightening chaos of what ensued:
Marichal and Tito Fuentes both entered the fray wielding bats, but Fuentes, unlike Marichal, didn't use his. Marichal, infamously struck Roseboro over the head with his cudgel. Those words, however, don't tell the story as evocatively as these photos by the great Neil Leifer do.
That's Marichal, of course, brandishing the bat, like a headsman's axe, over the fallen Roseboro. The look on Koufax's face suggests he can't believe what he's seeing, which is a thoroughly understandable reaction.
Just as jarring, although in different way, is this Leifer capture of what happened in the moments just after ...
That's Willie Mays -- enough of a presence to be granted the baseball-brawl equivalent of "diplomatic immunity" -- leading a bloodied Roseboro back to the Dodger dugout. What an image, and what an artist's eye by Leifer.
It goes without saying that Roseboro, who was fortunately not seriously injured, was left smoldering afterward. Here, courtesy of a UPI dispatch from the following day, is what he had to say on subject of Marichal's forthcoming discipline:
Fortunately for Marichal, such an arrangement was not decreed.
Fortunately for all involved, the long-term denouement is a happy one. Marichal, who was suspended nine days and fined $1,750 for his attack, was contrite, and he and Roseboro later became friends. Years later, Marichal, who actually ended his career with the Dodgers, was denied admission to the Hall of Fame on the first two ballots. However, in part because Roseboro publicly stumped for him, he was voted in on the third try.
More poignantly, Marichal was also an honorary pallbearer and speaker at Roseboro's funeral in 2002. Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote shared this exchange, which surely snuffed out any lingering ugliness:
According to an account written by Claire, the emotional high point came when Marichal told the congregation: "I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher."
Koufax spoke later and turned to Marichal to say, "You would have loved pitching to John Roseboro."