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Mike Marshall, first relief pitcher to win baseball’s Cy Young Award, dies at 78

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walt Alston, left, congratulates Mike Marshall after the Dodgers defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in Pittsburgh in 1974.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walt Alston, left, congratulates Mike Marshall after the Dodgers defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in Pittsburgh in 1974. (AP)
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Mike Marshall, who became the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young Award when he set a major league record by pitching 106 games in a season for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, died June 1 at his home in Zephyrhills, Fla. He was 78.

The Dodgers announced the death, noting that Mr. Marshall had been in hospice care. No cause of death was reported.

Nicknamed “Iron Mike” for his ability to pitch seemingly every day in his heyday, Mr. Marshall played for nine teams in his 14-year career, from 1967 to 1981. He compiled a record of 97-112, with 188 saves and a 3.14 ERA.

Mr. Marshall won the NL Cy Young Award in 1974, going 15-12 with a 2.42 earned run average and 21 saves in his first season with the Dodgers. The right-hander set major league records that season for most appearances, relief innings (208 ⅓ ), games finished (83) and consecutive games pitched (13). In those 13 games, he pitched 30 innings — figures that would be unheard of in today’s game. He also led the league in saves, with 21 and was the overwhelming choice for the Cy Young Award, getting 17 of 24 first-place votes.

In the 1974 postseason, Mr. Marshall pitched in two NL Championship Series games and all five World Series games, allowing just one run in 12 innings of work. He saved the Dodgers’ lone win in the World Series, preserving a 3-2 victory in Game 2 by picking off speedy pinch runner Herb Washington at first base in the ninth inning.

With the Minnesota Twins in 1979, Mr. Marshall led the American League with 32 saves. He set an American League record that still stands by pitching in 90 games that year.

During his career, Mr. Marshall led his league in games pitched four times, saves three times and games finished five times. He finished in the top seven in voting for the Cy Young Award as the league’s top pitcher five times.

Michael Grant Marshall was born on Jan. 15, 1943, in Adrian, Mich. He began his professional career in the minor leagues in 1961 as a shortstop. He switched to pitching in 1965 and made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1967.

He played for the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, then briefly with the Houston Astros before being traded to the Montreal Expos in 1970.

He won 14 games in relief for the Expos in both 1972 and 1973 and finished second in the Cy Young voting to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in 1973. Mr. Marshall retired in 1981, pitching his final season with the New York Mets. (He was not related to a Dodgers player in the 1980s also named Mike Marshall.)

He was known for throwing the screwball, an elusive pitch that breaks in the opposite direction of a slider or curveball. The screwball has fallen out of favor with most modern-day pitchers. The only player to throw one in the majors this season is Brent Honeywell Jr., who learned the pitch from his father, who is Mr. Marshall’s cousin.

During the offseasons, Mr. Marshall studied kinesiology at Michigan State University, from which he received three degrees, including a doctorate in exercise physiology in 1978. He made waves during his playing days 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,” his onetime teammate in Seattle, pitcher Jim Bouton wrote in “Ball Four,” his acclaimed 1970 baseball memoir.

Mr. Marshall had a pitching academy in which he taught techniques that were far different from how most pitchers are taught to throw. He believed pitchers should throw more often than most teams allow them to throw today and that his methods would prevent injuries to pitchers’ arms, shoulders and knees.

“Without listening to what I have to say,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “‘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,” Mr. Marshall wrote on his website.

He was married twice and had three daughters.

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