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Marv Grissom

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  • Marv Grissom

    I found this interview with Marv Grissom on the Diamond Angle website.

    An Interview with Marv Grissom
    Conducted at Marv Grissoms's home in Red Bluff, California, Summer, 1996.

    BB: Marv, you and Lee are among the many brother combinations that have left their mark on baseball: The DiMaggios, the Deans, Mort and Walker Cooper...

    MG: It's pretty nice to be put in a group like that. They were a lot more famous than we were.

    BB: While you were growing up you must have been aware you had an older brother playing big league ball.

    MG: In those days it didn't really mean that much. We knew he was playing baseball, but there was very little radio, no TV, not much in the papers.

    BB: Was he an inspiration to you, or was it maybe threatening to have a brother who was a big league pitcher, something you worried about having to live up to?

    MG: No, I had actually never pitched, not even in high school. One time Lee told the Cincinnati Reds that he had a brother at home that could throw pretty hard. They said, well, bring him to Spring Training. That was 1938. The Reds trained in Tampa, Florida. I was sent home at the end of five weeks because Warren Giles, the general manger, said I would never amount to anything.

    BB: What positions did you play on your high school team then?

    MG: I didn't. There was no baseball at all. Well, they had something in those days they called Farm Bureau League, where a bunch of amateurs got together on Sunday afternoon. When I came back from that try-out with Cincinnati in '38, I started playing for the Red Bluff team in that league.

    BB: I noticed in The Baseball Encyclopedia that Lee was born in Texas.

    MG: Yes, my father was from Kentucky and my mother from North Carolina. As a young married couple they moved to Texas. Of their nine kids, six were born in Texas and the last three in California, here in Tehema County. I had three brothers besides Lee. One older than Lee, one in between and one younger than I. He was a pretty good looking pitching prospect, but he was killed in a motorcycle accident. The brother between Lee and me hurt his arm trying to pitch, so he stayed with farming.

    BB: Did the fact that Lee preceded you in pro ball encourage you, put pressure on you, or have no effect whatsoever?

    MG: Pressure is only what you put on yourself. I never felt any pressure, even playing in San Francisco or New York.

    BB: Your big league career started in 1946. Did World War II delay your entry into professional baseball?

    MG: A little bit. I had started in '41 in the California State League with San Bernadino. They weren't drawing crowds so they closed up July 1. In October I was drafted into the army. I got out in December of '45.

    BB: There were a lot of guys whose careers were delayed by the War.

    MG: Oh, yeah, there was a lot of them. When I was on the island of Tinian in the Marianas in '45, Johnny Mize was managing a Coast Guard team there. I had pitched against his team a couple of times. He belonged to the Giants at that time, so when he got discharged, the Giants asked him if there was anybody he had seen who they might try to sign. He told them about me, and I get a letter from them. So I went to Spring Training in 1946 on the recommendation of Johnny Mize.

    BB: Mize was still with the Giants during some of the years you played for them. Did he remember you from that wartime experience?

    MG: Yeah, but it didn't come out until four or five years later that he had recommended me. When I found out. I thanked him for it.

    BB: Can you recall some players besides Mize that you played with or against during the war?

    MG: The services organized teams of big leaguers that toured the Pacific playing exhibitions against each other. Two of them came to Tinian when I was there, and one was managed by Lou Riggs, who I had gotten to know when I had that try-out with Cincinnati in '38. I got him to bring his team over to play one Sunday afternoon. We got rained out in the fifth inning, but they stayed and had dinner with us. We had a lot of fun, but I can't remember any of the names of the players.

    BB: I have recently interviewed a couple of ex-players who remember playing service ball with and against other professionals. One was Jack Graham, and the other was Herm Reich.

    MG: Oh, yes, I know them both.

    BB: There must have been dozens of guys who had that experience in the '40s.

    MG: Right.

    BB: Now, you were signed by the Giants in 1946, but you were only around long enough to compile an 0-2 record. The next time you show up on a major league roster is in '49 with Detroit. How did that happen?

    MG: I was with the Giants at the end of the year. They wanted to option me out, but I had no more options, so they sold me to Sacramento of the PCL where I played in '47 and '48. I had a pretty good years, 11-7 with a last place club in '48, so Detroit drafted me. I was always a slow starter in the spring, and that happened with Detroit. I had a couple of chances early in the season, and they didn't pan out, so they didn't use me much after that.

    BB: So, you just had that one year with Detroit and it wasn't very productive.

    MG: Right. So, I was farmed out, and then Detroit made a deal with Seattle (PCL) for me to go there.

    BB: That was in '51. How did that go?

    MG: I was 20-11, The White Sox had a working agreement with Seattle in those years, so I got a chance to go to Chicago in '52.

    BB: Then in '53 you went to the Red Sox?

    MG: Yes. Bill Kennedy, Skinny Brown, and myself were traded to Boston for Vern Stephens.

    BB: We were talking about the PCL a minute ago. I've heard baseball people say that the PCL was almost on a par with the majors in those days.

    MG: It was very close, a pretty good mix of young fellows on their way up and big league veterans on their way down.

    BB: How about salaries? Maybe just a notch below?

    MG: Some of them were probably making more than some of the people in the big leagues.

    BB: Tell me about your switch from Boston in the AL to New York in the National.

    MG: Boston put me on waivers in July of '53 and New York claimed me, so I played the second half of the season with the Giants as a starter and reliever.

    BB: Then, in '54 you had your first full season as a Giant.

    MG: Yes. The reason for that good year in '54 (10-7) was that the Giants had a 20-game exhibition tour after the '53 season. We played 12 of the 20 in Japan. We had only six pitchers and there were times when Durocher needed somebody to pitch one or two innings to finish a game. He'd look down the bench, and the other guys didn't want to pitch. So, they would look the other way. I would look at him and kind of nod, like, "Yeah, I'll pitch an inning." That gave him confidence that I wanted to pitch, so he started using me in '54.

    BB: Now, that tour was in October and November?

    MG: Right.

    BB: Which is significant, because you said earlier that you tended to be a slow starter. So now we have you pitching in the fall, when you were at your best.

    MG: Yes, and I was at the right age, and my control was good, and I had my stuff. So everything came together right at the same time.

    BB: How did you like pitching in the Polo Grounds with that unusual configuration?

    MG: It just happened that we had the center fielder that was made to order that very deep center field. With Willie Mays out there, if you just threw it down the middle and kept the hitter from hitting the ball to either extreme left or right, you were OK. Let 'em hit it to center, and Willie would catch it for you.

    BB: There was that famous catch against Vic Wertz in the '54 World Series with Cleveland. Were you on the mound at that time by chance?

    MG: No, Don Liddle was pitching at that time, but I was only about 90 feet from Willie when he caught the ball, because the bullpen was out there in right-center. I was warming up, getting ready to go into the game.

    BB: How did you feel when Mr. Stoneham moved the Giants to your home state in '58?

    MG: I loved it! I was able to get home to Red Bluff on off days so that I could go fishing and relax. And it was only a four hour drive to the ball park. I thoroughly enjoyed '58. I was bothered a little by friends and relatives who wanted tickets, but other than that it wasn't bad.

    BB: You made your home in Red Bluff after the club moved to San Francisco?

    MG: Yes. I stayed in a motel in the City and my wife would come down for some of the home stands, or I would come up to Red Bluff.

    BB: After a pitching assignment, would the ballclub let you come home for a couple of days?

    MG: I was doing a lot of relieving then, and they want relievers available at all times.

    BB: Most of your career you weren't a starter.

    MG: It was about 50-50. Early in my career, until I came to the Giants in '54,1 was a starter. In '54 we had a pretty good staff, and Wilhelm was the main man in the bullpen. I had done a little relieving when I first came to the Giants in '53. The first game in '54 I went in and saved it for Sal Maglie. Shortly after that the rotation settled in pretty good, so I asked to be sent to the bullpen.

    BB: Earlier, you said that baseball was not a big deal when you were a boy. Nevertheless, can you think back to ballplayers of your youth that you particularly admired?

    MG: No, baseball was the furthest thing from my mind in those years. Lee would bring some gloves and baseballs and my younger brother and I would get out in the yard and throw, but that was as close to baseball as we got. There was very little written in the local paper; maybe when Lee pitched a game there would be a little something.

    BB: How about your peers, your contemporaries? Any you particularly admired?

    MG: Well, you have respect for several of them as opponents. There were some I was friendly with, but as far as staying in contact with them, I never have.

    BB: Who was your toughest out?

    MG: There were two. Junior Gilliam was tough for me, because he didn't swing the bat. He just hit the ball where it was pitched. The other was Stan Musial. I don't know what his average was against me, but I helped him get to where he is today.

    BB: Did you have more trouble with left-handers than right, because you threw right.

    MG: Not really. I preferred pitching against left-handers in those days because I had developed a screw ball. I cannot remember a screw ball that was hit for a homer off me. It got to work so well that I started throwing it to righthanders.

    BB: Breaking in on them.

    MG: Right.

    BB: Screw balls can be hard on the arm. Do you feel that pitch might have taken a year or two off your career?

    MG: I think it added to mine. If I hadn't had the screw ball I don't think I would have been as good a relief pitcher as I was. It compensated against a left-handed hitter very well.

    BB: Now let's turn that question around. Were there any really good hitters that you didn't have much trouble with?

    MG: Well, all hitters get their hits off you. You try to get them from getting their hits whenever there was men on. I always felt I had good success against the Phillies. They had some good hitters: Ashburn, Puddin¹ Head Jones, Del Ennis.

    BB: Let's talk about managers. Do you have a favorite?

    MG: I think any time you have success, he is your favorite manager.

    BB: Would it be Durocher, then?

    MG: I've always admired Leo even though I played for Bill Rigney after him. I liked Rigney as a manager, but I had more success with Durocher, and if I had to pick one, he would be number one.

    BB: Now Marv, are you willing to give us a manager you didn¹t like?

    MG: There was one I didn't care for. He managed a minor league club for the Giants. He was so high strung that he couldn't stand bases on balls. And I was wild in those years, so naturally we had a lot of arguments.

    BB: Would he be a name that fans recognize?

    MG: No, and I never played for a major league manager I didn't get along with.

    BB: Do you look back on any particular game or play that you consider to be the highlight of your career?

    MG: Well, I had three games that I would consider equal. One was Opening Day in '54, when I saved the game for Maglie. There were 55,000 in the Polo Grounds, half for the Giants, half for the Dodgers. That was a Tuesday. On Saturday I started against the Phillies in New York and beat 'em 1-0. The other was the first game of the 1954 World Series. I came in and pitched after Willie's great catch. I pitched the last two and 1/3 innings until Dusty Rhodes came in and hit the homer that won the game..

    BB: As we wind this up, can we talk a little about what you've done since you retired?

    MG: I went to St. Louis in '59. I hurt my back in spring, it never responded, so I retired in June. We had sold our home, planning on building a new one in the fall. When I retired early, we had to live in a trailer for three months. When this place was finished, we moved in and have been here ever since.

    BB: I know you were a pitching coach for a while. How did you get into that?

    MG: I didn't do anything for a while. Then I tried managing a service station. All at once, Bill Rigney called me about coaching for the Angels when they started in '61. I was with them for about 9 years. Then I was pitching coach for the White Sox, Cubs and Minnesota. I got about 15 years in as a coach after I quit playing.

    BB: I'm thinking back to who the Angels had: Bo Belinsky, Dean Chance..

    MG: Andy Messersmith, Ned Garver, Tom Morgan, Art Fowler, Tex Clevinger...and Ryne Duren.

    BB: Ryne Duren! I used to enjoy watching him more than any other pitcher in baseball. I remember seeing him one night at old Wrigley Field in LA, where the Angels played before they moved to Anaheim. Duren was warming up and he threw the ball about two feet over the catcher's head. The ball had a lot on it and it stuck in the screen. I don't know if he did it accidently or on purpose, but I think it kind of intimidated the batter.

    MG: Yeah, he did it for show. He was that kind of guy. But he could throw hard. And those glasses, with the Coke bottle lenses.

    BB: I read a while back that Ryne quit drinking, and is now a counselor for alcoholics.

    MG: Last time I saw him was outside of Milwaukee. He was working with a group up there, had been for years, and was doing real well.

    BB: After you quit coaching and got out of baseball, did you go into farming? What have you been doing?

    MG: You see this easy chair I'm sitting in ? This is what I've been doing. I like to hunt, fish and play golf. That takes up my time. We have a garden where we grow our own vegetables.

  • #2
    Uncle Marv

    The following was written and posted on my blog awhile back, before I found this terrific site:

    In July of 1983 I walked into the Modesto A’s [a minor league team, in the California League, affiliated with the Oakland Athletics] clubhouse. Replete with a carload of sample big league baseball cards, contracts for players, and enough Bazooka gum to assure the team’s dentist’s wealth, I was a welcome guest. My new affiliation with Topps Baseball Co. was providing me an entree to a private world - Organized Baseball . For the next 13 years I would drive the west coast from San Diego to Washington, making new friends and reacquainting myself with old ones.

    Uncle Marv was the very first person to greet me. He knew my boss, Sy Berger, and although I was “city” and he was “country,” we hit it off. Marv Grissom was a solid pitcher on the 1954 Woild Serious winning New York Giants, my boyhood team [he was the winning pitcher in the series game that is famous for the “Willie Catch,” rather than the “Willie throw,” which is what it was about]. Years later he was a pitching coach for the Halos. I’d talk to him for hours, year after year, about those days, about family [his son is named Bruce, as is my brother], and about life. I miss him and mourn his passing.

    So, what a thrill it was yesterday when my new baseball computer simulation game, “Baseball Mogul 2007,” arrived. The game allows me to re-create with *remarkable* accuracy, aside the Cubs playing night games at Wrigley back then, the 1954 season [or any other season, for that matter]. There was Marv [along with Willie, Mickey and the Duke] living on - if only in my fantasies.
    Last edited by Ralph Zig Tyko; 09-03-2007, 10:12 PM.
    Pushing on the doors of life marked "pull."
    Visit my blogsigpic


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