Twin Cities-based author John Rosengren’s new book, “The Fight of Their Lives,” chronicles the 1965 brawl in which the Giants’ Juan Marichal attacked the Dodgers’ John Roseboro with a bat. Rosengren has a number of local events lined up to promote the book, including one Friday at Target Field. The Star Tribune’s Michael Rand caught up with him recently.
Q How do you go about seeking subjects for your books?
A I freelance, so I’m always on the hunt. It’s like being perpetually single. If I’m at the bar, health club, the barber or my kids’ soccer games, I’m always on the lookout. With this last book, I had written an article about it six or seven years ago. It’s a great baseball story, but I’m always looking to a deeper dimension. … The real kicker to me is that these guys reconciled. The story doesn’t end with the fight. They turned that into an occasion for reconciliation.
Q This is an event that happened nearly 50 years ago. Why do you feel like it still resonates?
A The photograph has become an icon of baseball. Even a lot of non-fans have seen it. … I think 50 years later, a story of redemption still resonates. A story of redemption is always timely.
Q As you researched what happened, was there any one piece of information that jumped out or surprised you based on what you thought you knew?
A Probably the pain that Marichal carried before the reconciliation. He was an amazing pitcher. He was the dominant pitcher of the 1960s, but he never won a Cy Young Award. Even though he was so great, he’s most remembered for this fight and it haunted him. When Roseboro died, it was the first line of every obituary.
Q I’ve heard the argument made that Marichal should have been banned from the Hall of Fame for his role in the brawl. Do you have an opinion on that?
A It kept him out, certainly, in the first year. The second year he almost got it, but he didn’t get enough votes. Then Marichal called Roseboro and asked him to help him out. Roseboro was running a PR firm in Los Angeles at the time. They had a press conference and posed for photos, and they told the writers, “Hey, we’ve put this behind us. You should, too.” … But there were writers holding it against him.
Q If we had transferred all the elements of the brawl to 2014, how do you imagine the coverage and aftermath might be different?
A I think it would be really different. At the time, there were just photographs. The game was televised, but there were only four cameras. … When Marichal hit Roseboro in the head, the camera was looking at [Sandy] Koufax on the mound. Then the TV station actually destroyed the tape. They showed it once on the evening news, then MLB asked them to destroy the tape because they thought it might tarnish the image of baseball. That wouldn’t happen today. So the way most people saw it was through photographs. People formed opinions based on that. Today, there would have been cellphone videos. It would go viral in a moment.