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Marichal and Roseboro, the play 'Juan and John,' and forgiveness

May 18, 2011 |  1:50 pm

H13y1jke It was one of those subliminal baseball moments: unexpected, enduring, even haunting.

Juan Marichal took a bat and maliciously hit Dodgers catcher John Roseboro over the head with it. Bloodied him, could have seriously injured him.

It was hard to fathom. Eyes stared at the TV image, but my child’s mind could not quite bring it into true focus.

Marichal was the great enemy, the villainous pitching leader of the rival Giants, back when the rivalry had a much different feel, and if it was more universal north and south, still far from the violence we have had to struggle with this season with the brutal beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow.

Marichal-Roseboro was in 1965. Now Roger Guenveur Smith tries to capture that moment, the men and the time in his one-man play, "Juan and John.’’ 

The show has a second preview Wednesday night and then opens its run at the Kirk Douglas Theater on Thursday.

Like myself, Smith was outraged when the Dodgers later signed Marichal. Roseboro, however, held a press conference to welcome him to the team. He had forgiven Marichal.

And Smith told The Times’ Scott Timberg he also grew out of his grudge and later actually befriended the man he once resented. Wrote Timberg:

"The story of Juan and John, [Smith] says, turns out to be essentially about forgiveness. 'Juan Marichal said Roseboro forgiving him was the best thing in his life,’ Smith says.’’

There has been an aching, an embarrassment, a deep sadness felt by Dodger fans over what happened to Stow. Even if that act of two mindless thugs seems unfathomable to Dodger fans, it’s almost as if they long for forgiveness.

The Stow family generously gave thanks those in Los Angeles for cards and letters and food and funds, when they moved Bryan to San Francisco on Monday.

"A lot of the cards said they were ashamed to be Angelenos, and we just wanted to tell people, don't be. We don't blame you at all,’’ said sister Bonnie Stow.

Forgiveness is a special gift, and can be difficult to accept. The Dodgers open a two-game series with the Giants Wednesday night, the first time the Giants have been back since that season-opening series, while at the same time "Juan and John,’’ a story of forgiveness, plays in Culver City.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: The Giants' Juan Marichal attacks Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat in 1965 as Sandy Koufax tries to intervene. Credit: Robert H.  Houston / Associated Press