As the 50-year anniversary of his famous 16-inning duel against Warren Spahn approached, Giants Hall of Famer Juan Marichal was reluctant to directly criticize today's cautious approach to pitcher care.

But it's not hard to read between the lines.

"There are more players on the disabled list than when we played. I don't know why," said Marichal, now 75. "Maybe they don't know how to use those expensive (exercise) machines that they have in the clubhouse."

He smiled.

"Pitch counts? You're not going to have a strong arm if you don't throw. That's why I think I threw so many complete games, because I used my arm. I loved to throw. The only way you can get a strong arm is by throwing. Today, 70, 80 pitches and you're out."

Marichal threw 227 pitches in beating the Braves 1-0 on July 2, 1963. Spahn threw 201, with Willie Mays blasting the last offering into the Candlestick Park seats.

Such pitch counts are impossible to fathom today. In a story for Grantland.com, writer Rany Jazayerli noted that "there have been fewer 130-plus pitch outings over the past 12 years combined than there were every single season before the 1994-95 strike. This is the single greatest change in the way baseball is played in the 21st century, and it isn't close."

But in 1963, even a pair of 200-plus pitch outings hardly turned the world upside down.

"No, because it was normal," Orlando Cepeda, the Giants' Hall of Famer, recalled. "The pitchers went all the way whether it was 12 innings or 14 innings. Now you look back and you realize (Spahn-Marichal) was something special. But back then, we'd seen that many times."

Indeed, Marichal racked up several career marathons. In 1966, the Giants' right-hander went 14 innings to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0. In 1969 he carried a shutout into the 14th at Shea Stadium before Tommy Agee came to the plate with one out and crushed the winning home run.

"Sometimes when I'm dreaming," says Marichal now, "I still see that ball."

The Giants' Matt Cain understands that pitching 16 innings is a pipe dream, but he's curious. He said it would be "kind of fun to go longer just to see what you have left. You do kind of wonder."

Don't expect to see it. Giants manager Bruce Bochy would be fired on the spot.

"Oh, there's no question about that," said Denis Menke, a former teammate of Spahn's. "They don't even think about it anymore. Now, they're lucky if they get six or seven innings out of a pitcher and that's about it."

Marichal once threw 30 complete games in a season. Last year's sparkling Giants rotation, the one that led the team to the World Series, combined for five complete games. Cain and Madison Bumgarner shared the staff lead with two apiece.

Marichal, meanwhile, recalled only one time in his 16-year career that he wanted to come out of a game. He was slogging his way through the late innings when manager Herman Franks came to the mound to ask how he felt.

"Bad," Marichal replied.

"Then Herman Franks told me to turn around and look behind me in the bullpen. There was no one there. He said, 'Feeling bad, you're still better than anyone I have.'

"As soon as he told me that, my fastball came back. I threw nothing but bullets over the last two innings because my confidence was back."

Spahn, too, was a well-established iron man by the time he carried his shutout into the 16th inning at Candlestick Park. The left-hander led the National League in complete games nine times over his career, including three straight times after his 40th birthday.

"I can remember Spahn and (Lew) Burdette both in Milwaukee: If they got into the ninth inning and the score was tied, you better not take him out," recalled second baseman Frank Bolling, who played for the Braves from 1961-66.

"They'd want to go after you. They'd come after the manager. They were real competitors and they believed in finishing the game -- which they could. Gawd, they knew how to do it."

Follow Daniel Brown on Twitter at twitter.com/mercbrownie.