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The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #18 Greg Maddux

I am so sorry.

I'm sure you're puzzled. What am I sorry for? This is the Top 100 profile of one of the greatest pitchers ever to put on a Cub uniform, and a very popular and well-loved player on top of that.

Here's what happened. I was going to write this profile myself, but then I thought, "Who better to write this than this site's #1 Maddux fan, Jessica?"

So I asked her. And when she said she would, I thought it would be fun for all of you to read all the Maddux anecdotes and quotes and stories she's told me over the years. So I said, "Put ALL the stories in the profile."

Little did I know that when she did that, the profile would be as long as a small encyclopedia. I tried to edit it down, but failed. Everything in it is well worth reading.

Now, before you Click "Read More" for the rest..., take a look at Greg's 1991 Upper Deck baseball card -- both the front and the back. Notice anything unusual?

Yes, that's right. That's a card of one of the greatest pitchers ever, with two photos -- neither of which shows him pitching! Maddux, as you likely know, and as you'll read in more detail, is proud of his entire game. He's always been a complete athlete, a student of the game, and I share the anger and disappointment that Jessica and all the rest of you do, that he didn't spend his entire career as a Cub.

Onward. Better get a cup of coffee or a snack. Reading this will take a while, but it's well worth it.

Jessica also gave me a copy of Sports Illustrated from March 1, 2004, in which there was an article about Maddux' return to the Cubs. Included in the article there was a photo of Greg in a Cubs uniform, probably right after he was drafted, where he looked about 13 (the "Bar Mitzvah" shot, in the words of one of Jessica's friends). However, I couldn't for the life of me get a good enough scan of this photo to post.

So in its stead, I present to you Maddux' Donruss 1987 rookie card; in the photo he's sporting something he must have grown to make him look older than a middle schooler -- the famous "pornstar mustache":

And now, get ready for a long morning (or afternoon) of reading!

Profile by BCB reader jessica

Perhaps no player in Cubs history has caused as much hope and frustration, joy and anger as Greg Maddux. While he will forever be thought of as the one that got away in the dumbest Cub move of all time (and possibly the second-dumbest move in baseball history after the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees), the nearly 9 full seasons Maddux played for the Cubs were an integral part of the career of perhaps the greatest all-around player of his generation. Maddux is a special player on the mound, on the bench, in the clubhouse and outside the park.

Gregory Alan Maddux was born April 14, 1966 in San Angelo, Texas, but he did not stay there long enough for anyone to try to turn him into a fireballing good old boy. His father Dave was an Air Force officer and so Greg traveled to various posts around the world as a young child. There is little doubt this had an influence on Maddux, who would become famous for his control on and off the mound.

I grew up in a military culture where nobody is better than anybody else. Everybody lived in the same kind of house, just with a different number on the door. We had discipline and all that. But we did not go overboard about it. We were Air Force, not Marines or Army.

Greg and his older brother Mike (who would go on to a 15 year career in the majors, mostly as a relief pitcher) played baseball every afternoon with Dave Maddux, who drilled his sons in the fundamentals. When Greg was 8 his father retired from the Air Force and became a poker dealer at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas. Greg was intensely competitive at a very young age; according to Mike, he excelled at everything from baseball & golf to poker & chess: "But if Greg couldn't win, he didn't want to play, plain and simple".

In what would become part of his baseball legend, 15 year old Greg began playing in a pick up baseball game in Vegas run by a retired MLB scout named Ralph Medar. Medar taught Greg that location was more important than speed and when in a jam pitch softer not harder -- "Make the balls look like strikes and strikes look like balls" was his motto. In a time when throwing faster and harder was stressed over control and location, Medar told Maddux, "Kid, you throw hard enough to get drafted. But movement is more important than velocity." Years later Maddux would say of Medar's advice, "I believed it. I don't know why. I just did." Medar, sadly, died in 1983 and didn't live to see Maddux drafted, let alone play in the majors. Maddux also gives a lot of credit to his high school coach, Roger Fairless, for instilling the value of control over speed. Fairless remembers being stunned and somewhat frustrated by Maddux's apparent lack of emotion on the mound. Even in his teens Maddux had already developed his signature demeanor of almost preternatural calm. When asked when he first knew his brother was special, Mike said that when he came home from his first year at college, Greg would tag along to play baseball with him and his friends and despite being nearly five years younger, Greg could more than hold his own. When scouts came to look at Mike who would eventually be drafted in 1982, Dave Maddux told them, "You will be back later for the little one".

By his senior year of high school in 1984, Greg Maddux was a highly regarded prospect but his absurdly young and skinny appearance tended to scare baseball scouts off (he was so thin that his mother had to take his uniform in as the regular one would not fit). The local Cubs scout, Doug Mapson, loved Maddux and went out of his way to push him to GM Dallas Green and the Cubs front office. A May 26, 1984 report that he wrote to the Cubs front office prior to the June draft included one of the most prescient sentences in the history of scouting: "I really believe this boy would be the number one player in the country if only he looked a bit more physical."

Luckily for the Cubs, many teams did not see that in the scrawny kid and he passed through the first round (in which the Cubs selected Drew Hall with the 3rd pick) so in the 2nd round with the 31st overall choice the Cubs selected Greg Maddux. After a quick negotiation with Maddux's agent Scott Boras, who got him a decent signing bonus, Greg was sent to Pikeville in the Appalachian League, where he went 6-2 with an ERA of 2.62 in his first few months of professional baseball and he was already making an impression. Darrin Jackson, who played with him that season, recalled: "This kid who looked like he should be in a middle-school lunchroom was shattering bat after bat, making Double-A and Triple-A hitters look like they had no chance. I think he kind of liked being that underdog: 'Yeah, I'm little, but I can get you out.'"

In 1985 Maddux spend the season in Peoria going 13-9 with an ERA of 3.19. In 1986 he went through both AA and AAA. He started in Pittsfield going 4-3 with an ERA of 2.69 before being promoted to Iowa where he went 10-1 with an ERA of 3.02. Maddux was called up to the Cubs on Sept. 1 where at 20 he became the youngest Cub in 20 years. He made an unusual debut on Sept. 2 when he came in as a pinch-runner in the 17th inning of a tie game versus the Astros. Stranded on base, Maddux returned to the dugout to sit down only to be told he was now supposed to pitch. He went out on the mound and gave up a game winning homer to Billy Hatcher. His debut as a starting pitcher went a little better. On Sept. 7 he faced the first place Reds and their power hitting line up. Accompanying Maddux was Cubs minor league pitching instructor Jim Colborn, who said:

The Reds weren't just a good club, they were a big club - they had Dave Parker and a couple of others whose biceps were bigger than Greg's thigh. I was trying to keep him calm, and I said to him, 'Remember, Greg, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you look in your uniform.'

"He goes out, gets through the heart of the order with no problem the first time and comes back and sits next to me in dugout. 'Colby,' he says, 'how do I look in my uniform?'"

Maddux pitched a complete game win, giving up 3 runs in nine innings but he finished September 2-4 with an ERA of 5.52. The other win came in Philadelphia against his brother Mike, an MLB first of two rookie brothers facing each other. Though 4 1/2 years younger than Mike, Greg's swift rise through the minors made them rookies in the same season.

In 1987, Maddux was inconsistent at best. He went 6-14 with an ERA of 5.61 but still he gained the attention and admiration of the fans and his fellow players for two incidents not related to his skills as a pitcher and both of which involved Benito Santiago and the Padres. On April 29 Maddux was hit "in the groin area" as they like to say in baseball, by a line drive off the bat of Chris Speier. He barely made it through the inning and was removed from the game. Two days later the Cubs were playing the Padres, losing 5-4 in the 8th. Andre Dawson tied the game with a homer and Maddux was put in to pinch-run for Jody Davis on 2nd. After Dunston singled up the middle, Maddux barreled around 3rd and with Santiago waiting to tag him, just bowled right over him scoring the go ahead run.

The 2nd and more famous incident occurred in late June. Maddux had been pitching poorly and been told by management that if he did not get a win he would be sent to the minors. The Cubs staked him to a large lead by the 3rd inning when Dawson, who had hit three home runs in two days against the Padres, including one in the first inning came to bat. Padres pitcher Eric Show hit him hard in the face, Dawson went down bleeding and a near riot ensued but amazingly no punches were thrown. As the game was not yet official, Sutcliffe and other Cubs told Maddux to wait until the 6th inning to retaliate so he would record a win and not be sent down but Maddux refused and told Sutcliffe he didn't care if he never pitched in the majors again, you had to protect your teammate, so he smoked Santiago in the 4th (Santiago was the 3rd batter up that inning and Maddux had struck out the first two. I think he somehow held Santiago more responsible for the beaning than other position players).

According to Sutcliffe, Dawson, who had to rest his chronically injured knees by taking some games off in his MVP season, never missed playing in a Maddux start that rest of that season. Contrary to part of this legend Maddux was not sent down to Iowa till over a month later after he continued to struggle. In four starts in Iowa, Maddux went 3-0 with an ERA of 0.98 and two complete games.

Maddux became one of the most notorious pranksters in baseball, learned the hard way from the master, Rick Sutcliffe that season. One day, shortly after the team arrived to warm up at the visiting team's field, Maddux was left alone in the dugout on some pretense while Sutcliffe approached one of grounds crew and asked them to tell their "bat boy" that he was not allowed in the dugout before the game. Since Maddux looked ridiculously young the guy went over and told a flustered Maddux to leave the dugout. To this day Sutcliffe will often refer to Maddux as "the bat boy". He was also sent to pick up the drinks in bars or buy beer just so the rest of team could laugh watching him get carded nearly every time.

Still, with those 6-14, 5.61 numbers, Maddux was not going to stick around the majors long if he did not improve. In the winter of 1987-88 he went with Cubs pitching coach Dick Pole and his brother Mike to Venezuela to play winter ball. Future Red Sox manager Terry Francona was his roommate and the thing he remembered best was that their place became a hangout for other American players because Maddux had brought a Nerfball set.

So, in 1988 Maddux returned a changed pitcher. He won 15 of his first 18 starts and finished the year 18-8 with an ERA of 3.18. In retrospect one gleans from Maddux's comments that it was not so much what he might have learned in Venezuela, as what he unlearned:

Guys give you advice with the best of intentions, but that is how they pitch. You have to understand how you pitch. When you start to do that, you might listen to a few things they say instead of everything. You come up and you have Rick Sutcliffe and Scott Sanderson and these guys are 6-5 and 6-6, it just took time to watch those guys and realize they are doing things out there I can't do.
Now confident in his own style of control over speed and his famous preparation routine, Maddux became the best young pitcher in baseball. In 1989 Cubs Maddux went 19-12 with an ERA of 2.95. Somehow, he forgot his own advice in his one post season game as a Cub and ended up giving up 5 runs in 3 innings in his what would become his worst of many postseason appearances.

Maddux "slipped" somewhat in 1990 going 15-15 with an ERA ballooning to 3.46 and then went 15-11 in 1991 with an ERA of 3.35. All the while he increased his reputation as the smartest player in baseball with savant-like memory of every pitch he ever threw and dissecting each opposing batter's weakness.

He never missed a start (dating all the way back to high school). He averaged nearly 247 innings per season in his first 4 full seasons and just under 8 complete games each season. Early in is his Cub career Maddux acquired one of the best baseball nicknames, "Mad Dog". Many baseball nicknames tend to be a play on the person's actual name, physical appearance or skill ("Rocket", "Gonzo", "Big Unit" etc), whereas Maddux's is a wonderful combination of truth and irony. By appearance Maddux was a slight boyish looking player with voice that barely went over a whisper in public and who was completely unflappable on the mound. He was, however a ruthless and tenacious player who mercilessly used every flaw he could find in an opponent and raised his hand at one of his first club meetings to ask what the brushback sign was. He routinely lets out a string of obscenities every time he is unhappy with a pitch and has a scatological sense of humor. Referred to endearingly by old teammates as "doggie", Maddux is not all warm and cuddly.

Going into his "walk" year of 1992, the Cubs began negotiations with Maddux. One of the worst days in Cubs history occurred somewhat anonymously in December 1991 when the Cubs sent Ned Colletti and Dennis Homerin to his Las Vegas home to strike a deal with Maddux and Boras. They all "agreed" to a five year 25 million dollar deal but Maddux, who was anxious to settle down asked for a no trade clause. The Cubs negotiators said no and left suddenly saying they had a plane to catch. Maddux thought it over for a day, and decided since he was very good and very young they wouldn't trade him anyway and faxed in his acceptance. Boras called a week later and they said they had to run it by Tribune CEO Stanton Cook; after two more calls and two weeks later Maddux (with undoubtedly some encouragement from Boras) was getting frustrated. He personally wrote a letter to Cook that was delivered on Monday of that week giving the Cubs until 5 PM Friday to agree to the 5/25 deal. The Cubs called him at 5:05 that Friday. "Five minutes!" Maddux said. "They could not have phoned at 5? They could not have responded to my fax 3 weeks earlier when I accepted the original deal by passing on the no trade?"

For the record, Cook admitted this is exactly how it happened, and tried to explain by saying, "Picking up the phone and getting something done with one call is not quite that simple. This is big business. There's protocol to follow, a certain amount of posturing done by both sides."

What was really going on was a power struggle in which the Tribune which was determined not to let a player and his agent be seen as having the upper hand. For all the later issues re: Boras' encouraging Maddux to leave as a free agent, this was the Cubs' Waterloo in terms of dealing with Maddux. He believed he had a deal and the Cubs backed out. Maddux told the Cubs he would give them a fair chance to compete for him AFTER the season as a free agent. While Maddux was at the All-Star game in 1992 the Cubs met with Boras to try to work on a deal and Boras told them the price was now $32 million for 5 years, the Cubs offered 27.5. The Cubs tried to make Maddux out as a self centered greedy player for turning down a deal that would have made him the highest paid pitcher in baseball, to which his teammate Sutcliffe responded, "To people like Greg Maddux, winning is more important than a few dollars. Maybe he wants to see what direction ('the organization') is going."

Maddux also resented the Cubs attempt to portray him as someone eager to flee the Cubs for the big bucks:

I am not trying to get out of Chicago. Why would I want to go anywhere else? The people are so friendly. Not just the fans but the cabbies, hotel people, folks on the street. It is not like in other cities where they act like they are doing you a favor.
Maddux has his best season to date in 1992, going 20-11 on a team that pretended to contend, but finished 78-84. He won the Cy Young award collecting 20 of the 24 votes while pitching 268 innings with 9 CG, 4 ShO, 199 K to 70 BB and an ERA of 2.18.

After the season ended Boras negotiated with the Braves, Yankees and Cubs, and Maddux still felt both loyalty and frustration with the Cubs. Himes signed Jose Guzman for 4 years and 14.35 million dollars and told the media, "I have the starter that I need to replace him". Maddux made one last call to Himes personally before he signed with the Braves. Himes told him the Cubs had signed Randy Myers that day and they had no money left. "His" money had gone to Guzman and Myers. After turning down a 32 million dollar offer from the Yankees Greg Maddux signed for 5 years and 28 million dollars with the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs never raised their offer past 27.5. Himes said he didn't think it was right to go back to the Tribune and ask for more money after the budget had been "set".

About the only thing that can be said in defense of the Cubs' cavalier treatment of Maddux is that no one could have imagined how good he would become. Maddux won the next 3 consecutive Cy Young awards, his average ERA in his first three seasons with the Braves was under 2.00. In 1994 and 1995 his ERAs were 1.56 and 1.63 respectively. From 1992 to 1997 Maddux's ERA was 2.14 which was lower than even Sandy Koufax's in his best 6 years (and this in a higher-offense era than Koufax pitched in). The 1994-95 strike probably cost him two twenty-win seasons, as he won 16 in 2/3 of a season in 1994 and 19 in 1995 in a schedule that was 18 games short of usual.

Those of you who never saw him pitch in those days can't imagine the incredible movement he could create with his almost unbelievable control.

Perhaps the best story about Maddux's ability to control the ball came from a 2001 Spring Training game as reported by Astros Manager Larry Dierker:

He just outsmarts everybody. I remember this spring an edict came out that the umpires were going to enforce the high strike zone. Maddux spent the entire game testing to see how high the umpire would go and call it. It was amazing.
When the reporter told Maddux of Dierker's description he responded, "Well actually my control was off that day. Sometimes your reputation precedes you. I wasn't that smart." Maddux then smirked, and the reporter had no whether he was telling the truth or was toying with him.

He got his long sought-after World Series ring in 1995 and would go to the post season all 11 years he was in Atlanta. He won 10 of the next 11 Gold Gloves.

Perhaps nothing sums up the Cubs' situation with Maddux better than than the 1998 playoffs when he outdueled Kerry Wood to win game 3 and complete the sweep. In the club house after the game his old friend Mark Grace sat around muttering, "Greg didn't want to leave, Greg didn't want to leave."

Maddux' mastery of his old team included a shutout on Opening Day in 1993 (his very first game in an Atlanta uniform) and a stunning 4-1 complete game in the first game of a doubleheader on July 22, 1997 in which he threw only 76 pitches, 63 for strikes -- less than 1 1/2 balls per inning.

However, there is a funny backstory to this smackdown. Before the game the Cub players decided that since everyone knew Maddux always threw first pitch strikes (i.e. that he did not "waste a pitch" to check the batter out) they would all swing at the first pitch.

There are literally dozens of famous and funny anecdotes about Maddux, many having to do with his downright spooky control and his amazing ability to outthink hitters. One involves a close game in which there were runners on first and third, one out and a left handed batter due up. Braves Manager Bobby Cox came out to the mound to ask him if he wanted to intentionally walk the batter to set up a double play. "No thanks," Maddux replied and went on to describe the exact sequence of pitches he would throw the next two batters and what they would do. As a stunned Cox watched, he did almost exactly what he had said he would (the third out was a pop up that went just fair of third while Maddux had said it would be on the foul side of 3rd).

The second involved longtime nemesis Jeff Bagwell. Maddux was pitching a shutout with a large lead late in a game early in the season when Bagwell came to bat. He repeatedly shook off catcher Eddie Perez's signs and threw Bagwell an inside fastball which they both knew was his favorite pitch. Bagwell clocked it for a home run and angry Perez confronted Maddux in the clubhouse asking him why he would throw that pitch. Maddux explained that sometime later that season he would face Bagwell in a more important situation and he would be expecting that pitch. Perez was still annoyed that he had "blown" a shutout. Towards the end of that season, the Braves did indeed play an important game against the Astros and Maddux struck Bagwell out late in the game with the bases loaded. Maddux asked Perez if he remembered the game months ago when he deliberately gave Bagwell the pitch he wanted. Perez had forgotten, but Maddux hadn't.

Almost surely the most famous Maddux story (probably because there were so many witnesses) involved an at-bat by Jose Hernandez, then with the Dodgers, against the Braves. Maddux as usual on off days was sitting on the bench with his fellow pitchers more or less "calling pitches" when he blurted out, "Watch this, we might need to call an ambulance for the first base coach." On the very next pitch Hernandez drove a line drive into the chest of the first base coach, who, fortunately, wasn't seriously hurt. John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Kent Mercker and others sitting around were needless to say completely freaked out. Maddux explained that Hernandez had been jammed inside by Braves pitchers for the whole series and he could tell from the shift in his batting stance he was going to rip one towards the first base coach's box.

Maddux, who had signed a second 5-year deal with for 51 million in 1997, then, somewhat surprisingly, accepted their offer of arbitration in 2003 after that contract expired. Maddux referred to his departure from Chicago as "getting fired" and was not inclined to move around. The Braves and Maddux compromised on $14.5 million for 2003 to avoid arbitration. However, Ted Turner was gone, Time-Warner and its cost-cutting moves were in and Maddux had a "bad" year in 2003 going, 16-11 with an ERA of 3.96; so at the end of the season the Braves "fired" him, as he again put it.

When Maddux was leaving the Braves, many of their longtime clubhouse employees were quite distraught, Maddux having treated them all quite well. One of them remembered that years before, when he was a young assistant, he was talking to another worker about driving to St. Louis to visit relatives during an upcoming Braves road trip, but didn't know if his old Honda with 100,000 miles on it could make the trip. Maddux, having overheard the conversation, tossed him a set of keys to his silver BMW and said, "Don't wreck it." "I was just some kid", he said. "And he trusted me."

Maddux made it clear he would not play in the AL, would only play for a contender and preferred to play for a West Coast team. Jim Hendry got permission from the higher-ups to, as he put it, "go kick the tires". He had a meeting with Maddux and Boras in November and left a standing offer of two years and $12 million which he knew would not get Maddux. Hendry however put no pressure on Maddux and merely said would love to have him back with the Cubs but it was his choice. At that time, the Dodgers were dysfunctional, being in ownership flux, and the Padres signed David Wells, and only the Cardinals publicly expressed interest (albeit by asking their other pitchers if they would defer salary to allow a signing).

The last weekend before the start of spring training, Hendry met with Maddux and Boras; the Cubs counteroffered this: if the Cubs would put in a 3rd year which would vest after 400 innings in the first two, Maddux would sign. And thus, with an OK from the Trib suits, the prodigal regurned home.

The press conference the next day was extraordinary. The normally stoic Maddux was clearly emotional about returning and Hendry was positively beaming about having convinced him to do so.

Maddux is one of the few guys around who truly loves pitching at Wrigley Field; as he told the press that day:

Wrigley always has been a special place to me. You love to play in front of fans who actually care about the game. They come to watch the ballgame and at the same time, have their fun. Players sense that. It makes you enjoy being at the park even more.
Sports Illustrated ranked the Cubs "Fab Five" (in order as Wood, Prior, Clement, Maddux and Zambrano) and picked them as the top rotation in the major leagues. That list would be turned on its head during the season. Maddux had a a shaky start in 2004 including a disastrous Opening Day but after chewing on the Mets in one key game at the end of April, he got into good form. He was, of course, no longer the 26 year old kid they let walk, but a 38 year old "professor" whose "fastball" was now even slower but whose brain was working even faster.

In July he pitched back to back complete games and as always he never missed a start. In August he was gunning for the magical win #300 which clearly meant far more to the public than to Maddux who loathed the attention. One of Maddux's many appealing qualities is his lack of ego and total disinterest in media attention. He cares about winning and having fun, the rest is an annoyance. In a nicely heartfelt tribute at the time of his 300th SI's Tom Verducci wrote:

In 23 years of covering major league baseball, I never have come across a player whose ego was more diametrically opposed to his talent than you.
When Maddux did get #300 in San Francisco he not only resisted chants by the Giants' fans (and many Cub fans in attendance) to come out and take a bow, he tried to sneak out of the park before being caught and doused with champagne by his teammates. Maddux explained his ability to separate being a star athlete from a guy who liked to go to Burger King with his family without being noticed this way: "Around the ballpark they know who you are, but you go a couple of miles down the road, dude, they got no clue."

The rest of the 2004 season was not exactly the homecoming Cub fans had dreamed of, but Maddux has a good year. He lead the team in innings and tied with Carlos Zambrano to lead the team in wins with 16, but his ERA of 4.02 was his highest since his rookie year.

2005 got worse for both Maddux and the Cubs. While politely fending off endless inquiries responding to Dusty Baker's assertion that he was considering retirement, Maddux was in fact staying in too long and getting too little run support. It was not a happy season and for the first time since 1987 (which was not even a full season) Maddux failed to win 15 games or finish at or over .500. His string of 17 consecutive seasons of winning at least 15 games, a major league record, was snapped.

While it is a cliché to say how much a player loves baseball, it is hard to imagine a player who loves and appreciates it more than Greg Maddux. Maddux loves everything about baseball. Unlike most pitchers who dread hitting and think of fielding as a chore, Maddux loves to hit and field. On his off days he shags balls and takes endless batting practice, usually practicing bunts.

His physical limitations made being a position player a non starter but it doesn't stop him from trying. Like his Cy Young awards, his 16 Gold Gloves are not the result of being a naturally gifted fielder but of player who practices fielding obsessively and knows from what he is throwing where to position himself to field the ground balls he inevitably induces.

Here's another from SI's Tom Verducci, who followed Maddux in 2004 in the games leading up to win #300:

The four days between (starts) are still a blast for you. On a recent trip to Philadelphia, you ran down balls in the outfield during batting practice, then drove the bat boy bonkers with your throws back to him. You'd load up a spitter and it would move so much he couldn't catch it. Or you'd wait until you had two baseballs and throw one high and soft to him and as he watched that one, you'd bounce a low one at his feet. One of those throws clanked off his shins and both of you laughed like a couple of kids at recess.
Batting is the one thing in baseball that I think Maddux envies in other players, pitchers in particular. He said he is more impressed by Mike Hampton's seven home runs in a season than Barry Bonds breaking the season HR record.

He loves taking batting practice. One of his Braves' hitting coaches said, "You can't get him out of the cage. He'll hit till his hands bleed if you let him." Maddux makes the most of what he can do at the plate, and he can bunt as well as any player in the game. Since he realizes this is the best way to help his team win, he again practices bunts endlessly every week, and is 3rd among active players in sacrifice bunts behind Glavine and Omar Vizquel. When he was young he had significantly more speed and somewhat better power. And in two seasons, 1995 and 1998, he achieved one of his most sought-after goals, having a higher BA than ERA (he peaked in 95 at .240). Maddux says the hitting highlight of his career was his double off Kerry Wood in game 3 of the 1998 NLCS at Wrigley Field, in large part because Wood was such a good pitcher, so he felt getting a hit off him was an honor.

Maddux's generosity in helping other players is well known but many of you young folks might see this as some recent development of a cagey veteran advising young players. Not so. Back to his earliest years in the majors, fellow pitchers and coaches would go to him to advice. His knowledge of opposing hitters was legendary at an early age. Just 4 years ago when explaining how he let Maddux leave, Larry Himes admitted that he had "misunderstood" his influence. He thought that Maddux looked to older guys like Sutcliffe or Scott Sanderson for advice but he found out that "it was the other way round. The veteran guys followed in his footsteps. I didn't realize the impact of that until after he left."

There are enough stories told by fellow players of Maddux helping them that it would fill a small book, from veterans like Sutcliffe, Glavine, Smoltz and kids like Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall.

Maddux dismisses it all by saying, "People think I am smart? You know what makes you smart? Locate your fastball down and away. That is what makes you smart." Needless to say it is hardly that simple. Here is merely the most recent of the numerous tributes to Maddux's skill and generosity on helping others which appeared last month in Buster Olney's letter section on from a major league pitcher who preferred not to be indentified (but who might, in fact, have been Jason Marquis) responding to a previous question about Maddux's influence on younger players in particular being "overrated":

I attended spring training with the Braves major league team in 2000, and Maddux was incredibly helpful to me. He took time each day to work with me on throwing a changeup. I literally spent every day for a month being tutored by one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game and I think Maddux did it because he enjoyed helping a young guy out and enjoyed teaching. Beyond that, he always took moments throughout the day to provide "teaching points" on whatever we were doing, whether it was while we were taking PFP [pitcher fielding practice] or while we were in the batting cage. He didn't just share his thoughts with me, but with all of the young pitchers in camp. I think I learned more about baseball in that month I spent with him than in my entire career up to that point.
On the Cubs it was Marshall and, interestingly, Matt Murton who seemed to hang around Maddux the most for advice. Murton must be one smart guy because Maddux had previously explained that he hung around almost exclusively with pitchers because they could talk about "pitching and golf" whereas position players wanted to talk about "hitting and other stuff". Murton was clever enough to realize that Maddux knew as much about hitting as he does about pitching even if he can't perform it as well. The time Murton spent with Greg also gave him the nickname "Orange Guy", permanently tagged on him by Maddux. Greg Maddux also has a reputation as a notorious prankster. When asked what the most amazing thing was about his brother, Mike Maddux responded: "That he has been able to keep that choirboy image. He's got this, I don't know what you call it but this sense of humor like no one else". In a long profile by Thomas Boswell in 1998, numerous Braves teammates and coaches kept extolling Maddux's funny side but when pressed they could not come up with a single example. When Boswell asked Maddux he said:
They won't give examples because you can't print any of it (and this, for a profile written for Playboy magazine!). With my sense of humor the more disgusting something is the funnier it is to me.
So, we are not talking sophisticated stuff, but it's exactly the kind of thing that has lightened up every clubhouse he has been a part of, and it may even take the sting out of all the money he wins from his fellow players (not to mention sportswriters) in poker games.

2006 started magically for Maddux. In his first four starts he was 3-0 with an ERA of 0.98. He was named pitcher of the month for April and it prompted a piece by Joe Sheehan in Baseball Prospectus which may come closest to my views (minus the compliments towards Clemens, who is the anti-Madduix in so many ways):

Maddux is my favorite pitcher ever. I used to build my schedule around catching his starts when he was in his prime, wanting to see if this was the day he completed a game in 70 pitches, or forced SportsCenter to come on 70 minutes early, or threw a three-hit shutout on the gravity-free surface of the moon. So even though I know this is just four starts, not meaningful or likely the start of a Clemensesque career kick, I have to say that it's hard for me to be completely rational about it. Maddux is one of the, what, five greatest pitchers in history, and he has a Q rating comfortably wedged between Kevin Goldstein (another BP writer) and the guy who made your mocha this morning. In an era defined as much by an obsessive media as anything else, all we really know about Maddux is his work and his enjoyment of golf. His ratio of accomplishment to exposure is as high as any player ever; he's like the baseball inverse of Paris Hilton. While fully expecting Maddux to finish the season as a six-WARP pitcher, throwing 200 innings with an ERA in the high-3.00s, we can take this opportunity to admire what he's accomplished in his career. Even if he ends up being worth less than Clemens in the end, he'll have some markers in terms of efficiency, pace and approach that Clemens didn't. Sometimes, you just have to get your head out of a stat book and watch a game once in a while.
By midsummer 2006, Maddux was struggling with an ERA close to 5 and he was miserable. As the trade deadline approached rumors swirled and while insisting publicly that he only wanted to do what was best for the team, in retrospect it was clear that he wanted out and that it was best for the Cubs, IF they could get something for him.

Trading Maddux would not be simple in part because his usual preferences for contending National League teams preferably in the West would have to be observed. This wasn't really a problem, since both the Dodgers and Padres clearly wanted him, but neither wanted to give up much to get him. Jim Hendry clearly wanted to accommodate Maddux's desire but needed something in return. Things were very uncertain for Maddux's future with the Cubs when he started the July 29 game vs. the Cardinals. Maddux threw six-plus innings, giving up one run, and when lifted in the 7th, the crowd, sensing it might be there last time to pay tribute to Maddux as a Cub rose in a deafening cheer, and Maddux, walking off the mound, did something he almost never does, tipping his cap.

The trade deadline of 3 pm CT passed the following Monday in Chicago with no announcement but about 10 minutes later the deal to the Dodgers for former All Star SS Cesar Izturis was officially annouced. Maddux had escaped from a disastrous Cub season and Hendry had gotten a player he could present as reasonable return. That day, and in fact, to this day, this site and other Cub blogs have been filled with the comments of irate fans, most of them relieved to see the traded player go, happy for Maddux, but angry about getting a "rotten" player in return.

Maddux made his debut as a Dodger that Thursday in Cincinnati, where he pitched 6 no-hit innings before a rain delay. With the Dodgers clinging to a two run lead, Maddux did not return after the delay though he was certainly capable of doing so having thrown only 60 pitches. As was typical of Maddux, he explained that with a two run lead he could not allow the team to take the risk even though he felt fairly good. He told manager Grady Little that he had pitched a no-hitter in high school and that was enough for him. A week later Maddux pitched 8 shut out innings against the Giants using just 68 pitches.

Maddux was essentially reborn with the Dodgers going 6-3 with an ERA of 3.30. vs. his 9-11 record and 4.69 era with the Cubs. It can reasonably be argued that this had to do with playing in a pitcher friendly park, and having better fielding and better run support. All of this is true but no doubt the biggest factor was playing for a winning team that was fighting for a post season slot, which they eventually won. Maddux admitted that in the end with the Cubs, he had been basically playing for himself. After his last game at Wrigley Field, Maddux said:

I love the ballpark. I love the city. I love the fans. Aside from how we've played this year, there's nothing not to like about Chicago.
In the last 20 years baseball has been dominated by power pitchers, power hitters and media saturation, but none of it seems to have Greg Maddux other than to make him stand out even more. Of all the hundreds of Maddux stories I have read, here's one, a very simple one, that sums up not only what kind of ballplayer he is, but what kind of man he is.

In 2004 as he approached his 300th win, sportswriter Bob Nightengale, who had followed him for years, asked him what was his most memorable confrontation. Maddux said without hesitation that it was striking out Dave Martinez to end a game a few years earlier. So why was this matchup more special than a crucial postseason at-bat, or striking out a more famous player in a big game? Maddux explained:

I remember that one because he got a hit off me in the same situation (full count, bases loaded, two out in the 9th inning) seven years earlier. I told myself if I ever got in the same situation again, I'll pitch him differently. It took me seven years but I got him.
When asked by Nightengale what the pitch was he used, Maddux replied. "I can't say. That's not right. Look, the day you start bragging is the day it bites you in the ass. I've seen it happen over and over." This is the essence of Maddux, a mind that plots out anywhere from one pitch to seven years ahead and is old school enough to know to never show up another player or let any secrets out.

Maddux will often say that he is on "extra credit", meaning that he never expected to have such a long and successful career doing what he loves and being paid huge sums for it. I think that baseball fans are on "extra credit" every time he pitches. When he goes into the Hall of Fame in 7 or 10 years (as befits his love of the game and lack of ego Maddux says he will play as long as "someone will give me a shirt") he will be wearing a Braves cap and that is as it should be but as he said when he left the Cubs, part of his heart will always be in Chicago. This is what he said about playing in Chicago, during his final season here in 2006:

There's a different atmosphere, a different tone, vibe, buzz playing a game at Wrigley, Yankee Stadium had that. We had it in Atlanta at one time. But it never goes away here. When you play 162 games and you're able to play half of them here that is something special.
And for more than nine seasons, we had that "something special" in one of the game's all-time greatest pitchers, Greg Maddux. Savor the memories. Players like him may never pass this way again.