Sunday, December 07, 2008

Quietly fades the don

2008 is turning out to be a sad year for me. Earlier this year Graeme Hick retired (I think I've mentioned this once or twice!) and now news filters in that Greg Maddux is on his way out, too.

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has penned a perfect tribute to the man who made me follow the scoreboard once every five days during the baseball season.
The magic show is over. I dislike absolutes, but of this I am sure: Greg Maddux is the most fascinating interview, the smartest baseball player and the most highly formed baseball player I have encountered in 27 years covering major league baseball. There is no one alive who ever practiced the craft of pitching better than Maddux.

(...) Maddux was the genuine article, a ballplayer evolved to the highest form. It is fitting that he is the winningest pitcher alive, an honor he should keep up to his very last breath. This appreciation, not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic of Maddux, no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra. Maddux is synonymous with the art of pitching. He was that good. Never again will we see, or hear, anyone quite like him.
Not to be outdone, Gene Wojciechowski of has a different way of paying tribute, too. Just as interesting to read, nevertheless.
In 1996, just before Maddux and the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees in the World Series, pitching coach Leo Mazzone met with his starters and relievers and read them the detailed scouting reports. Maddux raised his hand after Mazzone read the report on Yankees slugger Bernie Williams.
"That report is not correct," Maddux said. "I've been watching film of Williams for two weeks, and that report is not correct."
"Did everybody hear that?" Mazzone said.
The Braves pitchers nodded.
"Well, then the hell with this report," Mazzone said. "We go with what Mad Dog says."
Williams hit .167 in the Series.

(...) He wasn't unprofessional enough. Maddux probably could have squeezed another season and paycheck out of that 42-year-old right arm of his. Others would have taken the money. But not Mr. Integrity.
Nope. Won't miss him at all.
Until spring training 2009.
My last reason to follow baseball is gone. Quietly. Just the way he pitched games.

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