When Greg Maddux was elected to the Hall of Fame today (thanks in part to you!!) the news was less that he'd made it, but that someone hadn't voted for him. We're in the second wave now: Maddux stories. Like his arm, they're better than most.
Ley got us started with an anecdote he pulled from a Yahoo column, about what a control freak Maddux was. That reminded me of a 1995 Sports Illustrated piece about Maddux's uncanny combination of fastidious study and instant observation. Tom Verducci, take it away, dated references and all:
What sets Maddux apart is an analytical, Pentium-quick mind that constantly processes information no one else sees. At home in Las Vegas he is a formidable poker player, detecting when an opponent has a good hand by the way he strokes his chin or suddenly stops fiddling with his chips. Maddux uses a numerical system in his head that tells him when to stand and when to hit at the blackjack table. But he is even better at analyzing hitters—so good that four times this year, while seated next to Smoltz in the dugout, he has warned, "This guy's going to hit a foul ball in here." Three of those times a foul came screeching into the dugout.
You could hear echoes of that kind of maniacal preparation in a 2004 Verducci piece for SI, as well:
Once while seated in the Braves' dugout as third baseman Jose Hernandez batted for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Maddux blurted out, "Watch this. The first base coach may be going to the hospital." On the next pitch Hernandez drilled a line drive off the chest of the first base coach.
Another time Atlanta manager Bobby Cox visited Maddux on the mound with runners on second and third and two outs. Cox suggested an intentional walk.
"Don't worry," said Maddux, who then spelled out to Cox the sequence of his next three pitches: "And on the last pitch I'm going to get him to pop up foul to third base." Maddux proceeded to escape the jam on his third pitch—getting a pop-up to third base that was a foot or two from being foul.
Now, over a career that lasts two decades, a man is bound to luck into a couple of spooky-sounding predictions. (Hell, if you just walk around all day telling people, "Watch this," you're bound to look like a genius eventually when a truck hops a curb or a piano falls off a roof or some such.) But it was truly a pattern with Maddux, that his brain or his attitude or his sense of humor fed into tall tales. Our ever-sharp commenters pounced with a few more Maddux gems — you can see exemplars here and here and here and here.
The granddaddy of 'em all, though, might be the story Mark Grace tells about Maddux. Its age doesn't dim its brilliance. You can skip to the bottom to hear Grace tell it on Jim Rome, but if your speakers are busted, here's a recap by Dan Bickley on AZCentral.com:
When they played together on the Cubs, Mark Grace once noticed Maddux walking around the pitching mound in a very strained, uncomfortable manner. Fearing his teammate was hurt, Grace approached the mound, only to find Maddux in an state of obvious physical excitement, the kind normally reserved for passionate endeavors.
"Man, you really do love to pitch," Grace marveled.
It's the best story I've ever heard from Grace. And that's saying something.
Here's the Soundcloud:
Image credit: AP