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Greg Maddux Retires

December 6, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments
Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

I just read the news of Maddux’s retirement at the Sports Illustrated website. He will officially announce it on Monday. Not a surprise, but still something of a shock. I hoped he would find a way to pitch forever. And I read an accompanying appreciation by SI baseball writer Tom Verducci.

I remember when I first understood Maddux’s greatness. I was in Bath, Maine, sitting in the living room of the Inn at Bath on a beautiful sunny day, with light pouring in from all the windows. It must have been 1995. And there on one of the side tables was an issue of Sports Illustrated with a lengthy article about him. (Perhaps it was the August 14, 1995 issue, with Greg on the cover and the heading “The Greatest Pitcher You’ll Ever See.” Must be. Written, of course, by Tom Verducci.) I learned more about the art of pitching from that article than from anything I had ever read before. And my sitting in the Inn reading the article is one of my clearest memories from our many visits to Bath in the mid 1990s.

Here is part of the opening of today’s Verducci appreciation:

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.

Like a grand master in chess, Maddux saw the game on a higher plane than everybody else. Some of his tricks he shared with me, such as knowing how to attack a hitter after watching the hitter take his warmup swings. There was the time he was in the dugout decoding the body language of Jose Hernandez of the Dodgers during an at-bat when he deadpanned to a teammate, “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. Well, Maddux was wrong about the hospital part, anyway.

And here is the conclusion:

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.

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