One year ago almost to the day, I wrote an article called CHEATERS! that eviscerated baseball writers for failing to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. I think that article, if you choose not to click that little link, is best summarized with this paragraph:
“To all the sportswriters clutching their pearls with one hand while using the other to cast no vote for any known or implicated steroid user: Take your ballot, roll it up real tight, and feel free to cram it straight up your moral asshole. We’re not electing deities, we’re paying tribute to the game’s history.”
Sunny stuff, to be sure. While my view hasn’t changed of the “didactic fatheads” who don’t know the difference between voting for inclusion in a history museum versus voting for the fucking Papacy, nor the idiotic process for election (which Deadspin masterfully undermined here), they’re off the hook this year. Gratefully, at least three indisputable candidates emerged and instead of lamenting the sanctimony of a gaggle of self-important dipshits, I actually get to genuflect about my favorite sport.
And why? Because Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Greg Maddux were really fucking good at baseball, and they all come with no apparent baggage. Thank God. Congrats to all three.
Most of all, that means Greg Maddux stories. And it’s been far too long since we’ve heard people gush about Greg Maddux. So let’s go. This post is dedicated to him.
Unfortunately, I have no good personal Greg Maddux stories. Nor would I dare attempt to match the bounty of stories told by a remarkably wide net of media outlets. Deadspin has links to an assortment of Maddux stories that range from his intense study of hitters, to his unparalleled analytical skills, to his debauchery in the training room, and, um, how much Maddux REALLY likes pitching. Also, this one. And this one.
What I’m realizing is that my trying to write an article about Greg Maddux is similar to my attempts to brew beer. Turns out, I have neither the intellect nor the skillset to do right by my subjects. I’m just a fan. I want to consume as much of both products as possible. So go read those stories I linked to about Greg Maddux and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also, drink more beer.
Actually, I’ve got one story that I think is worth telling. In 2005, I went with Kristin and my parents to a Rockies/Cubs game. Our tickets were right behind the home plate right the fuck ON THE FIELD. Like a wishy-washy chump, I wore a Cubs hat and a Rockies shirt as my loyalties were fairly well divided back then. One row behind us was some steakhead blowhard who spilled beer on Kristin within 30 minutes of getting there. He offered to buy her a beer, and being the kind, forgiving soul she is, she declined and told the guy not to worry about it. She then asked which team was his favorite, since, especially then, Coors was Wrigley Field West. The guy said, “Actually, I’m a Cardinals fan.”
Kristin replied, “Ok. I changed my mind. You can buy me a beer.”
Ha! Cough it up douche bag.
The Rockies led early, but the Cubs threatened throughout the game. The Cardinal fan douche bag was screaming at the Cub hitters ALL NIGHT. Just endless. “YOU GOT NOTHING 2-5. NOTHING!” referencing Derrek Lee’s jersey number. Every single player. “YOU GOIN’ DOWN 1-2!” Jesus.
I’d had several drinks at that point, was the ripe old age of 23, and had grown tired of this shithead’s constant bloviating.
So I turned to him and said sort of calmly, “Hey… fuck off.” I turned back toward the game as all hell broke loose behind me.
The guy charged out of his seat and tried to get in my face. My dad, seated next to me, stood up and pushed him back ready to belt this guy right in his fat mouth. The people directly behind me were caught in the crossfire. Things died down, the usher came over, and I was immediately filled with regret. What am I doing baiting some dumbass stranger at a ballgame? Who am I? The usher asked the Cardinals fan what happened, and I immediately interjected and said, “I’m sorry. I said something rude to this gentleman, and he responded. I instigated, and I apologize. Everything is fine now.” The usher gave us both a warning, and I turned to the Cardinals fan. “I’m sorry, sir. I apologize. That was wrong.” He shook my hand, and we went on watching the rest of the game. The Rockies won 4-2.
The next day, I went and saw Greg Maddux pitch. But I was seated in the 3rd deck. He gave up 6 runs over 6 innings, and the Rockies won again 9-7. I did not exchange unpleasantries with any fans, dressed in full Rockies regalia, and felt like shit about the previous night’s altercation (which lingered for a looooong time after that, considering it was in front of my parents and my girlfriend and took place in my dad’s corporate seats).
As I look back on this, I’m not sure I would have been quite so annoyed with Cardinal McLoudMouth had Maddux pitched a day earlier. I told Kristin how excited I was to finally see Greg Maddux pitch in person. Had I been able to witness him up close, I think I could have closed off the world around me and just absorbed myself in a pitcher I idolized since I was 7 playing for the team I loved growing up. Instead, I watched Glendon Rusch give up 2 runs in the first and then putz his way through 6 innings. And on the next day, Maddux from the 3rd deck was like trying to appreciate a delicious omelet via Google Image search. At least I was there.
That’s why I’m so happy I get to experience the brilliance of Greg Maddux all over again. So I’ll leave you with a story I absolutely adore that shows Maddux as the card counter at the blackjack table he is:
“Early in the 2000 season, Maddux was asked by sportswriter Bob Nightengale what had been the most memorable at-bat of his pitching career. Maddux said it was striking out Dave Martinez to end a regular season game. Nightengale was surprised Maddux hadn’t picked a postseason game, or a more famous player. 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.”
Congrats, Greg Maddux. Thanks for the memories. Again.