A Farewell to the Professor


By: Austin Alexander-December 8, 2008

On Monday, one of the game’s all-time greats made his retirement official and will now ride off into the sunset with little fanfare and fireworks. Sadly, when he blew the whistle on returning for 2009, ESPN barely made mention of it. But, man-o-man did dazzle us for 23 years!

madduxg-87.jpgIn 1987, Greg Maddux made his Major League debut as a pinch-runner for the Chicago Cubs, this October his final appearance was out of the bullpen in a blowout NLDS game at Wrigley Field as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it was what he did in between those appearances that will send him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and enlist him among baseball’s immortals.

In the day and age of "bigger, faster, stronger", he once appeared in a commercial stating that "chicks dig the longball." And that was certainly true in the mid-90’s. But it was Maddux that made the two-seamer, command, stabbing line drives up the middle and a change-up sexy for 2+ decades. maddux.jpg

Slight-of-build and ‘armed’ with a mid-80’s fastball, he became as well-known for his unassuming appearance as his brilliance on the mound. Nicknamed "The Professor", this pitching surgeon often appeared as though he had just emerged from a chemical lab rather than from another complete game shutout. He was, indeed, the mad scientist of the rubber and in complete charge of the 60"6" airways between he and the catcher’s mitt.

Here’s a quick snapshot of his resume:

 355 wins: 8th All-Time, most in Live Ball Era (1920’s to present)
 Only player with 300 wins, 3000 K’s & less than 1000 walks
 4 Cy Young Awards (1992-1995)
 18 Gold Gloves: Most at any position
 1 World Series Championship

A copy of Maddux’s scouting report in high school is now posted on a wall at Turner Field, perhaps his magnificence is best summed up in those words: Not overpowering but has the heart of a lion. Maddux, also dubbed "Mad Dog", gave hope to young players that weren’t tall enough, didn’t throw hard enough or sport  enough "stuff" to win. While a power arm with filthy breaking stuff may draw mysterious injuries in the other dugout or prompt a day off among opposing superstars, for 23 years professional hitters kept taking their whacks at Maddux…then took their "comfortable oh-fers" back to the bat rack, shaking their heads in disbelief.

madduxg-goldglove.jpgThe way scouting has evolved since Maddux was a high school pitcher, it is doubtful we’ll ever again see the likes of his kind again, especially without going the college route first.

Well noted as a Hall of Fame prankster as well as moundsman, Maddux was a genius on off-days too, tutoring countless of young pitchers who credit much of their successes to him. He has been called by some of the greatest managers and coaches in the game as having the best baseball mind of anyone they’d ever been around.

He toyed with hitters while we watched and loved every single outing since many of us can remember. 

A true professional in every sense of the word, Maddux will be sorely missed. Not just for his greatness, but for the way his humble nature and simple approach evolved into an art form that we will never forget.