Early Era Photos
- Mad Dog, The Professor
- April 14, 1966
- 170 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-03-1986 with CHN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1990 GG, 1991 GG, 1992 CY, 1992 GG, 1992 TSN, 1993 CY, 1993 GG, 1993 TSN, 1994 CY, 1994 GG, 1994 TSN, 1995 CY, 1995 GG, 1995 TSN, 1996 GG, 1997 GG, 1998 GG, 1999 GG, 2000 GG, 2001 GG, 2002 GG, 2004 GG, 2005 GG, 2006 GG, 2007 GG, 2008 GG
The man with more victories (355) than any other starting pitcher whose career began after 1950, Greg Maddux was a study in consistency, posting at least 15 wins a record 17 consecutive times during his 23-year major league career. Although he possessed neither an overpowering fastball nor a particularly sharp-breaking curveball, Maddux achieved greatness through his pinpoint control, outstanding ball movement, and cerebral approach to his craft, which usually enabled him to anticipate the opposing hitter's thought process. Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs marveled, "It seems like he's inside your mind with you. When he knows you're not going to swing, he throws a straight one. He sees into the future. It's like he has a crystal ball hidden inside his glove."
Maddux's skill and guile helped make him one of the most successful and decorated pitchers in baseball history. One of only two hurlers to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards (Randy Johnson is the other), Maddux led his league in wins three times, ERA four times, innings pitched and shutouts five times each, and complete games three times. Although he won as many as 20 games only twice, the righthander surpassed 18 victories another seven times. He also compiled an ERA below 2.50 on six separate occasions, twice posting a mark lower than 2.00. Since the so-called "live ball" era began in 1920, only Warren Spahn (363) won more games than Maddux.
Born in San Angelo, Texas on April 14, 1966, Gregory Alan Maddux spent much of his childhood in Madrid, Spain, where the United States Air Force stationed his father. After being exposed to baseball at an early age by his father, Greg and his older brother Mike began training under the supervision of former major-league scout Rusty Medar when the family returned to the States during his teenage years. Maddux attended Valley High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he starred for the team as a pitcher. In spite of the success he experienced in high school, Maddux's skinny 6'0", 170-pound frame prevented him from receiving many college scholarship offers to play baseball after he graduated in June of 1984. As a result, the 18-year-old Maddux declared himself eligible for that year's Major League Baseball Draft. Looking past Maddux's unimpressive physique, Chicago Cubs scout Doug Mapson urged his team to draft the youngster, writing in his report to the club, "I really believe this boy would be the number one player in the country if only he looked a bit more physical."
At Mapson's behest, the Cubs selected Maddux in the second round of the draft. The righthander then spent the next two years in the minor leagues, before joining Chicago for the first time in September of 1986. Maddux pitched poorly over the season's final month, then continued to struggle throughout the 1987 season, posting a combined record of 8-18, while compiling an ERA in excess of 5.50 each year. However, everything started to come together for Maddux in 1988, when he finally mastered control of his pitches. The 22-year-old righthander not only learned how to spot his pitches to the corners, but he also mastered the art of breaking his fastball back towards the plate after initially releasing it towards the batter's waist.
Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn discussed the strategy Maddux used to baffle opposing hitters: "He's like a meticulous surgeon out there. He puts the ball where he wants to. You see a pitch inside and wonder, 'Is it the fastball or the cutter?' That's where he's got you."
His new technique perfected, Maddux won 37 games for the Cubs over the next two seasons, before having his greatest year for the team in 1992. Maddux finished 20-11, to tie for the league-lead in victories. He also topped the circuit with 268 innings pitched, while placing among the leaders with a 2.18 earned run average, en route to winning the N.L. Cy Young Award for the first time. After becoming a free agent at season's end, Maddux signed on with the Atlanta Braves, joining a staff that already included standouts Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Maddux surpassed both his new staffmates in his first year in Atlanta, capturing his second straight Cy Young Award by compiling a record of 20-10 and leading the league with a 2.36 ERA, 267 innings pitched, and eight complete games.
Smoltz was among those who Maddux impressed immediately with his cerebral approach to pitching. Said Smoltz: "Every pitch has a purpose. Sometimes he (Maddux) knows what he's going to throw two pitches ahead. I swear, he makes it look like guys are swinging foam bats against him."
Yet Maddux considered his plan of attack to be quite simple, noting, "I try to do two things: locate my fastball and change speeds. That's it. I try to keep it as simple as possible. I just throw my fastball to both sides of the plate and change speed every now and then. There is no special food or anything like that. I just try to make quality pitches and try to be prepared each time I go out there."
Maddux also constantly strove to attain an extremely high level of consistency, stating, "Consistency is something you can always improve on. You can be more consistent with your mental approach, the things you do physically on the mound. Instead of doing five good pitches an inning, try to make six. You can always do more of what you are doing well and try to be as consistent as you can be."
Maddux won his third straight Cy Young Award in 1994, going 16-6 with a league-leading 10 complete games and 1.56 ERA during the strike-shortened campaign. He followed that up with arguably his greatest season, becoming the first pitcher to capture four consecutive Cy Youngs by topping all league hurlers in every major statistical category. Maddux finished the 1995 season with a 19-2 record, a 1.63 ERA, 210 innings pitched, 10 complete games, and three shutouts. His extraordinary performance earned him a third-place finish in the league MVP voting and helped lead the Braves to their first in a long string of N.L. East titles. Maddux then excelled for Atlanta during the postseason, compiling a combined record of 3-1, while posting an ERA of 1.13 against Cincinnati in the NLCS and a mark of 2.25 against Cleveland in the World Series, which the Braves won in six games.
Maddux had another solid year for Atlanta in 1996, before pitching brilliantly again in both 1997 and 1998. In the first of those years, he finished 19-4, with a 2.20 ERA. He followed that up by going 18-9, with a league-leading 2.22 ERA in 1998.
Maddux's continued excellence earned him the admiration and respect of everyone around the game, including the sport's other top hurlers. Randy Johnson suggested, "Greg Maddux is probably the best pitcher in all of baseball, along with Roger Clemens. He's much more intelligent than I am because he doesn't have a 95 or 98 mph fastball. I would tell any pitcher who wants to be successful to watch him, because he's the true definition of a pitcher."
Although Maddux's earned run average rose sharply in 1999 and 2000, he still managed to win 19 games and place among the league leaders in innings pitched each year. He pitched extremely well in 2001 and 2002, combining for 33 victories, while posting ERAs of 3.05 and 2.62, respectively. However, even though he won 16 games in 2003, Maddux finished the year with a 3.96 ERA, signaling that his period of dominance had ended. After becoming a free agent at the conclusion of the season, Maddux returned to the Chicago Cubs, with whom he went 16-11 with a 4.02 ERA in 2004.
Although Maddux was well past his prime by the time he began his second tenure with the Cubs, the righthander continued to impress his teammates with his intellectual approach to his craft. Cubs righthander Ryan Dempster commented, "Any pitcher on this team should have the pleasure of parking their butt next to him on the bench during games and learning whatever you can from him and then watching him when he is pitching."
Chicago outfielder Juan Pierre said of Maddux, "He's the definition of pitching. He's not overpowering, he doesn't have tremendous stuff, but he gets it done every day, day in and day out. It's good that I can tell my grandkids that I had the chance to play behind Greg Maddux, the Hall of Famer."
Maddux spent most of the next two seasons with the Cubs before joining the Dodgers towards the latter portion of 2006. He then split his last two seasons between Los Angeles and San Diego, finally retiring at the end of the 2008 season with a career record of 355-227 and an ERA of 3.16. In addition to winning four Cy Young Awards, Maddux placed in the top five in the balloting another five times. He also appeared in eight All-Star Games and won more Gold Gloves (18) than any other player in history.
The Atlanta Braves inducted Maddux into their Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at Atlanta's Omni Hotel on July 17, 2009. Longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox commented during the banquet festivities, "I get asked all the time was he the best pitcher I ever saw. Was he the smartest pitcher I ever saw? The most competitive I ever saw? The best teammate I ever saw? The answer is yes to all of those."
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