Greg Maddux is nothing but a big phony, I tell you!

Why give him a plaque? He'll just toss it in the back of his car. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Why give him a plaque? He'll just toss it in the car. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A slew of words have been tossed around these past few days in order to characterize Greg Maddux, and I’d like to add a new one:

Phony.

The man, I’m telling you, was a total fraud. He tried to come off as just another guy trying “to make pitches” and “get guys out,” and there’s a Fox Sports interview from the ’90s — it’s available from YouTube and can be viewed below — in which he discusses what a lousy student he was in high school.

Lousy student. Yeah, right.

Smartest ballplayer ever.

Three hundred fifty-five wins with a fastball that wouldn’t get clocked for speeding on the Downtown Connector. Seventeen consecutive 15-win seasons with pitches that shouldn’t have fooled anybody but bumfuzzled everybody.

The Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel (who had a lousy fastball himself) famously said: “Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.” That was Mad Dog. He saw everything. He knew everything.

Mark Lemke: “He’d call me over and say, ‘Move to your left two pitches from now.’ Not on the next pitch, but the pitch after that. He said, ‘I’m going to throw something he’ll foul off, and then I’m going to throw him a slider he’ll ground into the hole.’ ”

Terry Pendleton: “We were in Cincinnati one night and Bret Boone kept fouling off fastballs, and I went to the mound and said, ‘You could get him with a slider.’ And Doggie said, ‘Yeah, but I want to save that for when runners are in scoring position.’ ”

Leo Mazzone: “We were having our pitchers’ meeting before the 1996 World Series and we were going over the scouting report. It said to pitch Bernie Williams a certain way. Maddux said, ‘That’s not right. I’ve watched every game they’ve played the last two weeks and he’s killing that pitch.’ And I said, ‘We’ll go with Doggie on this one.’ ”

(Postscript: Bernie Williams faced Maddux three times in Game 2. He went 0-for-3.)

He saw everything. He knew everything. He remembered everything. Bobby Cox tells this Doggie tale:

Andy Benes was pitching for Arizona and plunked a Braves’ hitter. Cox told his men after the game, “Next time we play them, Benes better go down!” Well, the Braves didn’t play Arizona again that season or in the first weeks of the next. And one day Maddux walks into Cox’s office and said, “Still stand?”

Said Cox: “What are you talking about?”

Said Maddux: “That thing with Benes. Still stand?”

Said Cox, who’d forgotten such a edict was ever levied: “Damn right!”

First at-bat that night, Andy Benes ate dirt.

Smartest ballplayer ever. Biggest phony ever. Tried to make it seem as if he was unarmed — of Randy Johnson, Maddux once said: “His slider is faster than my fastball” — but in truth was possessed of the greatest weapon in the game. The Maddux brain.

One thing more about our Einstein: He was also a raging slob.

Lemke: “When we trained in West Palm, I’d take a look in Maddux’s car the last week and the thing would be a disaster. He’d hit Burger King every morning and he’d just turn around and — whoosh — toss [the cups and wrappers] into the back seat.”

On Friday the Braves inducted this con artist into their Hall of Famer and retired the Sultan of Sloth’s number. Even Maddux, who’s never fazed, seemed moved by the ovation he received at Turner Field. And then he gave an unmemorable speech that concluded with, “Let’s go beat the Mets.” The man always could focus.

Smartest ballplayer ever. Greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen. Greatest pitcher I’ll ever see.

Another Maddux story, this from Pete Van Wieren: “In Montreal they used to have a big bowl of jellybeans in the clubhouse, and Gerald Williams would come in every day and pick out the red ones. One day got to the ballpark two hours early and dumped the whole bowl and took out all the red ones. Took him a couple of hours, but he just wanted to sit in the corner and snicker when Gerald came in and started looking for the red jellybeans.”


154 comments Add your comment

[...] OK, here’s the column: In which I reveal for the first time that Greg Maddux is a phony. [...]

Ken Stallings

July 17th, 2009
6:31 pm

Great column! Perhaps the most entertaining written recently about Maddux. You dug deep for nuggets and they read wonderfully.

Mark C.

July 17th, 2009
6:32 pm

I don’t know what a male corsage is called, I just know I haven’t worn one since senior prom.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 17th, 2009
6:37 pm

Isn’t it nice that not all those that find sucess are ego-maniacs.

Samm

July 17th, 2009
6:43 pm

MB you right entirely to many blogs. how are we(those who dont work around a computer all day) supposed to keep up?

Old Blue

July 17th, 2009
6:50 pm

It is so very obvious. . . Greg Maddox would never make it as a professional wrestler.

Joshhh...

July 17th, 2009
6:50 pm

Great article & awesome interview…Maddux is like none other…
He’s definitely in a league of his own…

Tony from Stone Mountain

July 17th, 2009
6:51 pm

I loved this column.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
6:52 pm

Thanks, Ken. But you really don’t have to dig. Just ask a Maddux teammate, “Tell me a Maddux story” and you’ll get a good one.

Thunderbull56

July 17th, 2009
6:56 pm

Woff, woof, and Teddy Ballgame said all pitchers were dunches.Congrats to Gregg.I’ll admit,I missed few of his games during his stellar time with the Braves.

MightyQuinn

July 17th, 2009
6:56 pm

I had season tix from ‘96 to ‘00, then got married and financial priorities changed. But I remember going to the park one day when the Braves were playing the Cubs, I believe. They were finishing a suspended game and then playing a complete game and Maddux was pitching. I went that day planning on a longer day than usual at the Ted. Maddux pitched a complete game in about an hour and fifty minutes. I was home in less than usual time. He was brilliant.

rhynster

July 17th, 2009
6:57 pm

Bradley, you’ve become my favorite sportswriter by far.

This was the best article I’ve read about Maddux out of the entire deluge of articles written in the last week.

You oughta be syndicated.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
6:58 pm

Thanks, Tony. Thanks, Rynster. (And please: Call me “Mark.”)

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 17th, 2009
6:58 pm

The only thing to match Mad Dog’s intelligence is his humility and that is what makes the man truly great, not just at baseball but in life. It was an honor to have seen Greg pitch.

Dave

July 17th, 2009
6:59 pm

Very nicely written.

La Jolla Dawg

July 17th, 2009
7:22 pm

Great column Mark. I am glad I got to see Maddux pitch here in San Diego. Very easy to root for him regardless of the jersey. As a matter of fact, with the exception of Brett Butler and Dale Murphy, I don’t think I could say that about any other player.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
7:28 pm

Thanks, Dave. Thanks, La Jolla.

And here at the park the ceremony is set to begin. I’ve seen David Justice and Phil Niekro, and I just saw Maddux in the dugout. And Terry McGuirk and Pete Van Wieren and Don Sutton and Bill Bartholomay. And Hank. And Paul Snyder. And Murph. And Schuerholz.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
7:30 pm

Maddux not wearing a tie, BTW. Wore a tie at the luncheon at The Omni. Just for the fashionistas in our viewing audience.

Braves now filing out the dugout to ring the platform, which is sitting between home plate and the mound. Closer to the mound, for you landscapers.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
7:33 pm

Sorry. I misspoke. Hank Aaron isn’t here.

pj

July 17th, 2009
7:37 pm

The stories from lemke, pendelton and leo were great. If you’ve got more – put em up! That’s really fun to read, so I thank you MB.

I’m still not convinced that you know your stuff on the Dawgs : ) but I just said to my buddy the other day – “If Bradley’s writing about the Braves, pay attention.”

Chicks may have “dug the longball” during his run, but history will prove him as one of the top 5 players of the generation. Really glad the Braves are honoring him tonight.

country boy

July 17th, 2009
7:38 pm

Why doesn’t Don Sutton use “s” at the end of nouns ??? maddox was a treasure

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
7:43 pm

Very nice ceremony. Maddux seemed genuinely moved, which never happens. His speech was short and it ended with him saying, “Let’s go beat the Mets tonight.”

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
7:45 pm

Thanks, PJ. I do have one good one from Pete Van Wieren, which I’ll get to shortly.

Maddux and his son Chase just threw the ceremonial first pitch in tandem. Chase Maddux threw to Chipper Jones. Maddux threw to Eddie Perez, naturally.

Dell

July 17th, 2009
7:45 pm

Since T. Glavine left on bad terms, will the Braves not retire his number?

Dell

July 17th, 2009
7:47 pm

pj

July 17th, 2009
7:53 pm

I would imagine they will at some point retire Glavine, Smoltz, Cox and possibly even Chipper’s numbers. Whatcha say there MB?

woodie

July 17th, 2009
7:58 pm

Maddux is the greatest. He was always so humble when he won and yet would never blame the team when he lost 1-0. A true sports icon is he.

hayley

July 17th, 2009
7:58 pm

Let the Met’s retire Glavines!

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:02 pm

Sorry, Dell. I don’t know what happened, but two comments I posted — me, whose blog this supposedly is — just disappeared. So I’ll recap:

I imagine Glavine and the Braves will kiss and make up very soon. His will be the next number retired. And then Smoltz’s, and then Chipper’s. Cox, as we know, will be managing for 30 more years, so he’ll need his number.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:03 pm

I’ve actually got two pretty good Maddux stories that I didn’t use. I’ll tack them on at the bottom of the column above.

Braves with two on, McCann up. Bottom of the first.

Sage of Bluesland

July 17th, 2009
8:18 pm

What is Maddux’s record in the playoffs–the real season? Can’t pick up cheap wins therer, I’m afraid.

Anyone?

(Hopefully Mark Bradley won’t delete THIS post…We’ll see…)

Chris

July 17th, 2009
8:21 pm

This is such a good article Mark.
Thanks for the stories. That type of thing is so much more enriching than statistics but then of course you know that.
Maddux was a pretty lousy interview live. Some guys can do the coach speak thing better than others and he isn’t one of them but I’m guessing he’s a good interview one on one? I’ve heard stories that he can be pretty abrasive but guessing that’s mostly indicative of a biting sense of humor?

The quote by the guy from Helsinki was money as well. Thanks

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:24 pm

Finishing the Maddux column for Print. Braves lead 3-0. McCann with a two-run double and Escobar with an RBI single. Francoeur popped to left his first trip.

Bamafan

July 17th, 2009
8:26 pm

Mark, Great article and good luck Greg Maddux in the future and would love to see Greg coach the
braves pitching staff or be a manager for the braves. GO BRAVES!!

Chuckles

July 17th, 2009
8:26 pm

BTW – AP reporting Walter Cronkite is dead

Best ever

July 17th, 2009
8:27 pm

I didn’t see Spahn and Sain, but Doggie is the best Bravew pitcher I ever saw, bar none. I can think of 18-20 games that he lost 2-1 or 3-2 and nearly that many where he got no decision because of no run support. Class guy, an absolute artist on the mound, and absolutely the most unathletic looking guy in major league history. Not an unathletic slob like David Wells, just a librarian type of everyman who happened to be a dead lock first ballot Hall of Famer.
Thanks, Doggie

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:45 pm

It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but … computer just froze and I had to reboot and when it came back I noticed commenting had been shut down, which I certainly didn’t intend. But it’s open now.

Catching up: I’ve inserted a somewhat amusing — at least I think it’s amusing — Pete Van Wieren Maddux story above. And the Braves are, as Maddux advised them to do, waxing the Mets. It’s 6-0 in the bottom of the third. That man Prado has a double and a homer. That man McCann has a double and a homer and four RBIs. And Mike Pelfrey, who’s pitching for the Mets, has nothing.

Ken Stallings

July 17th, 2009
8:45 pm

Such a joy to listen to Maddux in the Braves press box with the TV announcers Joe Simpsom and Chip Caray. Two words to describe Greg Maddux? Humble genius!

Fungo

July 17th, 2009
8:48 pm

Separated at Birth: Brian McCann and Rainn “The Office” Wilson.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:51 pm

Maddux is doing radio now, I believe.

Supes

July 17th, 2009
8:53 pm

Mark, great blog/story tonight. Thank you for the stories on Maddux.

It was a great priviledge to watch him pitch for those 10 years as a Brave, I had the Mad Dog Poster growing up!

Classic end to his speech, “Lets go beat the Mets!”. Couldn’t have said it better myself

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:54 pm

Ever seen this one before: Frenchy at bat with a man on third?

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
8:58 pm

Thanks, Supes.

Francoeur’s at-bat: Fouls off a fastball, fouls off another, and another. Late on all of the above. Takes a slider in the dust. Early on a changeup, fouls it to the screen. Fouls off another fastball and is late again. (Hanging in there, though.) Takes another slider in the dirt. (Pretty good AB, huh?) Takes a fastball just off the plate. Crowd boos. It’s 3-2 now. Grounds out on a fastball that breaks his bat.

Ken Stallings

July 17th, 2009
8:59 pm

More to the result, he worked the count to 3-2 and then topped a low, outside fast ball that vice working the other way, he tried to pull!

It is a real shame to have that much talent trapped inside a stubborn and unyeilding mind that refuses to adapt and overcome!

General Patton

July 17th, 2009
8:59 pm

Mark C., the “corsage” worn by males is called a Boutonnière.

General Patton

July 17th, 2009
9:02 pm

Please offer Mad Dog the pitching coach position NOW!!!!

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
9:03 pm

From my prom days, I remember buying my date — Ms. Carla Whalen, whose dad was the principal at Mason County High — something called a nosegay. Isn’t that a floral arrangement a woman holds in her hands or wears on her wrist or something?

FYI, Ms. Whalen and I went to two proms in one night — Mason County’s and Maysville’s. Hers was better.

Mark Bradley

July 17th, 2009
9:07 pm

Maddux update: Just shook hands with the great man himself. (He stopped by the press box.) I told him, “I just called you a phony.” He laughed and said, “You’re not the first. You should hear what my wife calls me.”

General Patton

July 17th, 2009
9:14 pm

Mr. Bradley,

Yes sir, Nosegays or tussie-mussies are a handheld bouquets traditionally used for special occassions…weddings, proms sweet 16’s.

Ashley

July 17th, 2009
9:15 pm

I love when he told the Braves to beat the Mets, just like old times! Wonder what the visiting Mets thought about that?