By Steve Hummer | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
They will separate out greatness once more next Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., skimming the ocean of baseball for the wispiest foam atop the highest wave.
How do you explain what brought them to baseball’s Hall of Fame? History is filled with voices speaking on the subject of being singular, and they offer some clue.
Some do it classically.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare.
Others have the more common touch.
“Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” pitcher Satchel Paige.
This much is certain, there is no one mold for greatness.
Why, you can even play in Atlanta and achieve it. That will be loudly proven next week when Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux make up fully half of the Class of 2014. It surely is the grandest expression of Braves baseball that ever was. Maybe the grandest that ever will be.
“Good and great are seldom in the same man,” Winston Churchill once said. For a brief moment in a city that hungered for any kind of superlative, these three men left good at the door and did something better with their time in Atlanta.
There is the long way around to acclaim.
“The recipe for greatness? To bear up under loss, to fight the bitterness of defeat and the weakness of grief, to be victor over anger, to smile when tears are close, to resist evil men and base instincts, that hate hate and to love love, to go on when it would seem good to die, to seek ever after the glory and the dream, to look up with unquenchable faith in something evermore about to be, that is what any man can do, and so be great.” Zane Grey.
Or, you can just do it the Maddux and Glavine way, and etch your name on the borders of the strike zone and claim them as your own.
Yeah, all they did was play baseball. And Michelangelo was just a ceiling painter.
“You’ve got to have an attitude if you”re going to go far in this game,” said Bob Gibson, the definition of attitude when he pitched. With Glavine, Maddux and Cox, theirs was an undeniable competitive fierceness, whether it was being ejected at a record rate, or screaming at your hitters to provide just one bleeping run in a World Series game, or tearing through lineups at breakneck speed, butchering each batter with the sharpest of knives.
They made it look easy and natural, but we know it can’t be or that building in Cooperstown would have to be the size of all of New York. As that sage Dolly Parton once said, “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”
We have spoken of greatness for as long as we have aspired to it. The subject never grows tired.
“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you,” Walter Payton, a better than good running back, once said.
Here are a few more speaking specifically on the greatness of the Braves Hall of Fame trio. So, please, do tell.
By Tom Stinson | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The outfielder played 15 years in the majors and grew to appreciate how uncomplicated Cox made the game in his five seasons in Atlanta.
He said, ‘Go play. You guys learned how to play this game in the minor leagues. Go out there and play. As long as you give me 110 percent, we won’t have any problems.’ And that’s what all players want to play for.
For decades, Braves fans watched the games and broke down the performances of Cox’s teams. The players and their statistics, they knew. But how those teams operated behind the clubhouse doors, the atmosphere that Cox created over all those years, the fans would never know. For the two-time Cy Young winner, Cox’s manner with his teams may have been his highest attribute.
His demeanor was perfect for what you’re trying to accomplish over the long haul. Over the course of 162 games, you’re going to have good stretches and youre going to have bad stretches. As much as people hated to hear it, particularly in the media, you hear your cliches about keeping an even keel. You know, that works, especially in that sport.
Bobby was so good at setting that tone and setting that example. He never really got too excited about when we were playing really well. Every now and then, he’d get really pissed if we weren’t playing good and he’d let us know it. And not very often. He was very good at having a well-timed team meeting or a well-timed snap where he just went off and let us know.
But aside from that, he was pretty even-keeled. He always saw, or at least portrayed, that there was a silver lining somewhere. I think as a team, you sense that. Over 162 games, you kind of had that calming force around you and we just went about our business.
Eleven of Cox’s former coaches and players went on to manage in the major leagues. For the Colorado manager who spent 1998-2000 with the Braves, Cox’s clubhouse was almost a laboratory.
The greatest thing about Bobby, he was the best I’ve ever been around at creating loyalty amongst the group because of the way he treated people. The respect he gave to the game and the players, even the opponent, all aspects of the game, came back many times over because of the type of person he was and the way he treated people. That’s the biggest thing I took from Bobby.
While Cox’s teams were synonymous with pitching, their care and efficiency for years was accredited to pitching coach. But that coach insists there was a higher office overlooking all those standout staffs: Cox himself.
What separates Bobby Cox from everybody going into the Hall of Fame as managers, nobody ever handled pitching staffs and pitchers the way Bobby Cox did. He made them the first-class citizens of the team. He understood what they went through emotionally. Instead of some guy with a big mouth hollering, ‘What are you doing throwing that?’ How can you throw him this?, he never second-guessed anybody.
Perched on the dugout railing when his team was at bat, Cox was picked up on nightly telecasts chirping encouragement at whomever at the plate. Some nights, it sounded random, other night it sounded corny. But to those in uniform, it was genuine, according to the career backup and then the bullpen coach for nine years with Cox.
I knew he was a good manager, but the thing that most impressed me was how good a friend he is, how good a person. In the field, he was really good, but he was way better in the clubhouse, in the street, in the hotel, on the plane. The best thing I learn from him is that everyone who came to play for him played hard for him. Because he cared about every player.
The media long ago gave up trying to get honest criticism from Cox after games. His remarks about players’ performances were glowing or neutral at best. But for his players seeking candor, the long-time reserve infielder said Cox could provide that, too.
He always used to say – and one thing I love about Bobby – he always used to say, ‘My door is always open.’ And I was always a guy who, hey, if you say your door is open, then I want to come talk to you and see where I stand.
There were multiple occasions during my tenure with the Braves where we would sit down and have honest conversations about where he felt I needed to get better or what the organizational outlook on my career was. Brutal truth, stuff that I didn’t necessarily want to hear, all of it. But I never questioned where I stood.
He pitched 20 seasons in Atlanta before leaving for a final year in Boston and St. Louis. He might have left well before then, given the free-agent market for Cy Young winners. But he preferred to remain in Atlanta just to pitch for Cox.
Unequivocally, he was the reason for staying here. There was no other reason. I’m going to say the right things like my family always comes first. But families move. I didn’t want to move away from this man and how he ran his ship. I wanted to a part of it as long as I could. I did and I took full advantage of it.
By Carroll Rogers | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The pitching coach for the Braves, and Glavine, for 16 years.
I think that the greatest compliment I gave Glav in the middle of his run was he was the Atlanta Braves version of Whitey Ford.
Whitey Ford was one of the greatest left-handers in the history of the game for the New York Yankees and he wasn’t a huge in stature guy and Whitey was a tremendous pitcher with great touch on the ball. And Tommy was the same way, a tremendous pitcher with great touch on the ball. Tommy had the greatest motion on a change-up I’ve ever seen, and that motion was that you couldn’t tell (whether it was a fastball or change-up).
He was a master at changing speeds, a master of down and away, hard and soft. What a lot of managers told me about him, they said ‘We know where he’s going to be and we still can’t do anything about it.’ Tommy made a comment to me one time, he said, ‘You know Leo, hitters have egos and I’m going to take advantage of them.’
Here’s another thing that I respected the most about Tom Glavine. No. 1, he said I just as soon come up a day early than pitch a day late. No. 2, he would go to the post when his arm would bother him. He still felt if he wasn’t 100 percent that he could go to the post and not only pitch but win. He pitched with a broken rib. He pitched with bone spurs in his shoulder his entire career. It’s a mindset. And what I loved about Tommy? He was stubborn. I think the greatest pitchers are stubborn. Tommy was a master of never giving in to the strike zone. He wouldn’t give into a guy in spring training. We were in Jupiter one time against the Cardinals and he pitched around a guy. I said ‘Did you pitch around that guy?’ He said ‘yeah.’ I said, Its spring training. He goes, I don’t care.’
The only time you went out to the mound to talk to Glavine, you had a purpose. When you talk to Maddux and Glavine on the mound, there’s no reason to B.S. nobody. But it was always either to make sure he didn’t go to his change-up a little too often. If he did that real early in the game a lot, I thought every once in awhile he’d get in a little prevent defense but that was it. Tommy had a very thick skin, so your presentation as to what you wanted to get done with him could be a little more firm. With Smoltzie it had to be a little more comical or a lighter presentation. And then with Maddux it was businesslike. You had three different personalities pretty much the same results with different styles.
A lot of people think his greatest win was 1-0 against Cleveland (in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series), well, of course, it was. And he came into the dugout in the fifth inning, he said, ‘Will somebody score a run because they’re not.’ Bobby goes, ‘Did you hear that, Leo?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ It was very unGlavinelike.
One of his other greatest wins was when he beat Toronto in the first game of the ’92 World Series because he’d gotten knocked out early against Pittsburgh. Everybody was saying oh you cant start Glavine in the first game of the ’92 World Series. C’mon, give me a break. He threw a complete game and won 3-1. He and I went out to the ballpark early and he was on a mission.
A Braves teammate for 16 seasons, the pitcher turned broadcaster should be joining his former mates in the Hall in 2015.
It was tough watching Tommy from afar when he was with the Mets, but then it was the most invigorating. You want to talk about getting the best out of both of us when we faced each other. The play I made against him when he was with the Mets, when he a little dribbler down the line – that’s my greatest play I’ve ever made in my life. For that to happen against him is priceless. You know the play that Chipper (Jones) would come in and barehand? Well I made the play in front of Chipper. I ended up almost in the third base coaching box when I threw it. The only reason that I could make that play is because he didn’t run very well, and so when he crossed first base – and I’ve seen it in the replay – he mouthed to the first base coach, ‘Who made that play?’ You can see the coach give the answer, and he just put his head down. And I told him, it’s the greatest play, I’ll live that for the rest of my life. It’ll be the play that well talk about forever.
He was always ready to go, ready to play (golf included.) I always say the funniest story – and it epitomizes what he was – we were playing at his course, Country Club of the South. There were three holes left. He was walking across just a little stone bridge, that I had already walked across. I got across and I heard splash. And I turn around and all I see is Tommy buried up to (his chest) in the water. The brick gave way and he went right in. He lost a club. And he got up out of the creek and I am laughing uncontrollably, I mean to the point where I can’t get the sound out of my head. Every time I go to stand over the club, all I hear is this (splish). Well he walked right up to his house, changed clothes, came down and finished the round. And thats kind of the way he was.
Later on in our years, I ended up beating him for my 200th win. The irony is just I’ll never forget it. And he told me, he goes: ‘I may not remember my 200th win, but you’ll never forget your 200th win.’ I said you’re right.
A former backup Marlins catcher and career .287 hitter, he went 21-for-48 (.438) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs off Glavine.
For whatever reason I had a lot of success against Glav and I remember having some fun games and a lot of laughs from Braves guys. I remember Chipper Jones coming to the plate a lot going Hey, Red, man, what a shocker youre in the lineup today. I remember Mike Mordecai used to always tell, me, ‘Hey, Red, did you send that limo to pick up Glavine tonight make sure he gets to the game?’ We had some laughs. Everybody was excited, especially me because No. 1 I got to play. And I always felt like I had a chance to do something. For whatever reason, I got quite a few hits off him but always respected him and the way he pitched.
He wasn’t an overpowering guy so that fit in to my bat speed and my approach. Believe me, there were some bloopers and rollovers and cheap hits along the way. It was fun. It’s fun now to talk about it. At least it’s a good story to be able to tell that I had a lot of success against a Hall of Famer.
Over the 13 years I don’t remember specifics, (but) I remember having some big games at some times where I was on the cusp getting sent out. I told Glav, ‘Hey, man, you kept me in the big leagues.’
A Braves teammate for nine years and a future Hall of Famer himself.
I think most people would tell you, the thought of facing a Tom Glavine at 6:30 in the evening didn’t strike fear in anybody’s minds or hearts, but more times than not, you walked away at 11 o’clock that night with an 0-for-4 and a loss. And I think that’s part of what made him so great. It’s not like walking up to the plate against Randy Johnson or a Pedro Martinez. I think every hitter at some point against those guys feared embarrassment. You didn’t have that feeling walking up to the plate against Tom Glavine. You had the feeling ‘OK, I’m going to put the ball in play somewhere.’ You just hope he makes a mistake, you can hit it hard. Tommy just never made those mistakes.
When I see a pitcher with a big ego and a big fastball, I’m licking my chops. I can’t wait to face guys like that. The guys like Glav who know that they can’t blow it by you, those are the ones I have problems with because they get their jollies by off-speeding you early in the count and then breaking your bat with two strikes on an 88 mph fastball late. And I mean I can almost hear him giggling inside of his own head when he goes, change-up, backdoor breaking ball, change-up, change-up. 88 mph chainsaw in on the hands and you hit a groundball to short. Your bat goes farther than the baseball.
The Billerica, Mass., high school baseball coach during Glavine’s four years.
He was 15 years old as a freshman in high school and came out for the baseball team. He was quite impressive so he made the varsity as a freshman. There was no holding him back after that. He had a nice easy delivery and a little pop on the ball. I know he made his major-league mark with his change-up but he threw hard as a young kid, but it was smooth so it looked effortless the way he threw it.
He was a center fielder and a first baseman with the rotation we had. The day after hed pitch, he’d play first and then he’d move out to center and give his arm some rest. One of his most memorable games was the state championship game his junior year. He pitched a nine-inning game, and he went out to center field after nine. We went 13 innings, but he threw out a runner at the plate (to save the game), who went in standing up thinking he was going to score easily. That’s a pretty amazing feat after throwing nine innings.
(The runner) was a Marciano (Peter Marciano, the great nephew of boxing great Rocky Marciano) that went on to Iowa to be a wide receiver. He went in standing up, thinking there was no way he was going to get thrown out, and he was thrown out by about 20 feet.
The long-time Braves broadcaster is a Hall of Fame pitcher himself.
For me, other than (my induction), I think it is my favorite person I’ve ever had go in (to the Hall of Fame) having known him since he was a baby to watch most of all the good things that he did. I think probably it’s the only player I really feel like I’m kind of sharing the moment with.
I think I will always remember the class, the upfrontness, the sense of self-worth that he felt after that outing for New York when he got rat-a-tatted the last game of the season (that kept them out of the postseason in 2007.) He didn’t shirk away from stepping up and saying, ‘This is the way it happened.’ This is what happened. A lot of people would have run and hid and not walked out to face it. What that told me about him is that he prepares to do well, but he has this sense of self-worth and security to respond when it doesn’t go well. To me, that’s a complete man. I just think that anybody can be nice and everybody’s loved when you’re on top of the world, but I think going that extra mile and showing people who you are when things aren’t going well is a true measure of a man. I feel like I have been very fortunate to have watched him all these years and to maybe even vicariously lived and enjoyed some of his ballgames. I know some of the personal struggles but when I look at him, I see a guy, he would have done the same thing if he’d have been in the military, if he’d have been an engineer, if he’d have been a carpenter, if he’d have been a construction worker, if hed have been a truck driver. He would have gone about any profession he was in the same way: embrace it, plan, prepare and deliver your best effort, and to me that’s the measure of that personality.
By Steve Hummer | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On Dec. 9, 1992, Maddux left Chicago to sign as a free agent with the Braves. In doing so, he turned down an offer from the New York Yankees that would have paid him nearly $9 million more over five years. His agent recounts how the deal was done and how close it came to almost not happening.
The main thing was, Bobby Cox wanted Greg Maddux. Cox just said we have to find a home for (Charlie) Leibrandt (to clear salary).
Gene Michael was the Yankees general manager. He kept saying, ‘I want to get this done, I want to get this done.’ But he needed consent (to increase their offer).
Greg and his wife Kathy had gone to New York to see how they’d like their new life there. He had called me back and gave me an OK to sign with the Yankees. They had a flight from New York back to their home in Las Vegas and I kept contacting the Braves because Greg told me he wanted to play in the National League. Before I agreed to anything with the Yankees I wanted to make sure I exhausted everything with the Braves. I told them, look, you have a window of couple hours. Bobby kept saying, ‘Hold on, hold on, don’t do anything.’
Literally before Greg touched down, I had to make a decision. The Braves made the deal with Texas (to trade Leibrandt) and I told the Yankees he’s going to want to go to the Braves. Greg was flying back from New York, landed and found out he was going to the Braves.’
He caught more of Greg Maddux’s games than anyone (121). He since has gone from behind the plate for the Braves to the bullpen, where he coaches. And if anybody out there asks, he’s happy to spin a Maddux story or two. When trying to explain Maddux’s beautiful mind, Perez often invokes the example of former Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell.
He set it up for Bags, sometime gave up hits to him. He gave up a homer to him one time when we were playing in the other stadium (Atlanta Fulton-County). I was mad. He was throwing a good game, throwing a shutout, I think.
I asked him why he did that. He said, ‘We’re going to play them in the playoffs and he’s going to be looking for that pitch (fastball away) but were not going to throw it. I was like, yeah, dude, whatever. I wanted the shutout.
Two months later we’re in the playoffs. We struck him out with bases loaded. He threw three straight changes and struck him out. Walking back to the dugout, he goes, ‘Hey, you remember two months ago? He was looking for that (other) pitch.’ And I had already forgotten about it.
Last of spring training one year, Bagwell goes to hit and (Maddux) says, ‘Hey, we’re going to throw him a spit ball.’ I was like, ‘Really? Why?’ He said to just call it, be like a change-up.
I call the pitch. Bagwell turns around and says, ‘Eddie! Eddie! What was that?’ Bagwell never called me by my name. I said, ‘I dont know, I called for a change-up and that’s what he threw.’
When we got back to the dugout, Maddux said, ‘All right, we got him now.’ He’s going to think about that pitch. He said that was the last time he’d throw it. He just wanted to make him think.
The four consecutive Cy Young Awards (1992-95) only occupied a small portion of Madduxs trophy case. How about the 18 Gold Glove awards for his fielding prowess? His father traces that skill to his childhood.
When he and his brother were boys, I’d hit them ground balls and ground balls and ground balls. Greg was only 4 or 5 years old when we started.
I tell everybody I can’t take any credit for his pitching, but those 18 Gold Gloves I think I have part ownership in those because I’d hit them ground balls for two hours every night. He loved the game. I’d hit him balls two hours a night and he’d want four. He just wore me out.
One person who can’t be at Cooperstown was one of Maddux’s early mentors. Ralph Medar died when Greg was a senior at Las Vegas Valley High School. Maddux’s older brother Mike, now the Texas Rangers pitching coach, explains Medar’s influence.
Ralph was introduced to us when we moved to Las Vegas. He was a baseball lifer, a birddog-scout type guy, a batboy when he was a kid, who came to the desert for health reasons. He would invite high school kids out just to play pick-up games. Kind of select ball before there was select ball. It was a composite of guys from the Valley who were baseball rats.
There’d be a dozen to 15 of us go out there. We didn’t have enough for two teams. You’d get your innings, get your at-bats and go play a position that needed to be filled. We played all over the joint.
He’d save scouts a lot of time, tell them rather than watch the high school games just come out here to see the best in the Valley. He gave us a venue to show our stuff.
Greg was a seventh grader when he started, the youngest guy on the field. Talk about playing over your head. Guys who were pro players would come back. Those who went off to college came back and played.
It was real world, survival of the fittest, no entitlement. It wasnt Little League anymore.
Ralph helped out you with the idea that you don’t have to throw the next pitch harder; you might want to throw the next pitch softer.
Ralph really mentored Greg, taught him about changing speeds. He pitched at a very young age where the rest of us were throwing.
Who went deep against Maddux more than anyone? If you immediately thought of former Houston and Arizona outfielder Gonzalez, give yourself a hardy attaboy. Ten of his career 354 homers came off the Hall of Famer.
I had my first two major-league homers off him; hit them the same day (May 1, 1991, Wrigley Field).
You have those parks or players you have success against, that you just feel overly confident when you come to the ballpark. You don’t try to figure it out, you just try to see the ball and hit it.
He’s the professor. That whole Braves staff was Picasso. They could paint in, out, up and down. I felt he was going to try to get me overthinking and I tried to stay stupid up there. That was my best approach to try to hit him.
It’s kind of funny because everybody talked about how I hit him whenever we played them. It’s a nice honor to have, especially against a guy who was as terrific as he was.
Of all the players with at least 50 plate appearances against Maddux, the former catcher (Montreal for six seasons before moving to the American League) has the lowest batting average against him – .152. Through 14 major-league seasons, he was a career .269 hitter.
The old adage of the comfortable 0-for-4 – Greg Maddux was the epitome of that.
He didn’t need to hit 90 (on the radar gun). If he tried to overthrow his pitches and pick up velocity he would lose movement and his thing was movement. He knew he needed to stick in that 86-90 range.
I was a lefty who crowded the plate and I think that he feasted off lefties who crowded the plate because he tied you up so easily with that cutter in and the fastball in. I was too stubborn to ever back off the plate against him.
He was an innovator. He threw that front-door fastball to lefties – a sinker that looked like he threw it at your front hip and tried to bring it back over the inside part of the plate. It was a different idea how to use that pitch.
And his cutter maybe wasn’t has hard a Mariano Rivera’s. But it was just as deceptive.