It was my good fortune to get to know him and to take numerous photos of Greg Maddux at Turner Field, as well as during Spring Training in Florida. The photos are a mixture of Maddux, mostly with the Braves, but also the Cubs, and Padres
Maddux pitched 10 seasons for the Chicago Cubs, winning 133 games and a Cy Young award. Chicago even retired his number in 2009. But there's no doubt he is best remembered for his 11 seasons in Atlanta, when he won three Cy Youngs and four ERA titles and made 25 post-season starts. He pitched in the World Series in 1995, 1996 and 1999 as a member of the Braves. The Braves have retired his number (#31).
I was in awe of this four-time Cy Young winner having watched him on TV and read a bit about his life and career. In September, 2000, I had the opportunity to meet him when I began covering the Braves at Turner Field for The Chattanoogan.
My first interview with him confirmed what I'd read: he learned to pitch from an older gentleman in his neighborhood. His neighbor taught him many of the mechanics that he later applied almost to perfection. He gave a lot of credit to this man, but told me that the man died before Maddux made it to the Majors.
Maddux was the same person whether he had a good day or bad day pitching. There were games when he was awful but he was always willing to talk to the media. In his comments after a bad game, he would not dwell on his failures, or blame his teammates or the umpires. He admitted to his mistakes and looked forward to his next start in five days. Likewise, following an outstanding performance, he would not talk about his performance but often commended his teammates for their hitting or defensive work.
He was competitive, but his main competition was with himself. He was always about learning, improving, and doing his job successfully. He was about pitching well enough to give his team the chance to win the game.
What was his secret? Maddux said at one point in his career: "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's 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, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas will be inducted on July 27. Joining the two former Braves pitchers on the stage in Cooperstown that day will be their beloved skipper, Bobby Cox, who, along with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, became a part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class through an Expansion Era Committee vote in December.