Maddux's Hall speech filled with gratitude, humor

Four-time Cy Young Award winner takes place among game's greats

Maddux's Hall speech filled with gratitude, humor

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- While serving as his teammate in Atlanta, Tom Glavine watched Greg Maddux prepare for more than 350 starts, many of which took place in the midst of the pressure-packed postseason. But Glavine said he had never seen Maddux nervous until Sunday afternoon, when they sat in front of approximately 50,000 folks who came to Cooperstown to watch this year's Hall of Fame induction speeches.

"That was the first speech I've really ever given," Maddux said afterward. "I was kind of not sure what to expect. I actually really enjoyed writing it, because it made me think about where I started and how I got to this point, and about all of the people that helped me along the way."

Maddux had the good fortune to have two of those individuals -- Glavine and Bobby Cox -- sitting next to him, soaking in the glory of experiencing the same ultimate honor on Sunday. The three former Braves also shared the stage with Frank Thomas, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, who rounded out this year's impressive induction class.

"I've never seen Mad Dog smile so much," said Cox, who managed Maddux in Atlanta from 1993-2003. "We got [to Cooperstown] on Wednesday night. He was smiling then, and he was smiling right up to the point today when he walked right up to the microphone."

Along with providing genuine appreciation for the countless folks that helped him develop into one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Maddux also managed to keep things light with his unique wit, which led many of his former teammates to use "gross" as a word to describe him.

Unfortunately, Mike Maddux, the Rangers' pitching coach, was reminded of his younger brother's knack to compliment and embarrass within the same thought.

Rock the vote
Year Player Pct.
1992 Tom Seaver 98.84
1999 Nolan Ryan 98.79
2007 Cal Ripken 98.53
1936 Ty Cobb 98.23
1999 George Brett 98.19
1982 Hank Aaron 97.83
2007 Tony Gwynn 97.61
2014 Greg Maddux 97.20
1995 Mike Schmidt 96.52
1989 Johnny Bench 96.42
Teammate Tom Glavine received 91.9 percent of the vote, while fellow inductee Frank Thomas recorded 83.2 percent.

"My brother Mike led by example," Greg Maddux said. "Everything I was about to do on and off the field, he had already done. I was very fortunate to have a brother to learn from. He even taught me about science. It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny."

While Maddux might not end up being the last 355-game winner to enter the Hall of Fame, he certainly seems destined to be the only man to reference igniting flatulence during an induction speech.

But this was genuine Maddux, who spent more than 20 Major League seasons entertaining teammates with uncanny precision on the mound and an ornery persona that kept things light in the clubhouse.

When it came time for Maddux to thank Eddie Perez, Paul Bako, Damon Berryhill, Henry Blanco and the others who served as his catcher, he said, "I used to get a nice chuckle when they got hit in the face by foul tips." Those men who had the pleasure to catch him knew there was never any malicious nature to the fact that he found some humor in the routine foul tip jarring a catcher's mask.

At 48 years old, Maddux still has some of that youthful persona he possessed when the Cubs selected him in the second round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft. He has spent the 30 years that have followed benefiting from the many men who provided the guidance that eventually led to four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards and the eighth-most wins of all-time, the second most among those who pitched after 1930.

Maddux credited the foundation of his pitching skills to the opportunity he had to be introduced to Ralph Meder, a longtime baseball coach who helped youth players in Las Vegas. Meder was the first to stress to a 14-year-old Maddux that location and movement would trump velocity as he got older.

"[Former Cubs pitching coach] Billy Connors asked, 'Do you ever wonder how good you can be?'" Maddux said. "Of course, I said, 'No.' He said, 'Why don't you go out there and find out?' I've been trying to find the answer to that question every day since."

During his days with the Cubs, Maddux was introduced to current Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who helped him develop his changeup; Jim Wright, who stressed the importance of locating on both sides of the plate; and Dick Pole, who focused on the development of a consistent delivery and sound pitch selection.

Maddux also credited former Cubs manager Don Zimmer for teaching him "there is a difference between winning and pitching just good enough to lose."

Given that Maddux has been described as one of the most cerebral hurlers in baseball history, it might not be surprising that he described sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman as "one of the best coaches I've ever had."

By the time Maddux arrived in Atlanta before the start of the 1993 season, he had already won the first of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards. Still, he appreciated the passion possessed by his longtime Braves pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, and the winning culture that Cox created and procured for more than two decades.

Like Glavine, Maddux also took time to credit longtime Braves physician Dr. Joe Chandler, who provided the care necessary for the two Hall of Famers to pitch 10 consecutive seasons together and combine for just one disabled list stint in the process.

"Bobby taught us how to play winning baseball, and enjoy our time away from the park," Maddux said. "Thank God, David Justice hit that big home run when he did, and Glav threw one more clutch game."

Justice's home run and Glavine's clutch performance in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series gave Maddux what he considers to be his greatest accomplishment -- his only World Series championship. He spent seven more seasons in Atlanta developing brotherly bonds with Glavine and John Smoltz, who might become a first-ballot Hall of Famer next year.

"The next seven years was spent winning division titles, watching the kids grow up and watching John Smoltz's hairline recede," Maddux said, while providing yet another chance to laugh during Sunday's speech.

Once Maddux exited Atlanta after the 2003 season, he returned to the Cubs, where he developed a close friendship with general manager Jim Hendry, who was present for this weekend's events. He then ended his career closer to his Las Vegas home while enjoying stints with the Padres and Dodgers.

"I learned more about throwing the changeup a better way from [Padres pitching coach] Darren Balsley," Maddux said. "That was 24 years after learning from Rick Kranitz. That just goes to show you that no matter how old you are, you're still looking to get better."

Mission accomplished for Maddux and the many who helped him do so.

"It's sort of hard to believe I'm standing here today," Maddux said. "I never gave a thought about the Hall of Fame as I was going through my career. My goal as a baseball player was very simple: All I wanted to do was try to get better for my next start. To think it all ended up here is pretty cool."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.