Sunday, December 7, 2008

A brief tribute to Greg Maddux

One of my favorite players of all time will announce his retirement Monday at baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas. Greg Maddux, 42, will ride off into the sunet with his four Cy Youngs and as the winningest pitcher alive, and knowing him, it'll be an understated press conference followed by a modest and quiet retirement. He never was one to make much noise, though he had a game that could inspire a million words (and has -- an example worth reading would be Tom Verducci's story, which was anthologized in SI's Great Baseball Writing).

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski wrote, "You can list the number of great Maddux on-the-record quotes on the back of a Sweet'N Low packet," but that's not exactly true. As Verducci relates in his recent online column, "I dislike absolutes, but of this I am sure: Greg Maddux is the most fascinating interview, the smartest baseball player and the most highly formed baseball player I have encountered in 27 years covering major league baseball." And to prove it, there follows a list of quotes and anecdotes that make you sit back and wonder what sort of artist we've just lost the pleasure of seeing.

Verducci concludes:

This appreciation, not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic of Maddux, no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra. Maddux is synonymous with the art of pitching. He was that good. Never again will we see, or hear, anyone quite like him.

And for the record, our favorite Maddux quote has to be, "I guess it's funnier when he tells the joke without wearing any clothes." [San Diego Union-Tribune].

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