14 April 2008


Great article on the genius of Greg Maddux:

How many times had he heard someone say it? How many times over the past 22 years had some catcher or coach or broadcaster said, "Greg Maddux? I bet you could catch him with your eyes closed"? Sounded plausible enough, maybe coaxed a chuckle or two from the pitcher, but mostly it was just something to say. Nobody realized it was just a matter of time before somebody decided to prove it.

This was in mid-September, in the home bullpen at Petco Park. Maddux, the human metronome, kept going into his windup with the same hands-over-the-head motion he's used since he was a kid in Las Vegas. Pitch after pitch hit the mitt, wherever it was placed, like always. Padres bullpen catcher Ben Risinger, perhaps bored with the persistent perfection of it all, turned to bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds and said, "I bet I could catch him with my eyes closed."

That was all fine and rhetorical until Akerfelds said, "Okay, let's go for it."

. . .

In person, Maddux is kind of goofy, with a double-chinned, slack-jawed look of wonder that must be a put-on. Maybe this is the way of the genius, or the savant. Did Caravaggio have to explain every brushstroke? Would it have diminished his achievements if he did? Greg's older brother, Mike, pitching coach for the Brewers, becomes defensive when asked about Greg's reticence, saying, "Magicians don't tell everyone their tricks, do they? I bet David Copperfield would be a tough interview too."

Self-reflection is not a priority. Maddux has spent his adult life in the eternal childhood of the big league clubhouse. There's no other place on earth quite like it. One morning this spring in Peoria, Ariz., he sat at his corner locker with a plate of bacon and eggs on his lap, talking about pitching. He was running some sort of low-stakes golf pool out of the corner of his eye, passing out papers and collecting money without turning his head. At one point, in midsentence and without warning, he winced like a man about to pass a stone, lifted his left cheek off the chair and let loose. "Whoa, wow, sorry about that," he said, then continued with the eggs and the discussion and the golf pool. So add that to the Maddux scouting report: bats right, throws right, farts left.

Here's the whole, great thing.


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