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Greg Maddux needles Mets, offers wisdom, will be missed

Prior to Mets-Braves last night, Greg Maduxhad his number 31 retired at Turner Field. And after a nice ceremony, Maddux concluded his remarks with this gem: “Let’s beat the Mets ... like old times.” Who knew that Greg Maddux was funny? Even as a Mets fan, that slayed me. And his matter-of-fact delivery just forces you to nod your head begrudgingly in agreement.

Later, in an interview with WPIX’s Kevin Burkhardt, Maddux was asked about setting hitters up. Within his answer, he noted that he “still had to play to a hitter’s strengths in order to keep their weaknesses.” Loved that, and not just because it sounds like something you might hear Phil Jacksonsay. It goes in line with the stories that Maddux purposefully threw (what appeared to be) meatball changeups to hitters, but placed them just far enough inside so they’d pull them foul.

Maddux will be most remembered for his whiffleball movement, ready-to-field-the-position delivery, and masterful precision. But here’s three more underrated things that stick out and make him unique:

  1. In the 90’s, just about everyone had switched to the solid color sock, and some guys had brought back the knee-high look. But Maddux always had his pants stop right below his calf so there were like 6-8 inches of sock before his shoe. And when stirrups went out of fashion, he still wore those white socks that had the colored line stitched in. The problem was, if you wore low-tops, the stitch ended before the cleat started and solid white showed at the bottom. Fashion disaster. I guess you can wear whatever you want when your ERA is like a 1.50.
  2. He despised pitching to Braves catcher Javy Lopez, and eventually had his own personal catcher. So even though Lopez was one of the better hitting catchers in baseball at that time, Bobby Cox would have to pencil in the likes of Charlie O’Brien and Eddie Perez every five days.
  3. When he wasn’t pitching, there was a 50-50 chance that if the television cameras shot him on the bench, he was picking his nose. It probably only happened a few times, but those few images are burned into my brain. And this was before Joe Torre perfected it.

Maddux will be missed.

Finally, now that Maddux has his number retired by both the Cubs and the Braves, here’s the list of players who have been honored by multiple clubs:

  • Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers)
  • Rod Carew (Twins, Angels)
  • Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees)
  • Carlton Fisk (White Sox, Red Sox)
  • Frank Robinson (Orioles, Reds)
  • Rollie Fingers (A’s, Brewers)
  • Hank Aaron (Braves, Brewers)
  • Casey Stengel (Mets, Yankees)