Greg Maddux, one of our favorite pitchers ever, retired yesterday after winning 355 games, more than all but seven other men in the history of the game.
We especially loved the guy, seen throwing with the Cubs above, because he threw about as hard as, say, a middling high-school pitcher. But, man, he could put the ball on a dime if he had to. When he was going good, which was most of the time, he could go an entire game without throwing a fat pitch or walking a batter.
Former Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenley said it this way: "Maddux could hit a gnat in the butt with a fastball." That means he could make hitters hit his pitch, which more often than not was just outside the strike zone and moving.
He also could field his position like a mad dog (which was his nickname). Just last month, Maddux won his 18th straight Gold Glove as the best fielding pitcher in the National League, which is where he spent his entire career.
We are especially pleased that Mr. Maddux ended up with one more win than the infamous speedballer (in more ways than one) Roger Clemens, a boorish contemporary implicated in the steroid mess who practically could throw a baseball through a brick wall if called upon.
Maddux was understated, always classy and is said to have been a terrific teammate.
We always were torn when Maddux threw against our local team, because we found it impossible to root against him. But we needn't have fretted.
For some reason, Maddux usually was easy meat against the D-Backs. His 3-11 career record (that doesn't include two losses in the 2001 playoffs while he was with the Atlanta Braves) against Arizona is a bizarre little blot on an otherwise pristine resume.
We happened to attend one of those losses early last season when Maddux gave up nine runs and 13 (mostly hard) hits in seven innings of work at Chase Field. Painful as it was, however, we marveled at the 42-year-old's attitude and grit that evening.
Rather than take an early seat when it became apparent that he just didn't have it, Maddux took one for his team, the San Diego Padres, putting in his innings and saving the bullpen for another day in a game that clearly was out of hand. He got a huge ovation from the Diamondback faithful when, mercifully, he was done for the night.
The applause seemed to be for a career well-spent and an effort that exemplified the meaning of being a professional. Next stop: the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.-- Paul Rubin