EDITOR’S NOTE: No national publication has a richer sports history than Sporting News, which was founded in 1886 in St. Louis and quickly became known as “The Bible of Baseball” for the way it covered America’s Pastime. Each Thursday, we’ll dip into our archives and give you a look at the iconic stars who played the game, and the great writers who helped grow the nation’s knowledge of our sport.
Today: Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is known as perhaps the greatest pitcher of his generation, having compiled four straight Cy Young awards, four ERA titles, eight All-Star appearances, 355 wins, 3,371 strikeouts, 18 Gold Gloves and 106.7 bWAR. While the potential for greatness was seen from the time he debuted in the majors in 1986, it took a while for Maddux to hit his stride. That finally happened in 1988, when he went 18-8 with a 3.18 ERA for the Cubs and made his first All-Star team. The transformation from unpredictable rookie to potential staff ace came with what his coaches and teammates said was a more mature approach on the mound. Writer Dave van Dyck introduced America to the more mature Maddux in the April 18, 1988, edition of The Sporting News. The story was featured as an extended blurb in the notebook section in the bottom left corner of page 13 — in a way that said, Hey, baseball fans, this seems like it might be significant. Indeed it was. The semi-obscure placement and relative small size of the story definitely don’t deminish the importance of the message, which carries a ton of weight in hindsight: In 1988, Greg Maddux became a force in the National League.
Maddux more mature at a tender 22
By Dave van Dyck
CHICAGO — Greg Maddux had the same problem last year as many young men who had just turned 21: He wondered what his future would be.
Maddux‘s future didn’t appear to be in the major leagues. In the second half of his rookie season, he was 1-7 with an 8.86 earned-run average. His last victory came on July 24.
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But in his first 1988 start, six days before his 22nd birthday, Maddux looked much more mature as he beat the Braves 3-0 on three hits April 6. Maddux even looks older this year.
“We called him ‘Batboy’ all last year,” said catcher Jody Davis. “Sut (Rick Sutcliffe) used to send him for coffee all the time. I think he’s here (to stay) now.”
Maddux played winter ball in Venezuela, where he worked on his curveball and slider.
“Last year I just threw one fastball after another,“ he said. “You can see what happened.”
“He got himself in a rut last year throwing the fastball,“ said pitching coach Dick Pole, who was at Iowa (American Association) when Maddux was sent down. “I tried to convince them that nobody can pitch with just one pitch.”
But Maddux posted a 3-0 record and an earned-run average of 0.98 at Iowa. And the six-foot, 150-pounder’s best pitch remains his fastball.
“He’s just a little guy,” Davis said. “He’s sneaky. He throws the ball right by guys who don’t think you can throw that hard.“
Pole says the secret to Maddux’s success is “time on the mound.”
“Don’t forget we are looking at a guy who we think of as a five-year veteran, but he’s only been in professional baseball four years,” Pole said. “He’s throwing with more confidence now. If he has confidence and pitches the way he can, he’ll be successful. There’s nothing tricky about it.“
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A quiet but cocky youngster, Maddux started to gain confidence when he yielded only two runs in a stretch of 23 innings in spring training.
“That helped me, but I thought I threw the ball well all spring,“ he said. “I was happy with spring training – I made the team.“
And now he may know what he will do with his future.