While Maddux and I were both working in Atlanta in the mid-through-late-’90s, my trips to the ballpark were often planned according to his schedule.
My former co-worker Rich Reasoner and I used to say to each other: “Maddux is pitching tonight; better go.”
We knew a day would come when the artistry of Maddux would end. It did so on Monday when the 42-year-old, unassuming pitcher left the scene in as non-self-serving way as possible.
Off the field he was never close to making news. Just a quiet guy in glasses.
On the field he struck out batters and fielded his position among the best to ever climb upon a mound.
Not surprising, Maddux did not do a flashy farewell tour during the end of the 2008 baseball season. He stepped aside this week while sports fans were caught up in bowl selections and NFL division titles.
However, Maddux should not leave the dugout without some of his lessons being remembered.
One, be a team player. In a sports world full of prima donnas, Maddux never sought special treatment as a superstar. Other players wanted him as a teammate and friend.
Two, seek consistency. He amassed 355 wins in 23 seasons. He was not a flash-in-the-pan star, but a hard-working, dedicated athlete who could be depended on to give his best game-after-game, year-after-year.
Three, work to improve. No one was ever a better student of the game all the way to the end.
Four, let your talent do the talking. After a masterful pitching performance, Maddux would shrug his shoulders and deflect attention to his team rather than offer some self-congratulatory assessment of his performance.
I want to be in Cooperstown in five years to say thanks.