<
>

Maddux's edge takes him to Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Greg Maddux didn't use a blazing fastball to have one of the best pitching careers in major league history, yet he was intimidating nonetheless.

He crafted 355 victories over a storied 23-year career that at its peak earned him four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95.

Maddux was a study in consistency, and he was never above the subtle tricks of the trade, when he needed that little extra something to get to where he needed to go.

If quick-pitching a batter who didn't quite have his feet set could get Maddux back in the count, or get the out he needed, he wouldn't shy away from such a tactic.

"You're always looking for any edge you can get," Maddux said Saturday. "You're always trying to find out what's the easiest pitch to throw in any situation."

His savvy approach will lead to his Hall of Fame induction Sunday, and in typical Maddux fashion, the low-key pitcher will keep it short and sweet. He has 10 minutes to give his speech, but Maddux estimates he will only need seven.

Why take a long time to finish off what can be done so much sooner? Like his pinpoint precision from the mound, the speech figures to be precise and won't deal with too much fluff.

His gift of precision, though, wasn't just something he inherited.

"It's something you're always working on," he said of his ability to throw a ball wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. "It wasn't like, 'Oh yeah, I can do it.' You're always constantly working on it and trying to improve.

"I think if you look at your delivery from the time you entered the game to the time you left the game, it's obviously a lot better when you left. It's a continuous thing where all you're really trying to do is get better."

Despite his accomplishments in the game, baseball still gives him a thrill. He had a memorable encounter as recently as Friday night.

"I got a chance to talk to Tom Seaver and that was pretty cool," Maddux said. "He played for the Reds and he was a good pitcher and somebody I tried to watch when he pitched. I wish maybe the games back then were more than just Saturdays."

He no longer has any more Saturdays on the field, but he continues to have the love from the two cities where he spent the bulk of his career. Maddux spent his first seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs and the next 11 with the Atlanta Braves, before returning to Chicago for 2½ more years.

"I appreciate both cities," he said. "I had two careers, one in Chicago and one in Atlanta when it boils down to it. I love both places."

Everywhere else and everybody else he loves will be mentioned Sunday in the most precise of speeches.

"I never wrote a speech before. I've never given a speech before so to sit here and have your first speech be at this event, I'll wish I went to class those days when you had to get up and give a speech," Maddux said. "I'll say what I want to say and hopefully the people I mention in the speech understand that I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them. I took a piece from everybody. Everybody in that speech I took a piece from."