By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Come July, Greg Maddux will enter the Hall of Fame with an Atlanta Braves cap emblazoned on his plaque. And that’s absolutely as it should be.
But are you absolutely sure that’s also his preference?
In fact, it’s long been my suspicion that if truly given a choice – and Maddux isn’t, since the Hall decides – that he very well might opt to wear a Cubs cap in Cooperstown. Because I do believe that deep down, Maddux does consider himself to be more of a Chicago Cub at heart than he does an Atlanta Brave.
Now, of course, I don’t know that for sure. How could I? And Maddux is far too smart and much too diplomatic to say anything that would confirm such thoughts. But here is what “The Professor” did tell the Tribune about Chicago this week after his HOF election was officially announced.
“I did everything possible to stay there after the ’92 season,” Maddux said about his ill-fated departure from the Cubs. “Things didn’t work out and I was fortunate to go back 11 years later. I loved the city of Chicago. I came up a Cub. I figure if you count the minor leagues, I was in Chicago for about 11 years and I was in Atlanta for 11 years.
“I kind of split my time with the two teams. Chicago is a special place and I’d love to see them win a World Series here shortly. It would be awesome.”
It would also be awesome for Cubs fans to see Maddux enshrined in the Hall with a “C” on his cap. But considering that he went 194-88 in Atlanta with a 2.63 ERA, 1,828 strikeouts, three Cy Young Awards and one World Series vs. 133-112, 3.61, 1,305, one and zilch in Chicago, he won’t.
But I do think it’s telling that after Maddux finally let the Braves in 2003, the destination he chose to return to was Sweet Home Chicago. And beyond that, I find it interesting how upon retirement, he also opted to take a front-office job with the Cubs when he surely could have landed a similar gig in Atlanta.
Now, again, there’s no way of knowing for sure, but I do personally think that a big part of Maddux laments that he won’t be immortalized as a Cub. Perhaps in the same way that Andre Dawson felt in 2010 when he was inducted as Montreal Expo (where he spent 10 years) and not as a Cub (where he spent six and won an MVP in 1987).
After his cap decision was made, Dawson told the media that he wasn’t thrilled with the Hall’s selection, saying: “I know the difference in the 10 to six years probably was something of a consideration on their part. But I tried to explain, perhaps, the impact of what really catapulted me to Hall of Fame status, and pretty much what my preference was …
“The Hall clearly stated their major concern is the history of the game, and that’s what really played into their decision. I’m disappointed. I can probably say that, because Chicago was my preference.”
With neither Dawson nor Maddux entering the Hall of Fame as a Cub, it’s unclear when the North Siders might next have a player enshrined with their cap. Sammy Sosa isn’t likely to ever be inducted (and shouldn’t), leaving as the franchise’s only other hope closer Lee Smith, who earned just 29.9 percent of the vote this year, a significant drop from his 47.8 percent tally in 2013.
Smith spent eight seasons in Chicago, compiling 180 saves, versus four seasons and 160 saves in St. Louis. But knowing the Cubs’ luck of late, even if Lee does some day get in, the Hall will probably slap an “StL” on his head.
And wouldn’t that be for the birds.