By Bruce Levine-
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (CBS) — Greg Maddux always moved to the beat of his own drum during his fabulous 22-year career. I met him in spring training of 1987, and he hasn’t changed. He was always a person of commitment and honesty.
Maddux always had fun on and off the field. His humor was something in between slapstick and Monty Python. His attack mode on the mound was fearless: a stone-cold killer with a baseball in his hand.
Nobody was more fun to watch pitch over the last 30 years than Maddux, who thanked everyone in his Hall of fame speech on Sunday who had impact on his life. As always, he never drew any attention to himself or his accomplishments that led to his induction.
“I never thought about my numbers or what it meant in the future,” Maddux told me this weekend. “I only cared about my next start and getting better.”
For the first time in public, Maddux the master of the art of pitching, gave some insight into how he won 355 baseball games.
“Movement, location and the ability to change speeds and velocity,” he said of his keys to success, taught to him by his first baseball coach.
He explained that movement and location will last longer than hard and straight.
“At first I did not listen, but in a short time I realized how right he was,” Maddux said.
The 48-year-old Maddux thanked his coaches and catchers. He thanked his wife ,Kathy, and his two children, Paige and Chase. Maddux thanked his parents, brother and sister. He was blessed with a brother who was three years older and took him with to play ball with older friends.
“Yeah he dragged me with him and I got to play and compete against his friends,” Maddux said. “They didn’t like it but it made me better and tougher, knowing they were all bigger and stronger.”
Maddux thanked Chicago and Atlanta fans equally, though it was clear he will always have a special place for Cubs fans in his heart. Maddux played in Chicago from 1986-’92 and again from 2004-’06.
“The city of Chicago and all Cub fans are awesome, maybe the best in baseball,” he said. “I was glad to be a part of a division champion in 1989. Although we didn’t win, playing all the home games at Wrigley Field was special.”
Maddux went 6-14 his first year in baseball and then was asked by former Cubs pitching coach Billy Connors a question.
“He asked me, ‘Do you ever wonder how good you can be?’” Maddux said in his speech. “Of course I said no. He said, ‘Why don’t you go out there and find out?’”
That question alone changed the way Maddux looked at himself and his career. He stopped throwing balls hard and started to put angles on everything.
“Greg was generous to all of his teammates,” Reds pitcher and former Cubs teammate Sean Marshall said. “He changed my career by teaching me how to put movement on every pitch I threw. He is a brilliant guy and a crazy, fun guy to be around.”
Testimonials abound around baseball for Maddux and his will to win and help teammates be better. Urban tales have Maddux once calling a nine-inning game from the dugout for his former teammate and the late Frank Castillo, tossed a complete game four-hitter.
Baseball is in the Maddux DNA. He will manage, and he will be great at it. Humor, the” Maddux Way,” can’tbe written without compromising his style. Needless to say, he has entertained me more than any player in 33 years I have covered baseball. Both on the mound and in the clubhouse, Maddux was never predictable.
“Hey, it is cool that I can look at what I did on the field now,” Maddux said Friday. ” I can do that. It is cool.”
Here is what is cool: 355 wins, four Cy Young awards, 18 Gold Glove awards, 17 times with 15 or more wins and on the disabled list just 14 days in 22 years.
Greg Maddux is cool, or as Joe Torre said in his acceptance speech, “Maddux has no pulse.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.