Live Blog: The Road To Cooperstown

jordanandmaddux

Jordan Bernfield is blogging from Cooperstown, NY, as Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dave Marzullo July 23, 201411:06 am

jordanmadduxThe Ordinary Who Was Extraoradinary

By Jordan Bernfield

I wasn’t named after Michael Jordan.  But my parents thought about naming me Jordan Michael.

Naming me Jordan Michael would have made sense. My parents had already settled on the name Jordan for a boy, and I came from a family of rabid Chicago sports fans. When I was born just a few months after 21-year-old Michael Jordan won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 1985, family friends encouraged it.

Ultimately, they settled on Jordan Daniel.

Either way, they had a son named Jordan at the height of Michael Jordan’s career.  I had shirts, shorts and shoes every year of my youth with my name prominently featured on them.

Of course, I was a huge Michael Jordan fan.  Who wasn’t?  He was seemingly everyone’s favorite athlete in the ‘90s.

But not mine.

There was another athlete I loved even more than the man responsible for half of my wardrobe.

He was the guy I studied game after game and the athlete most responsible
for my undying love for baseball.  He was one of the most dominating
athletes I’d ever watched, but he didn’t do it with an overpowering
fastball or a vanishing slider.

Nor did he have the physique of someone you’d associate with extraordinary athletic achievement.  Standing six feet tall, he was skinny at the beginning of his career and heavier as he aged.  He didn’t have bulging arm muscles or a hulking frame. Greg Maddux looked like a regular guy.

Aptly nicknamed The Professor, Maddux did everything with extraordinary intelligence.  He studied hitters.  He knew their tendencies, and he exploited them better than any other pitcher in my lifetime, and maybe ever.

In 2005, I was the bat boy for a Cubs game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.  With Jerome Williams pitching and Adam Dunn at the plate, I sat
in the Cubs dugout near my sports hero, who flanked then-manager Dusty
Baker and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

“Willy can’t throw the soft stuff away here,” Maddux said, matter-of-factly.  “If he does, Dunn’s going to homer to left-center.”

Seconds later, Dunn launched a change-up on the outer half of the plate for a two-run homer to left-center field.

Dunn circled the bases before I could pick up my jaw from the floor.  Maddux barely reacted.  He was brilliant.

That’s not to say he wasn’t blessed with incredible talent, too.  His two-seam fastball—the one that started at a left-handed batter’s hip and somehow cut back to the inside corner—was devastating, even at only 90 miles
per hour.

His mechanics were so good that he always finished his pitching motion in an ideal fielding position.  He was the best defensive pitcher in baseball history, winning a record eighteen Gold Gloves.

He was also supremely durable.  In an age when pitchers routinely undergo Tommy John surgery, Maddux spent just 15 days on the disabled list over 23 years in the big leagues.  Eighteen times in his career he threw at least 200 innings in a season, and in three of the five seasons he failed to eclipse 200, he still threw at least 194.

His command was so extraordinary that he established the umpire’s
strike zone routinely.  Because Maddux could place the ball right in
the center of his catcher’s glove even if the catcher set up a few
inches off the inside or outside corner, The Professor would get the call more often than not.

He’d set a hitter up to fail as the at-bat unfolded.  Each pitch had a
specific purpose and an anticipated result.  For a guy who wasn’t known
as a strikeout pitcher, he still ranks 10th on baseball’s all-time list with 3,371.

He rarely walked anyone.  As Dave Cameron points out in Fangraphs, Maddux walked just 2.7 percent of the batters he faced between 1995 and 1997.

He walked just twenty batters in 232.2 innings in 1997.  Twenty.

Maddux made baseball a faster game. By the time you guessed what was coming next, he had already thrown his next pitch.

As a kid, I spent hours in front of the mirror practicing my pitching
motion, modeling it after Maddux’s.  I’d throw tennis balls against the
garage door at my old house, trying to hit different targets on its
rectangular design to improve my command. I even convinced my dad to buy
me the glove Maddux wore, the Wilson A2000 with the adjustable tension
dial on the wrist.

But I wasn’t blessed with the ability to throw hard.  As a high school senior, my fastball only clocked in around 75 miles per hour on a good day.

So I patterned myself after Maddux, because even at a young age, I knew that approaching the game like he did would be the only way I’d have success as a young pitcher.

When I got into a jam, I thought to myself: how would Maddux approach this guy?

I tried so hard to throw his signature two-seam fastball, but I could never throw it remotely close to the way he did.

And that’s what made Greg Maddux so appealing to me. He appeared ordinary, but could do the extraordinary.

With Maddux’s pending enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in
Cooperstown, one of baseball’s most unique and all-time best players
becomes immortal.

Maybe before the drive to Cooperstown Sunday morning, I’ll practice his pitching motion in the mirror again, just for old time’s sake.

Dave Marzullo July 23, 201411:44 am

jordanmadduxThe Ordinary Who Was Extraoradinary

By Jordan Bernfield

I wasn’t named after Michael Jordan.  But my parents thought about naming me Jordan Michael.

Naming me Jordan Michael would have made sense. My parents had already settled on the name Jordan for a boy, and I came from a family of rabid Chicago sports fans. When I was born just a few months after 21-year-old Michael Jordan won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 1985, family friends encouraged it.

Ultimately, they settled on Jordan Daniel.

Either way, they had a son named Jordan at the height of Michael Jordan’s career.  I had shirts, shorts and shoes every year of my youth with my name prominently featured on them.

Of course, I was a huge Michael Jordan fan.  Who wasn’t?  He was seemingly everyone’s favorite athlete in the ‘90s.

But not mine.

There was another athlete I loved even more than the man responsible for half of my wardrobe.

He was the guy I studied game after game and the athlete most responsible for my undying love for baseball.  He was one of the most dominating athletes I’d ever watched, but he didn’t do it with an overpowering fastball or a vanishing slider.

Nor did he have the physique of someone you’d associate with extraordinary athletic achievement.  Standing six feet tall, he was skinny at the beginning of his career and heavier as he aged.  He didn’t have bulging arm muscles or a hulking frame. Greg Maddux looked like a regular guy.

Aptly nicknamed The Professor, Maddux did everything with extraordinary intelligence.  He studied hitters.  He knew their tendencies, and he exploited them better than any other pitcher in my lifetime, and maybe ever.

In 2005, I was the bat boy for a Cubs game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.  With Jerome Williams pitching and Adam Dunn at the plate, I sat in the Cubs dugout near my sports hero, who flanked then-manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

“Willy can’t throw the soft stuff away here,” Maddux said, matter-of-factly.  “If he does, Dunn’s going to homer to left-center.”

Seconds later, Dunn launched a change-up on the outer half of the plate for a two-run homer to left-center field.

Dunn circled the bases before I could pick up my jaw from the floor.  Maddux barely reacted.  He was brilliant.

That’s not to say he wasn’t blessed with incredible talent, too.  His two-seam fastball—the one that started at a left-handed batter’s hip and somehow cut back to the inside corner—was devastating, even at only 90 miles per hour.

His mechanics were so good that he always finished his pitching motion in an ideal fielding position.  He was the best defensive pitcher in baseball history, winning a record eighteen Gold Gloves.

He was also supremely durable.  In an age when pitchers routinely undergo Tommy John surgery, Maddux spent just 15 days on the disabled list over 23 years in the big leagues.  Eighteen times in his career he threw at least 200 innings in a season, and in three of the five seasons he failed to eclipse 200, he still threw at least 194.

His command was so extraordinary that he established the umpire’s strike zone routinely.  Because Maddux could place the ball right in the center of his catcher’s glove even if the catcher set up a few inches off the inside or outside corner, The Professor would get the call more often than not.

He’d set a hitter up to fail as the at-bat unfolded.  Each pitch had a specific purpose and an anticipated result.  For a guy who wasn’t known as a strikeout pitcher, he still ranks 10th on baseball’s all-time list with 3,371.

He rarely walked anyone.  As Dave Cameron points out in Fangraphs, Maddux walked just 2.7 percent of the batters he faced between 1995 and 1997.

He walked just twenty batters in 232.2 innings in 1997.  Twenty.

Maddux made baseball a faster game. By the time you guessed what was coming next, he had already thrown his next pitch.

As a kid, I spent hours in front of the mirror practicing my pitching motion, modeling it after Maddux’s.  I’d throw tennis balls against the garage door at my old house, trying to hit different targets on its rectangular design to improve my command. I even convinced my dad to buy me the glove Maddux wore, the Wilson A2000 with the adjustable tension dial on the wrist.

But I wasn’t blessed with the ability to throw hard.  As a high school senior, my fastball only clocked in around 75 miles per hour on a good day.

So I patterned myself after Maddux, because even at a young age, I knew that approaching the game like he did would be the only way I’d have success as a young pitcher.

When I got into a jam, I thought to myself: how would Maddux approach this guy?

I tried so hard to throw his signature two-seam fastball, but I could never throw it remotely close to the way he did.

And that’s what made Greg Maddux so appealing to me. He appeared ordinary, but could do the extraordinary.

With Maddux’s pending enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, one of baseball’s most unique and all-time best players becomes immortal.

Maybe before the drive to Cooperstown Sunday morning, I’ll practice his pitching motion in the mirror again, just for old time’s sake.

Jordan Bernfield July 25, 201410:52 am

Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend is underway in Cooperstown, as Ozzie Smith headlined a baseball clinic for fans, with instruction from Smith, Johnny Bench and Mike Schmidt.

Here are some of the highlights from the opening event:

Replay may be the wave of the future in baseball, but Ozzie Smith would prefer to keep it old school.

“When you’re able to question every play, that to me takes away from the purity of it, Smith said. 

The Wizard finds the original goal of replay, which was to determine whether a home run ball was fair or foul, or whether or not it went over the fence, acceptable.  But now that managers may challenge calls, and most rulings can be reviewed, Smith believes it takes away the human element, which is traditionally a part of the game.

It’s an interesting view from Smith, given how replay could have helped his Cardinals in 1985.  In that year’s World Series, with St. Louis a win away from capturing the title, Jorge Orta led off the 9th inning of game six in Kansas City, three outs from elimination.

He hit a slow chopper to the right side.  First baseman Jack Clark fielded it and tossed it to pitcher Todd Worrell, who appeared to cover the base and catch the ball ahead of the speeding Orta.  Umpire Don Denkinger ruled the runner safe, leading to a game-winning two run single from Dane Iorg to even the series 3-3.  Kansas City would go on to win the series in seven games.  

So why would Smith argue against replay? 

“I guess it’s counterproductive for me as a Cardinal because in 1985, if we had instant replay, we might be wearing another ring,” Smith admitted.

“But that’s just the way it goes.  I think that’s the one thing you want to hold onto.  You want to hold onto the human element.  And sometimes when you overdo it, it takes away the human element.”

Watch it for yourself here:


—-

Every year, Hall of Famers are inevitably asked whether or not they believe Pete Rose will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown.  But his former teammate Mike Schmidt doesn’t believe that’s coming any time soon.

“I’m a supporter of Pete, but the whole ‘Pete Rose’ hall of fame thing is–I don’t want to call it a dead issue– but it’s surely under some rug somewhere,” Schmidt said.

Rose has been banned from baseball since August 23, 1989, for betting on the game as a manager.  Johnny Bench would like to see Rose in the Hall someday, but said that decision is out of his hands.

“That’s baseball’s decision,” Bench said.  “And it’s part of what’s happened with his decisions, that he’s made in his life.  There’s been opportunities, but it just hasn’t gotten there yet.”

Schmidt said he thought Rose would be in town this weekend (he is scheduled to sign autographs this weekend at Safe at Home Ballpark Collectibles), but had no plans to see the game’s all-time hit king.

“Maybe we’ll bump into each other at dinner or somewhere, but I don’t think I’ll see him at the Otesaga Hotel.”

Rose collected 4,256 hits in his illustrious 24-year career, 67 more than Ty Cobb.  Rose and Cobb are the only two players in baseball history to eclipse 4,000 hits.

—-

Three players and three managers are headed to the hall of fame in the 2014 class.  Of the three players, Joe Torre had the most prolific playing career.

The younger generation knows Torre as the manager who guided the Yankees to four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000.  In his tenure with the Yankees, Torre led New York to the Fall Classic six times.

But Torre was an eight time all-star catcher and corner infielder, and the National League’s most valuable player in 1971. He hit .363 that season with 24 home runs, 137 RBI, while collecting a whopping 230 hits.

Fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Bench believes the totality of Torre’s contributions to baseball should be recognized this weekend.

“I’ve always been a fan, a friend of Joe,” Bench said. “He could really hit.  He led the league in hitting, MVP, caught, and went to third base which isn’t easy at all.  

“And then hardest of all, I think, is to go manage.  Of course, when you’ve got George [Steinbrenner] buying a lot of people, it makes it easier.  But to pull the strings and handle the personalities is even harder than the game itself.”

More to come later today.

Jordan Bernfield July 25, 20142:19 pm

Patience Was his Virtue

By Jordan Bernfield

To call Frank Thomas a power hitter would be true, but it wouldn’t tell the whole story.

Sometimes, calling a player a power hitter means his power makes up for his deficiencies at the plate.

Sammy Sosa,for example, was a great power hitter. But his prolific moon shots onto Waveland Avenue came at the cost of many strikeouts—many wasted at-bats.

Thomas never wasted at-bats.  When it was his turn to hit, he made the most of it.

“When I say ‘great hitter’, he’s on the short list of a few guys [that
have] ever played,” White Sox great and former teammate Paul Konerko told Comcast SportsNet in Welcome to Cooperstown: Frank Thomas

“If you hit for a bunch of power, you have to sacrifice average and
discipline.  If you hit for high average and you’re an on-base guy, then you don’t hit for a lot of power.  [Thomas] just blows that out of the water.  There’s only a handful of guys that have done that…that can do both.” 

Thomas didn’t give into opposing pitchers.  He forced them to give in to him.  And when they did, he showed baseball why Hawk Harrelson gave him his iconic nickname: The Big Hurt.

There was no good way to pitch to Thomas, a two-time most valuable player of the American League and five time all-star.  Throw it
inside, and he’d pull his hands in and hammer a pitch over the left field
wall.  Throw it outside, and he’d extend his long, muscular arms to drive the ball to center or right.

Make him chase something high in the zone?  Good luck.  Junk ball him away?  Not likely. Thomas was one of the most patient batters in baseball history. 

The 1,667 walks he took are the 10th most all-time. Thomas ranks 19th
in career on-base percentage, reaching base in nearly 42 percent of his plate appearances.  The hitters ahead of him were some of the most
feared hitters in baseball history, including Ruth, Gehrig, Bonds, Mantle and Williams.

In each of the first eight years of his career, Thomas eclipsed a .300 batting average.  That includes 1997, the year he won the American League batting title with a career-best .347 average.

For the better part of sixteen seasons, Frank Thomas was one of
baseball’s best hitters and most valuable players
–even though he most often served as his team’s designated hitter.  A decade of dominance
often means a hall of fame career, and Thomas provided more than a decade and a half.

After a hobbled Thomas watch his White Sox win the 2005 World Series without him, the team acquired Jim Thome and The Big Hurt signed with the Oakland A’s.  At age 38, although his new home ballpark was
a difficult place to hit, Thomas finished 4th in the American League
MVP voting, after hitting 39 home runs.

 “There’s only one Frank Thomas, but we wanted our players to be that type of hitter,” Athletics General Manager Billy Beane told Comcast SportsNet.  “The power, the patience, and professionalism about every single at-bat.  He never wanted to give away a pitch, [and] never
wanted to give away one at-bat.  It was
great.

In 2007 , Thomas hit his 500th home run in Minnesota as a member of the
Toronto Blue Jays.  As he circled the bases, he received a standing ovation from the Twins faithful at the Metrodome—the same fans that feared him for nearly two decades with the rival White Sox.Only 26 players in baseball have hit 500 home runs.  Those in attendance witnessed history. 

And they celebrated the great career of one of the most complete hitters
of all time.

Jordan Bernfield July 25, 20147:14 pm

Took this photo today with my sports hero.  Snapped tons of photos at the museum.  Will post here soon, but also check out my twitter feed for more!  

Jordan Bernfield July 25, 20149:39 pm

Highlights from chatting with Greg Maddux today:

Greg Maddux remains a humble superstar, even as he prepares to make his Hall of Fame acceptance speech Sunday in Cooperstown.

“I just want to make sure [it's known that] the reason I’m here is I’ve had a lot of help along the way,” Maddux said at a private party held by the Cubs in his honor.  “I want to get a chance to thank them, and let them know I wouldn’t be there without the help.”

He still needs to put the finishing touches on his speech, but only needed two writing sessions to put it together.  The process has been a family affair.

“My kids are great on the computer.  So I can say it, and they can type it up, and they can go back.  So it’s pretty good.  I had like two secretaries helping me.  It was pretty cool.”

When he arrived in Cooperstown, the idea that he’s now a hall of famer started to sink in. He arrived at the Otesaga Hotel and sat down for dinner.  Lou Brock, Johnny Bench and other greats he grew up watching were there.

“It’s pretty special,” he said.

Maddux will be enshrined this weekend without a logo on his cap.  He says it’s because he played eleven years in Atlanta and “eleven in Chicago, if you count the minor leagues”.  He spoke very graciously about both franchises, but admits it’s quite special to share the spotlight with fellow Braves teammate Tom Glavine and former manager, Bobby Cox.

“I spent half of my career with those two guys,” he explained.  “To be able to share this with them is icing on the cake.”

He’s taken the time to reflect on the success he had in his career.  He’s most proud of his longevity in baseball and staying healthy.  He only made one trip to the disabled list in his entire career (in 2002, when he had an inflamed nerve in his lower back).  He pitched the thirteenth most innings in major league history.

“That allowed me to rack up the numbers a little bit.  I didn’t get hurt.”

A Future Skipper?

Maddux enjoys his role in baseball now, working as the special assistant to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.  He wears a uniform in spring training, and works with major and minor league players, before hitting the road to spend time at each of the club’s affiliates during the season as a special instructor.

Could we see him one day as a major league manager?  

“Being a manager’s a tough gig,” he said.  “Everyone thinks just because you understand the game a little bit that you’re capable of managing.  There’s a lot more that goes into it than that.”

Maddux has played for and worked with many managers during his life in baseball.  He says people often focus too much on how they handle the game between the lines.  The game outside the lines is often the greater challenge.

“To be able to handle the players, handle the egos, to handle the different nationalities, media and all that stuff, it takes a special breed.  I don’t know if that’s something for me or not.  I do like the game of baseball.  I’d like to continue to be in it in some aspect, but we’ll get through this weekend and this year and see what lays ahead in the future.”

Maddux has now reached the pinnacle of his sport and his career.  Managing may change his lifestyle, but reaching the Hall of Fame won’t.

“I still take the trash out,” he said.

Jordan Bernfield July 26, 201412:11 pm

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is making changes to its voting process.

Beginning next season, recently retired players will only be eligible for hall of fame election for ten years.  Previously, the window was fifteen years.

“The Hall of Fame is all about relevance,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said.  “In a study of hall of fame voting over its history, it has become clearly evident, especially over the last 30 years or so, that after ten years the likelihood of induction is incredibly minimal.  So the idea that of making it more relevant was attractive to the board.”

Candidates who aren’t elected after ten years may still be eligible for induction through the Era Committee system.  And, candidates who were previously eligible in the fifteen year window will be grandfathered in to remain eligible until their window expires.  Don Mattingly, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell will remain on the ballot until 2015.

After the controversy last year, when Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard sold his vote to Deadspin, Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters must now complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct before casting their ballot.  While individual ballots will remain private, unless a voter chooses to reveal his or hers, the list of voters who cast ballots will now be made public each year.

“One thing we were going to put on this next ballot is a disclaimer saying this is your ballot, and it can’t be transferred to someone else or you risk being penalized much like the person you mentioned last year,” La Velle Neal, the President of the BBWAA said.

“In the Hall of Fame, the board of directors had their own interests as well, as far as protecting the integrity of the vote, and I applaud their decision today because I think this is a step in the right direction.”

The percentage of votes needed to elect a candidate to the hall of fame will not change from 75 percent, but the committee will further discuss whether future voters will be allowed to vote for more than ten candidates.  Neal said that would be discussed when the BBWAA next meets at the World Series.

Jordan Bernfield July 26, 20143:09 pm

Frank Thomas will be enshrined in Cooperstown tomorrow, but he already feels like a hall of famer.

“It has kicked in,” Thomas said at the Clark Sports Center Saturday afternoon.  “This whole week has been, you get a million texts and calls and emails from everybody non-stop.  I’ve got a hundred people here, family and friends. It’s non-stop.”

Thomas will be enshrined tomorrow with two other first-ballot selections, teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.  Both represent the Atlanta Braves, along with Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who managed in Atlanta from 1982-1984.  For a kid from Columbus, GA, it’s a fitting group with which to be linked.

“Going in with these historical guys–two of the managers, Bobby and Tony, managed my hometown team.  And I got to watch those guys manage my hometown team.

“It’s weird, man. It’s a big finish, because of the Chicago crowd with Greg Maddux and myself, the Atlanta crowd and the Georgia crowd because I’m from Georgia, and just being around.  It’s crazy.”

Thomas wrote his speech over the course of four months, and had to pare it down from twenty minutes to fourteen.  Each hall of famer is supposed to speak for ten minutes, but The Big Hurt doesn’t want to forget all the people that helped him reach the pinnacle of his career.

“I’m a little long,” he admitted. “It’s hard to write your finale in ten minutes.”

The Complete Hitter

Thomas likes to remember himself as a hitter, and not just a guy that hit for power.  While he’s tied for eighteenth on baseball’s all-time home run list, he doesn’t view himself as a home run hitter.

“I knew my job,” he said.  “I’m not going to fool anyone.  I was an offensive machine and that’s what my job was.  I knew going into the ball game every day, I knew I had to do something to help this team win offensively.  And I took it upon myself to do that every single day.”

And he often did, and not always with the long ball.  His patience as a hitter, which he credits to proper preparation and the tutelage of former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak, set him apart from many other elite sluggers in baseball history.

“Most big guys are just wild swingers,” Thomas added.  “They want to hit everything. They want to go deep all the time. If they weren’t going to pitch to me, take your base, get in line for the next man, and that’s what’s going to score runs.  And that helped us a long way for many, many years.”

The Later Years

Frank Thomas left the White Sox after the team won the World Series in 2005, and it was a bad break-up.  Thomas wanted to finish his career with the White Sox, but they opted to sign Jim Thome instead.  Leaving town after a bad divorce, Thomas flourished in 2006 with the A’s, finishing 4th in the AL MVP voting after belting 39 home runs.

“I first got there, and I was in a funk.  A mental funk.  Leaving Chicago after being there for such a long time and getting kicked out of the door.  So when I got there, I was in a funk mentally, but I was rejuvenated by a young cast of characters.  It was a different world… it became fun.”

Thomas says that season got him to the hall of fame, because it showed he could adapt to new surroundings.  Looking back, he called his career magical, adding that his stops in Oakland and Toronto made him a better man.  He enjoyed teaching younger players as his own career came to a close.

Clean in the Steroid Era

Thomas says he may have had the biggest voice in the steroid era, because “I probably lost more than anybody else in the steroid era”.  Frank famously lost the AL MVP race to Jason Giambi, who later admitted to steroid use.

He didn’t need them, because he was blessed with a football player’s body.  His size and strength were physical gifts that made him an elite player.

Thomas also believes he lost out on bigger contracts, because the numbers he put up clean didn’t stand out as much against guys who were using performance enhancing drugs.

“But look at me now,” he said.  “I’m in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  You’re rewarded sometimes for doing things right, and I definitely did it the right way.”

Jordan Bernfield July 26, 20143:43 pm
It is quite a weekend for Braves fans.

Three of the biggest pieces in Atlanta’s run of fourteen consecutive division titles will be enshrined in Cooperstown at the same time.
“It’s very special,” manager Bobby Cox said.  “It’ll never happen again I don’t think.  A manager and two of his guys going in at the same time.  It’s just, the timing, the years that you’re eligible, and things like that.  It’s just the odds against that are worse than winning the lottery sometime.
“So it’s very special.  And I couldn’t think of a better way to go into the Hall of Fame, with two of your own guys, and two of your favorite people managing-wise.  It’s all pluses.”

Cox said the key to Atlanta’s historic run was having great pitching all the time.  Having two 300 game winners atop his rotation, with Maddux and Glavine, set the standard for the rest of the rotation. 

“One good game would lead to another good game.  If one threw a three hitter, the other one would want to go out and throw a shutout or a two hitter.”

And that competitiveness extended beyond the diamond.

“Golf tournaments, the Masters, and things like that, they’d always pick certain players.  It was fun.  A lot of fun.”

Jordan Bernfield July 26, 20144:22 pm

Greg Maddux won 355 major league games, and Tom Glavine won 305.  They’re two of the 24 pitchers in big league history to win 300 games in their major league careers.

But there may not be another one for a long time.  Baseball’s active leader in wins is the Giants’ Tim Hudson, who has 213 victories at age 38.  CC Sabathia’s next, with 208 at age 33.  But he won’t have a chance to add to that total until 2015, following season-ending knee surgery earlier this week.

No other active pitchers even have 200 wins, though 41 year old Bartolo Colon is two wins shy and Mark Buehrle is four wins away, at age 35.

These days, victories are hard to compile due to the litany of injuries pitchers suffer, and the specialization of bullpens, which drastically reduce a starter’s chances of winning unless he completes the game.

So, will we ever see another 300 game winner?

“I don’t like to say never, because I’m sure there were people that thought Greg and I would get there,” Glavine said. “I think it’s getting harder and harder to do it the way the game is now.  And I think it’s getting harder and harder to believe that the way guys are pitching in the game today that they’re going to stay healthy for twenty years.”

Maddux believes there will be another pitcher to eclipse 300 wins, but admits health may be the greatest obstacle to prevent another pitcher from getting there.  He cited two reasons for the increased injuries among today’s pitchers.

“They throw harder, and they throw more growing up than we did,” he said.  “I think that just comes from not playing other sports.”

Besides baseball, Maddux played basketball in high school.  As a result, he’s a big proponent of young athletes playing other sports to develop their muscles in other ways and prevent wear and tear on their arms.  He says with the recent emphasis on young ball players playing year round, they’re throwing way more than his generation ever did.

“When we were sixteen, seventeen years old, we were throwing 60-70 innings a year,”  Maddux said.  “I think the kids playing year round are playing three times that.  Combine that with the fact that they are faster, they’re more likely to get hurt.”

And that risk is why Glavine says it may never happen again, despite a number of very talented pitchers in today’s game.

“There’s guys that you look at with just raw ability, and you say well, if it were all about ability, that guys got the ability to win 300 games,” Glavine explained.  “Now, does he have the ability to stay healthy for twenty years? I don’t know.  I think the rate at which you’re seeing guys get hurt in baseball today, it’d be hard for me to believe your going to see somebody play for twenty years.” 

Jordan Bernfield July 27, 201411:06 am

Hi everyone!  Today’s the day the inductees are officially enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Here’s the view from about 2 hours prior to the induction ceremony: 


I’ll have updates here throughout the day.  Stay tuned.

Jordan Bernfield July 27, 20144:15 pm

Well, the speeches have ended.  Plenty of reaction coming shortly right here.  

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Jordan Bernfield July 27, 20146:28 pm

Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas are now officially members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and both of their speeches reflected their personalities.

Maddux spoke for exactly ten minutes, the suggested time frame for each inductee.  It was fitting for a pitcher whose precision set him apart from the rest.
Thomas’s speech was filled with emotion–fitting for a player who admitted he “wore his heart on his sleeve”.
Both admitted they were nervous.  Maddux said he just wanted to get through it, so he stuck to the script.  Thomas said the wave of emotion hit him at the last second.
“I was cool hand Luke sitting there watching everyone’s speeches,” Thomas said in a press conference following his speech.  “As soon as I stood up, my knees started knocking, and the first person I looked at was my mom, and it hit me right in the heart.”
Thomas described his speech Saturday as a “thank you” speech, and it certainly was.  He thanked 138 former teammates from his days as a White Sox, Athletics and Blue Jays slugger.
Thomas needed a tissue to get through his speech.  His voice cracked and quivered as hit fought back the tears talking about his family, friends and coaches that impacted his life and career.  Maddux typically humble was stoic, reading his speech in his laid-back tone.
“I never gave a thought to the Hall of Fame as I was going through my career,”  Maddux said.  “My goal as a baseball player was very simple.  All I wanted to do was try to get better for my next start. And to think it all ended up here, it’s pretty cool.” 

Maddux credited various people throughout his career that helped him develop his mechanics and approach to pitching.  He thanked coaches throughout his youth who helped him develop his core, legs and arms to put himself in the shape necessary to avoid injury.  And he singled out his first pitching coach his sophomore year of high school, Ralph Medar, who taught him the essence of what made him so effective in his career.
“He said, ‘you throw hard enough, but as you face better hitters, you’re going to need more than just velocity to get hitters out.  Movement and location will last longer than hard and straight.'”

Thomas also highlighted a coach that he played with, the hitting coach he called his favorite coach of all-time, Walt Hriniak.

I thank you for being honest from day one, Thomas said of Hriniak, fighting back tears.  “You taught me to only want to be the best.”

Thomas’s emotional speech covered many coaches and figures in his life.  It was the predominant theme of his 17 minute, 43 second speech.  Maddux thanked his family, but also cracked jokes about things he used to do with his teammates in Atlanta, to keep the game fun.

Maddux also made a joke during one of the serious moments in his speech, when he discussed his departure from Chicago to join the Atlanta Braves.

“I picked Atlanta because I finally wanted to get a World Series ring and start a family,” Maddux said, getting a laugh from the crowd .  “All right, sorry, Chicago, but yeah.”

Thomas spoke graciously about all three of his big league teams– how the White Sox provided him so many thrills, especially the 1993 team that reached the American League Championship series, but lost in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays.

He noted how the 2006 season in Oakland was one of the most important seasons in his career, calling it “magical” when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.  He thanked Toronto, too, calling it a “dream” to hit his 500th home run in a Blue Jays uniform.

Maddux finished his speech tightly.  No frills, or big messages, just thanks for the “incredible honor”, and acknowledgement of his two predominant baseball homes, Atlanta and Chicago.

Thomas’s speech ended more memorably.

“In closing, I would like to say thank you to the City of Chicago,” he said, to roars from a large Chicago contingent.  “You guys made The Big Hurt who he was in the greatest sports town in America.  I know I’m biased, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment playing for you all.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

But his final message will be remembered as baseball transitions to a new era.

“To all you kids out there, just remember one thing from today: there’s no shortcuts to success.  Hard work, dedication, commitment.  Stay true to who you are.”

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