Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Artist in Greg Maddux

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Artist in Greg Maddux

Article excerpt

On his first day in the major leagues, with the Chicago Cubs in September 1986, Greg Maddux found his locker and noticed the matchup he would see that afternoon. It was Jamie Moyer against Nolan Ryan. Finesse versus power. What a laboratory for an eager student of the craft of pitching.

Maddux was 20, not yet nicknamed the Professor, a long way from becoming the winningest pitcher alive. It was so long ago that Wrigley Field did not have lights, and the game was suspended. Maddux would enter the next day as a pinch-runner in the 17th inning, and lose in relief on a home run by Billy Hatcher.

The first of his 355 wins came a few days later, with a complete game. Maddux would finish his career with one more victory than Roger Clemens. He is in the Hall of Fame -- and Clemens is not -- because of his greatness as a pitcher who was perceived to be clean.

Hitters wondered how Maddux did it, all right, but for different reasons.

"It was unbelievable," said the slugger Frank Thomas, another new Hall of Famer, after Thursday's news conference at the Waldorf- Astoria. "The guy's throwing 89 with that type of movement and you knew what was coming and you couldn't hit it. It's just like Mariano Rivera. You know what's coming, you just can't hit it. He found a way to get you out."

"Have a good moving fastball that does something the last 10 feet, and be able to locate," Maddux said Thursday. "That's what gave me an opportunity to win. If I could do that, then I had a pretty good chance."

For Maddux, it was not a matter of fiddling much with finger pressure on the ball. He simply wanted to throw from the same release point every time. It sounds easy, but it is the essence of pitching, requiring extraordinary -- and, in Maddux's case, rather stealth -- athleticism.

Maddux was 6 feet and 170 pounds, and often wore glasses off the mound, as if to emphasize his unassuming presence. But there is a reason he won 18 Gold Glove awards, a record for any position. He repeated his sound mechanics, over and over, and was not exactly a soft-tosser, either.

"My thing was, I relied more on movement than I did location, and in order to get the ball to move -- to run and sink -- you have to throw it hard," Maddux said. …

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