Few people remember that Geoff Jenkins (pictured with Ryan Howard) was late to the ballpark that day because his wife was giving birth to a son in a hospital near Dodger Stadium in Pasadena. It's the same hospital that both CSN's Leslie Gudel and Chase Utley were born in.
But we digress ...
Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS also marked the end of Greg Maddux's career. Pitching the fourth and fifth innings in relief for starter Chad Billingsley and Chan Ho Park, Maddux was charged with two unearned runs, two hits, a walk and three strikeouts in closing out a career that surely will get him elected to the Hall of Fame this winter.
When Maddux is inducted in Cooperstown next summer, it might be a good idea to listen closely. That's because there are sure to be some wild and crazy stories about one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game.
Oh yes, everyone has a Greg Maddux story. Better yet, everyone has a Greg Maddux story that involves loud, bawdy laughter with punch lines that are often not repeatable in mixed company or fit for print.
The guy has the most interesting and warped sense of humor in the game, which is enough to make him an all-time favorite in this little corner of the world wide web. More importantly, Maddux is also known as the game’s best ambassadors.
Low key and unassuming, Maddux doesn’t bowl people over with his presence in the physical sense. However, when he enters a room of baseball people everyone knows it. His teammates adored him and he always seems to have time for the fans and the press for a good quote or one of those stories he’s famous for.
The hot tub story involving Andre Dawson and Leon Durham is jaw-droppingly funny.
Even in his last game, it looked as if Maddux, at 42, could pitch a few more seasons. In 2007 he made 30 starts, marking the 20th season in his 22 that he started at least 30 games. Had it not been for the two strike-shortened seasons, it would have been a perfect 22-for-22.
Maddux never got hurt, never skipped a start and never changed. It was a career that was so eerily consistent that it was almost boring. Think about it -- every year you knew Maddux was going to pitch every five days no matter what. There was no drama -- just good pitching and good humor.
With 355 career wins and every other award and accomplishment on his ledger, Maddux summed up his career at the Las Vegas Winter Meetings in 2008:
“I never changed,” Maddux said. “I think, ‘Hey, you can locate your fastball and you change speeds no matter who is hitting strikes or what is going on around you.’”
Maddux took special pride in mentoring young players, but made sure that the lessons weren’t one-sided or exclusive to just the players on his team. For instance, during the 2008 season, Maddux took Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick aside during batting practice before a game in San Diego and schooled the kid on the finer points of pitching. Sure enough, the lesson was absorbed and Kendrick went out and beat Maddux in the next start.
Maddux says he was learning all the way up to the very end of his career.
“I just think the best way to learn is to screw up and not do it again,” Maddux said. “I think it’s OK to make mistakes. Hopefully you learn by it and you don’t make those mistakes again. I think it’s the easiest way to learn.”