Pair of heroes

Cox, Maddux tour the Hall of Fame in advance of July 27 induction

March 24, 2014
Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox stop in the Plaque Gallery during their Hall of Fame orientation visit on Monday. (Milo Stewart, Jr./NBHOF)

Over 11 seasons, pitcher Greg Maddux and manager Bobby Cox helped define the success of an Atlanta Braves team that was among the most consistent of all time.

On Monday, thanks to that success, the pair found themselves sharing the glory of joining the most exclusive team in the National Pastime’s long history.

Maddux, the ultra-consistent right-handed hurler with the mind-boggling control, and Cox, who would lead the franchise to a string of 14 consecutive division crowns, were given their first tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since being elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and Expansion Era Committee, respectively, on Monday morning.

“[Tom] Glavine (who anchored the Braves’ pitching rotation with Maddux and another member of the Class of 2014) was here last week, so it would have been great if the three of us could have been together,” said Cox during a press conference in the Plaque Galley after the completion of the tour. “But it’s been an exciting day. It’s starting to hit home right now for me for the first time, how much this means for a person who has spent his entire life in the game of baseball, to realize that this is the top of the hill.”

“It was special for me, especially to do it with Bobby,” Maddux added. “I spent 11 years of my career with him, and it made it better for me just knowing he was there with all the stuff we saw back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that he was a part of. It was pretty cool.”

This year’s Induction Ceremony, to be held 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 27, will feature BBWAA electees Maddux, Glavine and Frank Thomas as well as Expansion Era Committee electees and fellow managers Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. The 2014 induction class will feature a half dozen living electees, one of only four times a single class has had as many.

Maddux, accompanied by wife Kathy, and Cox, with wife Pam, were in Cooperstown on as part of an orientation visit each Hall of Fame electee is scheduled for prior to their induction.

“It’s like planning a big wedding,” Cox said with a smile. “You don’t want to leave anybody out but you don’t want to disappoint anybody. There’s so many people that could be involved, with family and friends and friends of friends, so there’s a cut line that you have to make a tough decision on.”

Maddux’s last visit to the area came a few years ago when his son was playing in a local baseball tournament.

“I got a chance to kind of live here for a week and it was pretty special,” said Maddux. “But this trip is different. There’s so much about the history of baseball that I don’t know and just to come here and learn some things about the game. I enjoy it and it’s fascinating to me. It’s a history lesson every time you walk through.”

Maddux, in a 23-season career split mostly between the Cubs and Braves, during which he spent only 15 days on the disabled list, retired in 2008 with 355 wins and only 227 losses – his victory total the eighth-best of all-time. In-between, the eight-time All-Star captured four consecutive National League Cy Young awards (1992-95) and earned 18 Gold Glove Awards.

Cox’s most recent Cooperstown was a follow-up to attending the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony involving Pat Gillick, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven.

“My wife Pam and I were so busy during the Induction and there were so many people here we didn’t really have the chance to see the Museum that well,” Cox explained. “So we decided to come back two months later and we spent five nights here. It was a glorious time. We actually had the Museum to ourselves and had a lot of fun.”

For Cox, a one-time big league infielder, his greatest accomplishments came during his second stint with the Braves, when he led the team to five National League pennants (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999) and a World Series title in 1995. After 29 seasons as a big league skipper, Cox retired in 2010. His 2,504 wins rank fourth all-time and include a franchise-best 2,149 victories with the Braves.

On Monday, Maddux and Cox were led throughout the Museum’s three floors by Erik Strohl, the Cooperstown institution’s vice president for exhibitions and collections. Throughout, the group was shown the game’s evolution, from its origins in the 19th century to its most recent past.

The Hall of Fame’s two newest members often marveled at what they were seeing, with Cox saying his dad once made him a pair of spikes just like the ones on exhibit of Three-Finger Brown, while Maddux could be seen admiring the golf trophies of Babe Ruth.

“I grew up in a baseball family,” Maddux said, “so to come here, for me, it was kind of like reliving a lot of my childhood.”

“That’s my first glove,” Cox said to Maddux, pointing out a three-finger model in the Diamond Dreams exhibit. Earlier, after seeing a Yankees exhibit, Cox told how when he was a player he once had his picture taken with Joe DiMaggio at an Old-Timers Game at Yankee Stadium.

The Museum was also scattered with artifacts from the two Hall of Famers’ careers, whether it be a Cox jersey from 1999 or Maddux’s spikes from the 1995 World Series, a glove representing his career putouts record, a cap from his 300th win, or a jersey from his 350th career win.

When the tour stopped at the Hall of Fame Library, Maddux first asked to see the clippings file for his brother, Mike Maddux, a former big league pitcher and currently an acclaimed pitched coach with the Texas Rangers.

“This looks like my mom’s closet,” Maddux joked as he rifled through his brother’s file.

 Afterwards, Cox talked of how special it was to see the exhibits of two of the sport’s great sluggers.

“Naturally, Hank Aaron, being from Atlanta, his display is eye-popping to say the least,” Cox said. “And of course Babe Ruth, for me, he’ll always be the guy that people remember. If you ask them who some of the famous players were, people that played 30 years ago, they won’t remember, but they remember Hank Aaron and they remember Babe Ruth.”

At the press conference, when the two were asked what made the other so special, Cox used one word to describe Maddux: Talent.

“I don’t know if it was God-given or not but he certainly knew how to pitch and not throw. He was a pitcher,” Cox explained. “And a great fielder, he could hit, and maybe the best sacrifice bunter that I had ever seen. It’s the all-around package.”

In describing Cox, Maddux used the word “consistency.”

“Whether we won five in a row or lost five in a row he was the same guy every day,” Maddux said. “When we came to the park, yesterday didn’t matter – it was all about today. The attitude and tone he set in spring training, we were not only getting ready for the season but also getting ready for the postseason as well. That’s kind of what set him apart from all the other managers.

“They always say being a Major League Baseball player is the best job in the world but if you take it a step further, the best job in baseball is being a starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. It was a privilege and an honor to play for Bobby those 11 years (1993-2003).”

While neither Cox nor Maddux admit to having spent much time on their induction speeches, each said this trip to the Hall of Fame might be the trigger.

“I haven’t got there yet,” Maddux said, “but I guess it’s now time to start.”

“I little bit here and there, but not a lot,” Cox added. “I haven’t written anything down yet but I think with this many going in we’ll probably keep it a little bit short.

“When I first got the call that the 16-man committee had voted all three of us in – Tony and Joe and I – it hit me but not like it is right now. And they said your life will change, everybody in that committee room, and I think it started today.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum