#CardCorner: 1980 Topps Garry Maddox
But Garry Maddox may still be one of the most underrated defensive outfielders in the game’s history.
Consider Maddox’s three peak seasons as a defender – 1976 and 1978-79, according to the Defensive WAR metric. No center fielder in the 1970s had three seasons with at least a 2.1 dWAR, and Maddox’s 2.9 in 1979 was matched only once in the decade.
“Two thirds of the earth is covered by water,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ray Didinger in a quote that has been repeated for decades. “The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”
Born Sept. 1, 1949, in Cincinnati, Maddox moved with his family to the Los Angeles suburb of San Pedro while he was a youngster. The second oldest of nine children, Maddox played baseball throughout his youth and caught the attention of San Francisco Giants scout George Genovese, who convinced the team to take Maddox in the second round of the January 1968 MLB Draft.
Maddox was part of a group of Los Angeles-area super athletes that also included future big leaguers Jeff Burroughs, Enos Cabell and Darrell Evans.
“I think I (blossomed first),” Cabell, who played against Maddox at nearby Gardena High School, told the News-Pilot of San Pedro. “I was around before Garry was, but then we both graduated at the same time. The only difference was, I went away to college and Garry went into the service.”
Maddox appeared in 58 games for Salt Lake City of the Pioneer League in 1968 before earning a late-season promotion to Class A Fresno. But Maddox, tired of the long bus rides and low pay of a minor leaguer, left the game to enlist in the Army.
Soon, he was spending a 22-month tour in Vietnam.
“The scene over there was going to change you one way or another,” Maddox told The Catholic Advance in 1977. “Some guys became drug addicts. Others ran around with women. A friend of mine blew himself up with a hand grenade.”
While in Vietnam, Maddox was baptized a Catholic.
“As a kid, I never had any real contact with religion,” Maddox said. “Things were tough growing up. I can remember Christmases where eight of us got one volleyball to play with – one volleyball.”
While in Vietnam, Maddox learned that his father had suffered multiple heart attacks. He applied for a hardship discharge. To receive one, Maddox had to have a job waiting for him.
He called the Giants and asked for another chance.
“I think if I hadn’t gone into the service,” Maddox told The Catholic Advance, “there wouldn’t have been any more baseball for me. I personally think the experience helped mature me.”
But with Green having moved on to the Cubs and Smith traded to the Cardinals, Maddox reclaimed his traditional starting center field spot in 1982. He hit .284 with 61 RBI in 119 games and won his eighth and final Gold Glove Award.
He transitioned into a bench role over the next three seasons, helping the Phillies advance to the 1983 World Series – with his eighth-inning homer in Game 1 giving Philadelphia it’s only victory of the Fall Classic.
He contributed off the bench in 1984 and 1985 – he tied a center fielding record with 12 putouts in a 12-inning game against the Pirates on June 10, 1984 – before a back injury severely limited his ability to chase down balls in 1986. With his finances in order thanks to some shrewd investing, Maddox retired on May 7, 1986.
“I’m going to have a lot of good years after baseball,” Maddox told the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., “and I’d like to spend them with my family and in good health. You see and read stories about people who played that one game too many, or the boxer who fought one fight too many. I didn’t want to risk that.”
Maddox – who enrolled at Temple University late in his playing career – had long been involved with community-building efforts, having started supporting the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic in 1977 and joining its board of directors in 1983. By 1985, Maddox had raised more than $500,000 for the organization.
In 1986, Maddox won MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts. In 1987, the Phillies hired him as a broadcaster – and he spent several years with the team in the TV booth.
But for a player who faced all the challenges baseball and life can offer, nothing topped winning the World Series.
“To sit there and look up and see the confetti fall,” Maddox said of the parade following the World Series win in 1980, “you say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen this on TV when the astronauts returned.’
“That was just a tremendous feeling.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum