Maddux, Cox come together for Hall of Fame tour
Legendary Braves duo enjoy each other's company ahead of induction ceremony in July
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There was one word to describe how pending Hall of Famers Bobby Cox and Greg Maddux came together to tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum on Monday: serendipity.
"It was fun for me," Cox said. "I don't know if it was fun for Greg, but it was for me. Tommy Glavine was here last week. It would have been nice if all three of us could've been together. It's been an exciting day. It's starting to hit home for the first time how much this means to a person who has spent his entire career in the game of baseball."
Ditto for Maddux. Their rare duel journey through the hallowed museum was a no-doubter.
"It was the luck of the draw," Maddux said. "But it was special to me, especially to do it with Bobby. There's so much about the history of baseball I just don't know. I enjoy it and it's fascinating to me. It's a history lesson every time you walk through here."
They were together with the Braves for 11 seasons, from 1993-2003. Glavine and Maddux pitched and Cox managed as the Braves went to the playoffs every year, save for the strike-shortened 1994 season, winning three National League pennants and the 1995 World Series.
They will go into the Hall as a trio on July 27, along with slugger Frank Thomas and managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who is scheduled to embark on his own orientation Tuesday.
The fact that Cox and Maddux were in town this week together could be attributed to a quirk in their crowded schedules.
Cox, still a consultant for the Braves, made the flight here on Sunday from Orlando, Fla., where he was evaluating players. Maddux, an upper-level pitching coordinator for the Rangers, flew east from Surprise, Ariz. Maddux brought his childhood sweetheart and wife, Kathy. Cox was accompanied by Pam, his wife of nearly 36 years. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the couples met in Atlanta to make their connection to Albany, N.Y. From there it's basically a 90-minute drive to the mythical cradle of baseball.
It may be springtime on the calendar, but they awoke at the local Cooper Inn Monday morning to find temperatures in the 20s and a dusting of powdered snow. Perfect weather for a history lesson about the national pastime at the museum just a long toss away up Main Street.
"I mean, I grew up in a baseball family," said Maddux, who finished with 355 wins in 23 seasons, 194 of them for Cox and the Braves. "Coming here and going through this museum, for me it's like reliving a lot of my childhood. I spent 11 years of my career with Bobby. It made it better for me that he was there with all the stuff we saw from the '50s, '60s, and '70s and knowing he was part of it."
Maddux grew up in Las Vegas as a Reds fan because his family hailed from Greensburg, Ind., a town of about 11,000 close to the southeastern portion of the state and the Ohio border.
Kathy met her future husband when they were 15 years old and beginning classes at Valley High School in Las Vegas. She tried to ingratiate herself with the sports-crazed Maddux family by saying she rooted for the Dodgers, the rivalry equivalent during the 1970s to Shakespeare's Montagues and Capulets.
"I didn't know much about baseball," Kathy recalled. "He said, 'You've got to be crazy to bring up the Dodgers in this house.' I thought he was going to kick me out. It's the only time he really got mad at me."
Maddux said he became a pitcher in high school when he realized he couldn't hit. He loved the offense of the Big Red Machine, the last National League team to win back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76. But those Reds were not known for their pitchers.
"When they got Tom Seaver, I liked that quite a bit," Maddux said about the now fellow Hall of Famer who was traded by the Mets to the Reds in 1977.
And the pitcher in the Hall he's most partial to?
"Obviously, Cy Young," Maddux said about the right-hander who is the all-time leader in almost every category, including wins (511) and complete games (749). "You have to put him at the top of the list."
Cox was partial to the Cardinals, growing up in California before the Dodgers and Giants moved west from New York. The Dodgers signed the fledgling third baseman in 1959, beginning an injury-filled decade as a professional player that he mostly spent in the Minor Leagues. Cox gives all the credit to another Hall of Famer, former Yankees executive Lee MacPhail, for turning him toward a career in managing. As a Major Leaguer, Cox played 220 games for the Yankees in 1968-69 before a bad knee led to the end of his playing days. Upon his release in 1971, Cox was offered a job managing the Yankees' affiliate in the Florida State League.
Cox thanked MacPhail profusely and accepted the offer that came with a $7,000 contract. He rose back through the ranks with the Yankees and was first-base coach under Billy Martin in 1977, when the Bronx Bombers won the World Series for the first time in 15 years. The next year he was hired by Ted Turner to manage the Braves for the princely sum of $40,000.
Asked what was the most money he ever made as a manager, Cox wouldn't be specific.
"A lot more than that," said the man who won 2,504 games in 29 seasons, 25 of them in two stints with the Braves.
It was in 1978 he met Pam, who was working in a mall in Rome, Ga., when the Braves and Cox came through on an offseason caravan.
"We met in January and were married in November," Pam said.
Now, her husband is going into the Hall of Fame with two of the most successful managers in baseball history.
"It's unbelievable; the whole thing couldn't happen again in a million years," said Cox, adding he believes Martin also belongs in the Hall of Fame. "I've thought about that a lot. Billy deserves it. He was a character and a great manager. There's no reason in the world he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame."
The tour of the Hall offers a thumbnail of Yankees and Braves history. A display of Hank Aaron and his chase of Babe Ruth and the all-time home run record stopped Cox in his tracks.
"Being from Atlanta, his display is eye-popping to say the least," Cox said.
But perhaps the most poignant moment was the two men viewing the display honoring those Braves who under Cox, "ruled the National League during the 1990s." On a background of vivid red is a picture of Maddux making his trademark delivery while wearing his famous No. 31 in an Atlanta uniform.
The two noted their eternal thanks to David Justice, whose homer in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series defeated the Indians as Glavine and Mark Wohlers combined for a one-hitter in a 1-0 win at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
"It didn't go out by much, but it went out," Cox said.
Down in the archives, they marveled at the black bat Justice used to hit that homer, trying to figure out which blemish on the barrel accounted for the blast that gave the Braves their only World Series title during the Atlanta portion of their history.
Back upstairs in the plaque gallery, the two were shown the spots where their bronze hardware will be affixed adjacent to Glavine's immediately after the induction ceremony this summer.
At that point they will be together again, this time by design and not by happenstance.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.