Leading to Hall of Fame weekend and Sunday’s induction ceremony, Greg Maddux has been the center of quite a bit of speculation as to what’s going to happen in that eight to nine minutes that he, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox and the other three inductees have been allotted for their speeches.
“If Greg’s speech is anything like his pitching, it’ll be over …,” said Glavine, who then snapped. “Like that.”
“He played the dumb card when it came to interviews,” Maddux’s former Braves teammate John Smoltz said Thursday on the Dan Patrick Show. “You could watch a bunch of reporters come around to get words of wisdom, and one by one they would fall away like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Smoltz was right. When it comes to cameras, notebooks and questions, especially about himself, Maddux was a man of few words — unless you asked him about teammates, such as Andruw Jones or Rafael Furcal. He would fill up a tape recorder talking about their defense.
So on the eve of the biggest public-speaking engagement of his career, about 24 hours before Maddux would take the podium to lead off the six induction speeches (Glavine was “hitting third,” as he said) Maddux was asked how he was holding up.
“It’s tough,” Maddux said. “I never wrote a speech before. I’ve never given a speech before. To sit here and have your first speech be at this event, it made me kind of wish I went to class those days when we had to get up and give a speech.”
It would be like Maddux to play a little dumb, though. He always was prepared on the mound, and he can be serious when he needs to be. He figures to be both Sunday.
“What I want to say and hopefully the people I mention in the speech understand — I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them,” Maddux said. “Everybody in that speech, I took a piece from.”
Hall of Fame officials walked the inductees out onto the stage behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown on Saturday afternoon and let them peer out over the grassy field where some 60,000 fans are expected to congregate for the 1:30 p.m. ceremony.
“You’ve just got to try to get through,” said Maddux. “I’m just going to read right off the paper. It was recommended to me: ‘Don’t wing it. You might not go to places you want to visit. Just stick to the script.’ I’ll follow their advice on that one.”
Glavine is known for being a polished speaker. He was a player representative, out in front of TV cameras during the strike of 1994, and at many other points in his career. He does broadcasting now for Braves games. Cox, on the other hand, is probably more comfortable talking to a room full of players in a scouting meeting than in front of a live TV camera and a huge crowd.
“Getting a little nervous,” Cox said Saturday. “But I feel good. They treat you so well here, and they make you so comfortable that I think everybody feels right at home, and we’ll get through our speeches somehow.”
Of course, Cox, who made his career on positive reinforcement and encouraging his players, could remind himself that the writing part was easy, when it came right down to it.
“It’s from the heart, and it’s what happened in my career, so pretty easy actually,” Cox said. “It was trying to get it in order and make some sense of it. That probably was the hardest part.”
Cox said he had somebody help him with the structure of the speech, otherwise it was all him.
By Saturday, he had mastered the literary device of foreshadowing as well.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” Cox said when asked about his time managing in Toronto, acknowledging that he planned to mention it during the speech.
He also was asked, almost kiddingly, if he had saved a portion of the speech to pay homage to the umpires.
And the answer, from the man who was ejected from a record 158 games, might surprise you.
“Yes,” he said. “A little bit.”