I remember John Smoltz: Greg Maddux

GREG MADDUX, fellow Hall of Famer and Braves teammate from 1993-2003

On any given night, you wouldn’t be surprised if he threw a no-hitter. His stuff was that good. He easily had the best slider in baseball. It was hard to pick up out of his hand and there was no hump in it. It broke a lot and it broke late. And every time he toed the mound, there was a chance for a no-hitter, there was a chance for a 10-or-more strikeout night.

He had better stuff (than Tom Glavine and me). He had a better fastball. He had a better slider. His change-up and forkball were comparable. There wasn’t a pitch he couldn’t throw. I mean, he threw a knuckleball for a while. He threw a straight change. He threw a split. He threw a slider, curve, he could sink it, he had a good four-seamer. It’s like he had every pitch that was invented. They were all above-average major league pitches.

I remember going into Florida when (the Marlins) first came into the league. They had a pingpong table in the clubhouse. We were like, “Ah, cool, pingpong table.” Everybody was excited. And Smoltzie goes, “OK, you guys figure out who the best player is and I’ll play him on Sunday on getaway day.” We spent the first two days trying to figure out who the best player was that was going to have the privilege to play Smoltzie. David Justice proved he was the best on the team and got a chance to play Smoltzie on Sunday. Sure enough, Smoltzie walked in and had on his getaway clothes and he spanked Justice with his slacks on and his dress shoes. In 10 minutes, the game was over.

He always included everybody in whatever he was doing, whether it was golf or a Final Four pool or whatever. He was in charge of the fun of the team. He was like Team Fun Guy. He supported everybody and everybody seemed to get along with him. He was just a solid teammate.

Even though he didn’t win, that Game 7 against Jack Morris (in the 1991 World Series) was when I first took notice. It just seemed like a lot of guys tried to turn it up a notch in the postseason and Smoltzie actually did it. (Steve) Avery could do it and Smoltzie could do it. Everybody else tried to do it and couldn’t do it.

One of the most impressive things I’ve seen him do was we go to Pine Valley (Golf Club) one year and it’s hot. It’s like one of those 90-degree days with 100 percent humidity. And Pine Valley has a hole there, the 15th, it’s a par-5. He reaches this hole in two and the caddie says something like, “You’re only the eighth person to reach this green in two since 1975,” since he’s been a caddie there. He ends up two-putting, makes birdie and ends up shooting 69 at Pine Valley, which is a very difficult course.

We get to the park in Philadelphia. We’re exhausted. It was hot-as-hell all day. And we go through our workout, we go through BP and Smoltzie said, “Hey man, I’m really tired, I think I need a nap. Wake me up in the fifth.” So I go, “OK, I gotcha.” The fifth inning rolls around and I’m like “Man, I better go wake up Smoltzie.” He’s over there lying on the floor with towels around him, taking a nap. He gets up, he stretches, puts his uniform on, rides the bike for a little bit, drinks a Mountain Dew — because he’s Smoltzie. And comes into game in the ninth. We’re winning by one and he’s facing their 3-4-5 hitters, it’s (Bobby) Abreu, (Pat) Burrell and Scott Rolen. He has a pretty easy 1- 2-3 inning, punches out two.

We’re sitting there on the bus after the game and I’m like, “Hey, pretty impressive day: 69 at Pine Valley, you body-slam their three best hitters.” I’m dead tired. It was a long day. He looked at me and he goes, “Hey, we got Merion (Golf Club) tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. in the lobby.” That was the most incredible day I’ve ever seen a pitcher have.

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