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Millwood praises his friend Maddux
08/07/2004 9:49 PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- Sitting in the clubhouse at Wrigley Field last Sunday, Kevin Millwood knew all about the Hall of Fame milestone being attempted by the man in the other clubhouse.

Did he want to see Greg Maddux achieve 300 wins in person, even though it meant the Phillies would be on the losing side?

"It would be nice to see him get there, but I think I'd rather watch it on TV," he said, with a wry smile.

Almost a week later, Millwood lounged on a couch at Dodger Stadium and did just that, watching as his future Hall of Fame former teammate defeated the Giants, and reflected on the 100 or so of Maddux's wins he personally witnessed while the two were Braves teammates.

"We went out to dinner a lot and played golf together," Millwood said. "I know I've never paid for dinner for the five years in Atlanta. He always took care of the younger guys. I've gotten my share of free meals."

Millwood doesn't remember much about the first time he met Maddux, except to say it was probably during a Spring Training when Millwood was coming up through the Atlanta organization. It was probably that way for most players who came across the quiet personality.

"He's very unassuming, but at the same time, I don't think you can question his heart and what he puts toward the game," Millwood said. "He's not a workout guru like a [Tom] Glavine, but he puts as much into each game as anybody. He tries to figure out a way to get every guy in that lineup out, and I think it's shown with 300 wins. He's just a great pitcher."

Quiet might not exactly be accurate. Former teammates and coaches often relate stories about various practical jokes Maddux would often play on them. But that energy and love of a good time can't mask the intensity Maddux brings to each outing -- and always has brought.

Manager Larry Bowa and coach John Vukovich tell the story of a game on July 7, 1987, in which the 21-year-old Maddux earned the respect of coaches and players alike. The Cubs were leading 5-2 heading into the fifth inning, in which San Diego pitcher Eric Show hit Andre Dawson in the face with a pitch, setting off a bench-clearing altercation. The Cubs slugger had homered twice the day before, then earlier off Show.

Despite his youth, Maddux knew what had to be done. It didn't matter that he was three outs away from a much-needed win, since he had won just one once in his previous six starts. The right-hander went out and smoked Benito Santiago in the ribs. A brawl ensued, and Maddux was tossed.

"They were going into the top of the fifth inning needing three more outs to get the win," said Bowa, the skipper of the Padres at that time. "Here was a kid who wasn't very successful in wins and losses, and he stuck up for a teammate. That showed something."

Vukovich, a coach for the Cubs that season, spoke about the enormous respect Maddux earned that afternoon, and said it went over big with the team's veterans as well.

Greg Maddux wins No. 300

In the book, "Banks to Sandberg to Grace: Five Decades of Love and Frustration with the Chicago Cubs," Rick Sutcliffe said: "That tells you what that kid was made of. [After that, Andre] Dawson and [Ryne] Sandberg made sure they never took a day off when he pitched."

He's still pitching.

Millwood, a mere 202 wins behind, credits Maddux with showing him a two-seamer that he throws inside to lefties.

"I got it from him," he said. "He never showed it to me. I just saw him do it, and thought I'd give it a shot. It worked so well."

Millwood is also in awe of Maddux's brain power on the mound.

"I don't think physically, there's anything that's out of the ordinary," Millwood said. "It's more of his mental game. He's definitely has it down to a pretty good science."

Bench coach Gary Varsho has a slightly different take. Like Vukovich and Bowa, he remembers the young Maddux, but Varsho recalls him as a teammate when the two came up together in the Cubs organization. Rafael Palmeiro was also on the Double-A team in 1986 at Pittsfield, Mass.

"He took his game to a different level," said Varsho. "Who thought Palmeiro was going to hit 500 [home runs] and he was going to be a 300-game winner? But we all knew he was going to be a great big league pitcher some day."

Asked what Maddux's other career might have been, Varsho didn't hesitate.

"He'd be a dealer in Vegas," Varsho said. "That's where he grew up. That's perfect for him."

He has to finish dealing to Major League hitters first.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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