Greg Maddux became the first NL pitcher to win 300 games since Steve Carlton in 1983. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
CHICAGO -- Greg Maddux will never forget his first win.
On Sept. 7, 1986, he took the mound at Riverfront Stadium for the Chicago Cubs. He'd grown up a Cincinnati Reds fan and idolized Pete Rose. But on this day, he threw an 11-hit complete game in his first start and won.
"You always remember your first win," Maddux said.
"The great thing is that nothing has changed with him since," said current Cubs hitting coach Gary Matthews, who was Maddux's teammate in '86.
On Saturday, Maddux added to his memory bank, winning his 300th career game with an 8-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants at SBC Park. And once again, he was wearing a Cubs uniform. Maddux wasn't at his sharpest, allowing four earned runs over five-plus innings pitched, but the Cubs rallied for six runs by scoring two runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to overcome an early 3-0 deficit and get Maddux the win.
He became the 22nd player to join the 300-win club and first National League pitcher since Steve Carlton did so on Sept. 23, 1983.
Jim Galvin was the first 300-game winner, doing so in 1888 with Pittsburgh. He finished with 361 victories. Some of the names on the list are a little obscure. There's Tim Keefe (342 wins), John Clarkson (328) and Eddie Plank (326).
And then there are names like Warren Spahn (363), Walter Johnson (417), Steve Carlton (329), Tom Seaver (311), Nolan Ryan (324). Cy Young is the all-time leader with 511 victories.
"It's monumental," Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins said of 300 wins. "I would say it's a ticket to the Hall of Fame."
Location, location, location is what matters to Maddux.
"Sometimes location makes you look smart," Maddux said. "If you can locate your fastball, that makes you smart. You see a lot of guys who are very intelligent pitchers who don't locate their fastball and nobody ever says they're smart. Then you see stupid guys who do locate their fastball well and all of a sudden they're smart pitchers."
And where does Maddux fit?
"I don't know where I fall," he said. "I just try to do my thing and have fun the other four days."
It's Maddux's consistency over his 19-plus big league seasons, which began in 1986 with the Cubs, that's carried him on this ride. He is the only pitcher in Major League history to win 15 or more games in 16 consecutive seasons. Over that span, Maddux led the Majors with 281 wins and 3,782 innings pitched. His 2.76 ERA in those 16 seasons was second in the big leagues to Pedro Martinez (2.58).
All the individual accolades mean little to the slender 38-year-old right-hander. He's a team player, all the way. After every start, he credits the defense, the offense, everyone but himself.
"I really believe it's not about me," Maddux said after win No. 299 Tuesday in a 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. "I believe that two or three years from now, if I was to win 300 games I'd be the only one happy about it.
"But if we did well in the postseason, I think 10 years from now people would still be happy about that," he said. "The main goal is to still be playing in October."
We'll get to postseason baseball in due time. Let's celebrate Maddux and 300 now.
"I knew he was going to be good when I saw him when he was young," said Cubs bench coach Dick Pole, who was Maddux's coach in the Cubs' minor league system and moved up to the big league team in '88, "but I didn't know how good he was going to be. If you want to find the definition of a pitcher, it's going to be Greg Maddux. It's not stuff with him. It's location, pitch selection, changing speeds."
"Every pitching coach I've had understands how important it is to locate your fastball and change speeds," Maddux said. "I think you're just brainwashed when you first come up that it's all about throwing 95 or 100 (mph) and all that, and then your coaches get to you and half of them wish you would blow up the radar gun."
What helped him realize trying to blow guys away wouldn't work?
"The hitters make it click with you," he said. "When you start throwing it and they start whacking it, that's what makes it click."
From career win No. 1 to No. 300, Maddux has been the model of consistency.
"He's always kept his mechanics simple, and he's always kept his pitching style pretty simple -- sinker, slider, occasional curve and a changeup," said Joe Girardi, his former catcher. "To me, the most amazing thing about Greg Maddux is that he's the best student of pitching I've ever met. He never missed a hitter on the bench. He paid more attention than other pitchers, and I think that's what has made him so great."
And he's passed on some of that knowledge to the Cubs pitching staff. If he's not pitching, he's usually seated next to a pitcher in the dugout. And they're either talking baseball or golf.
"To me, he's the most brilliant mind I've ever been around in baseball," Cubs pitcher Matt Clement said. "I've learned not just how to prepare but how to see things as they're happening. It's amazing to me how he can see it from pitch to pitch what the batter is doing and what the situation is."
Greg Maddux / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Maddux is always asking questions, always probing, even today.
"He knows the game," said reliever Mike Remlinger, who has been Maddux's teammate on both the Cubs and Atlanta Braves. "He'll throw something out and you'll be like, 'I never heard that before,' and it makes perfect sense. And 'How come I never thought about that?' That's part of his mind. He's on a totally different level than the rest of us."
Maddux is a little different. On days he's starting, Maddux will take his turn in batting practice, then scamper out to the outfield to shag. The only place he'd rather be is a golf course -- or playing catch with 7-year-old son Chase. And watching the two of them one can tell the apple fell straight down from the tree.
His pursuit of 300 -- Maddux started this season 11 wins shy -- has been low key, because that's the way he is. He's turned down interview requests. He's not signing balls between starts to feed the souvenir seekers. He won't let the Hall of Fame have his glove. He still needs it.
"There's no one who doesn't want to win the World Series," Cubs reliever Kent Mercker said, "but I'm sure there are players who would be equally happy to win the batting title or have a good year to get a raise. He's different. The only numbers he's ever mentioned are innings pitched. If he does his part and pitches his 200-plus innings, things fall into place."
"He knows how good he is and what he's done," Clement said. "For him to be a superstar Hall of Famer and act like one of the guys is the one thing I'll remember about him 20 years from now. He's about the team."
A second-round draft pick by the Cubs in 1984, he pitched in Chicago from 1986-92, winning the first of four Cy Young awards in his last year there with a 20-11 season. In 11 years with the Braves, Maddux was 194-88 with a 2.63 ERA. He has four Cy Young awards, won consecutively, and 13 Gold Gloves. And he's never lost that impish grin.
"With his delivery and mechanics, if you did it frame by frame from year to year, I don't think it would vary," Pole said. "One of the reasons he's so successful is that he doesn't have to think about his mechanics when he's on the mound. He does whatever he needs to do to win the game."
But perhaps the biggest reason Maddux has reached 300 wins is his ability to do what he wants to on the mound.
"He would've been a good real estate agent because he understands that pitching is location, location, location," Pole said. "If you can locate your fastball in the Major Leagues, you'll be successful. That's as simple as I can put it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.