Sunday will be a very special, emotional day for Atlanta Braves fans everywhere, as Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will all be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Sunday will also be a very special, emotional day for long-time Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Why? Because Cox got Mazzone into the big leagues and Maddux and Glavine helped him stay there.
”I think with Bobby, he’s the one who gave me my opportunity to get to the big leagues – June 22 of 1990,” Mazzone, 65, said on The Morning Show. “You’re very emotional with the man who gave you your opportunity, and then you get emotional with the pitchers, too, because they made me look really smart for a long time.”
Maddux, 48, won 355 games and was an eight-time All-Star and four-time Cy Young winner. He led the NL in wins three times and led the NL in ERA four times.
Glavine, also 48, won 305 games, was a 10-time All-Star, a two-time Cy Young winner and a World Series MVP.
So, what can we expect from these speeches Sunday? Will anyone cry?
“Glavine will be like a blue-collar guy from Boston,” Mazzone said of the Concord, Mass., native. “His father was a blue-collar (guy). (Glavine) was very mature when he was young. When he was a rookie in the instructional league and I was a pitching coach there, he never acted like a rookie. He had this veteran presence about him from the get-go. So I think he’ll be very stoic, very veteran-like, very blue collar-like.”
“With Maddux,” Mazzone continued, “he won’t give nobody any credit except somebody else. He’ll go, ‘Well, I was lucky.’ Like he’d do in a game, he’d go, ‘Leo, I’m getting away with pitches down the middle, and our defense was real good, and I had a lot of luck today.’ Don’t believe it.”
Both Maddux and Glavine achieved spectacular success despite two very different approaches.
“Greg Maddux was special because he wanted to take a hitter out immediately,” Mazzone said. “He always said that the most vulnerable count a batter can have is 0-2, and I’m going to take him out immediately. That was his mindset. Tom Glavine was the exact opposite. He never gave into the strike zone. He would pitch around guys in spring training. But he always told me hitters have egos and he was going to take advantage of them.”
“So you have two different approaches, (but it’s) a very simple game,” Mazzone continued. “Maddux had three pitches: a fast ball, a cutter and a change-up with occasional sliders to righties. Glavine had two-and-a-half pitches: a fast ball, change-up and an occasional breaking ball. But the control they had with those pitches and the mindset that they had of never giving in was unbelievable. Both of them always said there’s nothing more to pitching than fast-ball command and changing speeds. Anything else after that was apiece of cake. But the mindset – the never-give-in attitude of Glavine the attack-mode of Maddux – (was what separated them).”
Maddux always said that if he got a batter out in the first or second inning, that hitter would have no chance in the sixth or seventh. Glavine, meanwhile, walked into the dugout in the middle of Game 6 of the 1995 World Series and said to his teammates, “Would someone please score a run? Because they’re not.”
Glavine allowed one hit in the Braves’ 1-0 win.
While both Maddux and Glavine were intelligent pitchers who worked hard at their craft, which had more natural talent?
“The most talented was John Smoltz,” Mazzone said, laughing, “and that’s for next year.”