It’s official. Or at least it will be on Monday.
Maddux is my favorite baseball player of all time. Despite this, I have only seen him pitch in person one time. This is a near-contemporaneous account of that one time I saw him, related in an email to my buddy Ethan in the still-drunk hours following the game:
Date: Friday, August 4, 2006 at 12:31 AM
So we took all of our summer clerks down to Cincinnati tonight for the Reds-Dodgers game. We’re on the way back in the big custom bus now. Fabulous night. Maddux gets traded to L.A. last weekend. Tonight is his first start for them. The stars align, and I get to see my favorite player tonight. I buy a Dodgers hat and wear it down just to support Maddux, and, I’ll admit, to be a bit annoying to Reds fans.
Maddux has a huge fork in his back. He is done. Kinda hard to watch him the last year or two, but I still root. I expect little or nothing from him.
Game starts. He gives up an early walk and I think it will be a long night. Then he starts throwing bullets. One. Two. Three. Five innings of no-hit ball. It’s 1994 all over again. Sixth inning starts. Long fly . . . caught. Another . . . caught. Lightening in a bottle. Third batter comes up and he mows him down too. I’m alone in a ballpark screaming at the top of my lungs. No-hitter in effect. I know it won’t last. Even in his prime Maddux never threw a no hitter because he’s around the plate too much. He can’t not throw strikes, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. He gets hit. That’s what he does. Still, I think how nice it would be to not see him give up a hit.
As the top of the seventh begins, the skies open up and a deluge falls on Great American Ballpark. Lightning. Thunder. The Dodgers bat, and the half inning ends just as the umps call for a delay and the tarp comes out. Forty minutes. I know that there is no chance that Maddux is coming out for the bottom of the 7th. He’s 40. His arm will be tight. He’s a Hall of Famer already. He doesn’t need the no-no to make him happy. They got him for the stretch run and they need to save his arm. Still, part of me hopes.
The game resumes with some kid I’ve never heard of on the mound [note: it was Joe Beimel. I’ve since heard of him]. He gives up a hit to the first batter. Never send a boy to do a man’s job.
Dodgers win 3-0. Maddux gets the win. I get to see him pitch like he was in his prime again, and got to see him leave before anyone remembered he didn’t have it anymore.
I was almost too old for heroes when Maddux came up. I’m definitely too old for heroes now. He will be the last.