Well, besides books and music, I do have several other items that I collect. Greg Maddux, former Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves pitcher, was my first serious sports obsession. He was also the first athlete that I collected things on. I still do that. I haven’t been to a sports memorabilia show in eons, so that’s on my list of stuff to do this year. I need more Mad Dog stuff.
How does this start? Well, I grew up watching the Cubs. Thanks not a bit to my dad for that, but I have to say thanks, because despite the running joke that is the Chicago Cubs organization these days, I do still enjoy watching baseball and I do still enjoy some Chicago Cubs athletes. Wait, that didn’t come out right. I can still watch both teams in Chicago and like them- although I have slipped over to the Dark Side many, many moons ago. My first love in the Chicago baseball world was Greg Maddux. He continues to be my favorite athlete, years after he was traded by the Cubs to Atlanta, where he formed the nucleus of talent known as Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux (sounds like a bad folk trio with a moniker like that). I still read up on him to find out what he’s up to, I follow his Twitter account, and I always hope that he would end up coming back to the Cubs in some higher organizational role (owner?), because I believe that an organization that needs major fixing up would do well with a manner of Maddux’s stature and eloquence. The bombastic shenanigans didn’t work, and now its owned by a family that hired Theo Epstein. Things like that 500 million dollar renovation project of a park that’s known for its antiquated charm, make me sick. When Comiskey Park went the way of US Cellular Field, I cried. It is not the same. Wrigley Field, after they get the Jumbo Kiss-My-Ass-Tron, will not ever be the same. It’s a sign of change, yet some things will stay the same. My admiration of Greg Maddux will stay the same. So will my attempts to collect things relating to him. You might ask- why Greg Maddux? His style, eloquence, and quiet grace made him the rock of the Cubs topsy-turvy pitching rotation for the years we had him. When he hit Atlanta, it gelled with the Atlanta Braves top notch rotation, and he found his true home. That was my first experience with an athlete who didn’t blow his top every five minutes when shit didn’t go his way, he would quietly go about his business, and get the job done. They say keep an eye on the quiet ones, and this was no exception. Of course, I did think he was a fetching young lad. I still do. Overall, it was the mechanics on the baseball diamond, his work ethic, and just about everything else that makes him my favorite athlete. Still. That’s a hard designation, because I like football, hockey, tennis, and basketball also. I have a whole litany of favorite athletes, but I don’t spend the length of time that I have devoted to finding collectibles relating to #31.
The first thing was the jersey. I had one that I got the first season Maddux was with the Cubs. It’s not autographed, but it’s in a box in my friend’s basement. It has seen better days and better games, but I can’t part with it. It’s holey, it has the stink of a garment that’s been washed over and over again and stored in a box for years, it’s a jersey for a member of a team long gone. It’s the sentiments and memories of happier teen years that I can’t part with; this jersey is a remembrance of that. The best part of that is that I just found out that I still had the jersey! I had bitched for years that my sister borrowed it and never returned it; but that was my Kerry Wood jersey, not my Maddux jersey. When Johnny was moving this past week, he found it and let me know it’s still intact. I am thrilled. As soon as I finish the yearlong project known as my house renovation (annihilation), I will find a place of honor for it. I have the rookie card. It’s in plastic, and the aforementioned Walgreen’s frame. Not sure why i kept putting things in those picture frames, but it keeps them intact! I still have the Cubs program from the the first year he was there, as well as when he fanned his 3,000 hitter on July 26, 2005. I have every newspaper article from that night. I have every magazine article from the momentous occurrences in his career. I was recently informed by my sister that she still has pictures from when I had carved “Maddux” in my dad’s old dresser. Yes, I did. If I see something with #31 on it, I’m convinced it’s good luck and I need to stick with it. Felicia got me a coffee mug for a birthday gift this year- it has 31 on it. First thing I said? “That’s Greg Maddux’s number!” Yes, I said it before Thank You. I’m sorry, F-Zero. She knows, she forgives, she’s a Cub fan. I have ridiculous amounts of articles. I have the bobblehead. I own a baseball that his his worn off signature. I am currently hunting down a Cubs jacket with his number on it. I do have an Atlanta Braves shirt with his number. I became enamored of Atlanta for many years after Maddux left to go there, not just because they were a far superior team to the Cubs (still), but because he was there and the team, well, played baseball as it should be played. Probably the only baseball player for whom I still give a rat’s ass and collect things on, and likely that’s the way it will stay.