'Mad Dog' was ball of fire in clubhouse


Mild-mannered on the mound, where his cerebral approach and Clark Kent-like looks earned him the moniker "The Professor," Greg Maddux was anything but serious and studious in the clubhouse during his 23-year major league baseball career.

In stark contrast to his subdued public demeanor, Maddux -- who announced his retirement from baseball Monday at the Bellagio -- displayed a devilish, sophomoric sense of humor in private that led former teammate David Wells to affectionately call him "The Silent Scumbag."

It turns out Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner also known as "Mad Dog," was not only a master of pitching, but a masterful prankster and clubhouse comedian as well, several baseball executives said after attending his retirement news conference.

"Oh, I've got a few (Maddux stories) but I don't think they're fit for print," San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "But he was certainly a prankster and a lot of fun.

"All I can tell you is 'don't eat the chili.' I can't go any further than that. (Maddux put) foreign objects in the chili."

In the middle of a miserable Padres season this year, Towers said Maddux provided much-needed comic relief.

"As difficult as last season was, it was nice to have Maddux in the clubhouse because he kept things light and upbeat," Towers said. "I miss not having him around, even during tough times."

When Maddux played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, general manager Ned Colletti said he literally ignited the team.

"He used to light guys' shoes on fire all the time," Colletti said. "If somebody had a hot foot, 10 to 1 it was Greg who lit it."

Maddux, known to belch or pass gas during locker-room interviews, also was "a master of strategically timed nose picking and sidling up to an unsuspecting rookie in the shower and urinating on the kid's leg," it was reported last year in an article on ESPN.com.

"I call him 'The Silent Scumbag,' " Wells said in the story. "You would perceive him to be Einstein because he's quiet and he's always sitting there at his locker with a crossword puzzle. But he's got a silent sickness to him. ... Those quiet guys are the ones you have to watch out for."

Despite his fondness for hijinks, Maddux went out of his way to help his teammates, especially the younger ones, Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry said.

"He was a great teammate and a very caring guy," Hendry said. "He was so helpful to so many players but he would never take credit for helping anybody.

"He's one of those guys all the other players love and respect, and they always retell stories about things he might be accused of in the locker room. He's one of a kind."

Longtime Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox said Maddux "could loosen up the team as fast as anybody, just with a little practical joke here and there.

"He had a tremendous amount of fun, but always in a good way," he said.

In an article on MLB.com, former Braves pitcher Tom Glavine said "Unfortunately, you can't write half of the stuff he did, because he wasn't proper."

The story reported "many of Maddux's teammates would carefully reach into the bin of sanitary socks with the hope of finding two that he hadn't tarnished in some shape or form."

"He's the same dirtbag he's always been," Atlanta teammate Chipper Jones said, with a laugh, in the article. "He's one of the grossest guys I've ever been around in my life.

"That was part of his charm. That's how he kept the clubhouse mood light. That's how he entertained himself."

Maddux didn't mention his clubhouse antics Monday but said he'll miss virtually everything about the game, from playing golf on the road, poker with teammates on planes and "just hanging out with the guys," and, we're guessing, playing pranks on them.

"There are so many things that go on in baseball that have nothing to do with the first through the ninth inning that I'll miss," Maddux said. "I'm sure as time goes by I'll miss them even more."

It's safe to say baseball will miss "Mad Dog" as well.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0354.

 

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