Tomorrow one of the last baseball links to my boyhood will move on. Greg Maddux is going to retire after 22 years in the game. I was 10 years old when he began his career with my team, the Chicago Cubs, and I will always associate him with the improbable playoff run of '89. It was perhaps the team's most boneheaded move (even more so than the Lou Brock trade) to let him go after the '92 season when he won his first Cy Young award. He would go on to win three more and serve as a pillar of the Atlanta Braves powerhouse of the '90s, which reached its peak with a World Series victory in '95. Following Maddux's departure, the Cubs floundered through the decade, with only a flash-in-the-pan boost from Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood in '98.
I don't agonize over what could have been had my team kept one of the greatest control pitchers of all time, but rather I only feel the sweet sting of time's passing, as the oldest of the old guard resign themselves to their final places in the big tome of baseball's history. Yes, they are now gone, and perhaps with it the living remnants of my youngest days, but at least I'll be able to remember what they did for the game and its fans. (I'm am comforted by the fact that another old Cub, Jamie Moyer, is still playing and just helped the Phillies win a title.)
As the Cubs were losing Game 1 of this year's National League Divisional Series against the Dodgers, Joe Torre called Greg Maddux, a 355-game winner, out of the bullpen to face his old team. Great irony, certainly, but also a wonderfully strange and poetic returning that I would hope everyone in their own lives could enjoy. I don't know what Maddux will do next, but in my mind he already has joined the eternals — a Cub, always our guy.