Chicago Cubs: Rocky start, quick emergence
Maddux made his big league debut not as a pitcher but a pinch-runner in a 17-inning game against Houston on Sept. 3. The game was started during the day but, without Wrigley having any lights installed, it was suspended by darkness. He stayed in the game and pitched in the 18th inning, taking the loss. Four days later, he started against Cincinnati, going the distance in an 11-3 win, which snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Cubs.
Maddux made five starts for the Cubs during that 1986 season. His final one, against Philadelphia, saw him going opposite a familiar face, his brother, Mike. Greg prevailed against his older brother, winning 8-3.
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Maddux played winter ball following the 1986 season in Maracaibo, Venezuela. His brother Mike, an opposing adversary during the season, became his teammate. While playing that winter, Maddux met Dick Pole, a pitching coach who worked with Greg and helped teach him the value of a groundout. “You don’t have to strike him out,” Pole would say about opposing batters. “You just have to get him out.” Pole discovered that Maddux was fearless on the mound, a pitcher that would throw any pitch at any time. He warned Maddux not to throw a changeup on a full count in the ninth inning. However, Maddux did and invariably batters still got caught looking.
Maddux struggled as a 21-year old in 1987 with the Cubs, going 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA. However, from there, he went almost two decades before posting another losing record.
He greatly improved in 1988, pitching his way to an 18-8 record and his first selection to the All-Star team. That year also marked the first of 17 straight seasons with at least 15 victories, the longest streak by any pitcher in big league history.
In 1989, Maddux went 19-12 with a 2.95 ERA, leading the Cubs to the National League East title while finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
He won 15 games in 1990 along with the first of his record 18 Gold Glove Awards and led the NL in innings pitched in 1991 with 263 – the first of five straight seasons in which he led the league in that category.
After the season, Maddux became a free agent and was at the top of the market. His agent, Scott Boras, expected top dollar. The Cubs offered Maddux a 5-year, $27.5M contract, but appeared to back off when they signed pitcher Jose Guzman and offered Maddux a lesser contract. It was then reported that the New York Yankees topped all offers with a $37.5M price tag. With Maddux posed to go to the Bronx, a late entry by the Atlanta Braves, a club coming off two straight World Series appearances, caught the eye of Maddux and he quickly agreed to a 5-year, $28M contract with the team.