Garry Maddox

September 7, 2007

My gods are mass-produced, disinterested, mostly ignored. Note the left-hand fringe of this 1976 Garry Maddox card: it is a cutoff border of another card, possibly for a member of the Texas Rangers. I was generally able to embrace the illusion that each card I got in a pack had come into existence in some sort of singular burst of creation, something meant to end with the deliverance of the card to my hands, but cards like this suggested huge sheets of cards spitting out of machines to be sliced into many rectangles by other machines. I didn’t like the idea of huge sheets of cards. It seemed to suggest I didn’t matter. But gods will not give you what you like.

And note the look on Garry Maddox’s face. Does he seem to care that he is to serve as one of the figures in my ever-expanding pantheon of gods? No, he clearly has his mind on other things. Gods will not be thinking of you.

And note the empty seats. There are just a few figures in the stands behind Garry Maddox, but even they seem more likely to have their minds on anything but the random moment unfolding in the foreground. This is a realm where nobody cares. A mass-produced image of a disinterested man taking a phantom swing in his warmup jacket in front of empty seats and apathetic soltaries. The back of his card should include the koan about a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear, but instead it shows years stretching backward (years always stretching backward with my gods) to his time with the Giants, when he was on the same team with the confusingly similar Gary Matthews, as if the Giants in the days before I was really paying attention were a primordial ooze where one god merged into the next. Note that as the years went on I learned the difference between Garry Maddox and Gary Mathews, so much so that I forgot I’d ever confused them, and in doing so lost some of the connection to the mystery of the gods.

But also note, above all, Garry Maddox’s muttonchops. Thanks and praises for Garry Maddox’s muttonchops. If a man swings in a ballpark and nobody cares, does it matter? That’s the koan for the day. My answer: muttonchops.


  1. 1.  A Ranger or perhaps a Cub.

    Love the miscuts. My first real year for cards was 1973 when I was thrilled to realize I’d gotten maybe 10% of Willie Mays.

  2. 2.  I don’t have any posts about ’76 Cubs cards, but compare the color scheme in this 1976 Rangers card:


  3. 3.  2 Here’s a ’76 Cubs card:

  4. 4.  Garry sure did have his mind on other things — like what he would be doing when he was no longer a Cardboard God. Smart man. (He also might be suffering from a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder — Maddox served a year in Vietnam while in the minors)

    “The Minister of Defense” (an apt nickname for a Cardboard God) has been a prominent member of the Philadelphia community since his retirement. He is CEO of an office furniture company and is involved with youth charities. He also still serves as an outfield instructor for the Phillies in spring training (although you wouldn’t have known if you saw Wednesday’s game against the Braves). Maddox, despite making an error in the 1978 NCLS against the Dodgers which cost the Phillies the series, has always been well respected and a fan favorite here in Philadelphia.

    Gary Matthews, aka “Sarge”, is a commentator on Phillies TV broadcasts. Let’s just say Sarge is a work in progress.

  5. 5.  I thought every pack of baseball cards included a harsh reminder of the indifference – even scorn – of the gods. It was a thin pink plank, dusted with white powder, that enticed you a few times into believing that maybe this time it would be gum. But when you bit it, it shattered into sharp splinters that might soften eventually, but would never quite resolve themselves into anything like gum.

  6. 6.  4 : Yeah, Maddox could go and get ’em in the outfield. What a hilarious 2/3 to 1/3 mixture of blistering speed and lumbering slowness they had in the outfield with Maddox, Bake McBride, and Greg Luzinski.

    Funny that Gary Mathews ended up in Garry Maddox’s town. They were always meant to be in proximity to one another, I guess. Sarge never played for the Phillies, did he?

    5 : That gum offered pain, followed by about a tenth of a second of enjoyment, followed by lingering disappointment. Still, some of the joy went out of life when they started selling packs without them. You know, when baseball cards became “investments.” On that note, here’s an item in today’s news:


  7. 7.  6 I completely agree. The “gum” was an essential part of the experience, even if you just threw it on the ground to see it shatter.

    A year or two ago I bought a pack of “classic” cards. They were wrapped in waxy paper, and designed much like old style cards. They even had cheesy, overexposed pictures (though the deliberate ovreexposure was a bit off; it missed the brilliant, otherworldly glare common to the old cards).

    That pack came complete with a powdery pink wafer – except that it was wrapped in plastic (so as not to sully the investment, I suppose), and it was soft and chewy. They missed the point entirely.

  8. 8.  Garry Maddox is, I suspect, the only ex-ballplayer to serve on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve.


  9. 9.  Sarge replaced “The Bull” in the 1981 season and played with Maddox for three seasons.

    To describe Luzinski as lumbering is quite kind (although he was my favorite player when I was growing up). Unlike Maddox and his error in 1978 many Phillies fans have not quite forgiven Luzinski (or manager Danny Ozark for that matter) for the dropped fly ball in the 1977 NLCS game 3 against the Dodgers off the bat of Manny Mota.

    Like Sarge, Bull has also returned to Philadelphia with “Bull’s BBQ” at Citizen’s Bank Park.

    Oh by the way Maddox lost the afro and muttonchops.

  10. 10.  I started collecting cards in 1974, and I also confused Giant teammates Garry Maddox & Gary Matthews. I also wondered why Maddox spelled his first name with two Rs and Sarge with only one, although perhaps he made up for it by having two Ts in his surname. I once heard a commentator remark that “Two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and the other third by Garry Maddox.” At the time, I thought that was one of the coolest quotes I had ever heard.

  11. 11.  I was always a big Garry Maddox fan. The first Phillie I (vaguely) knew about was Willie Montanez. Then in 1975 they traded Montanez to the Giants for Maddox, and (as usual) the Philly sportswriters and fans mocked the decision mercilessly. But my older brother (who at the time I considered Eternally Right About All Things) assured me that Maddox was faster, stronger, a better hitter, and a better fielder. I see that he betted .291 that year, and .330 the next, so I guess my instantaneous switch in allegiance from Montanez to Maddox had some justification, though I also see that Montanez batted .305 and then .317, so maybe the whole thing was a wash. I do see that, after the Phils traded him, Montanez played for seven different teams in eight years, before winding up with them again in Aug-Sept 1982, after which he retired. You sometimes wonder why some players are traded year after year – probably some clubhouse secret that know one wants to reveal, like that they’re a grade-A jerk and not good enough to keep in spite of it. Maddox meanwhile stayed with the Phillies until his own retirement in 86,

    Anyway, Garry Maddox was a joy to watch in the outfield. Eight straight gold gloves. He had a super-wide batting stance and a reputation as a first-ball hitter, which I see comes through in the stats: never more than 42 walks in a season, and usually less than 20. He gave off an air of dignity and calm, quiet grace. Sort of like the rest of the team, actually, which is one theory as to why they only won one series – just not enough fire, until Rose came along. But give me the Secretary of Defense ove Charlie Two-Bit Hustler every time.

  12. 12.  The gum was never about the taste. It was about the smell.

    The gum smell was a layer of magic coated on every card. When they stopped making baseball cards that smelled like gum, the cards lost all their magic. They became printed cardboard rectangles instead of Cardboard Gods.

  13. 13.  12 Excellent, Ken. You’re absolutely right, and I wouldn’t have put my finger on that.

    The gum itself was about texture, mostly unpleasant; it had no taste. But the smell on the cards was indelible.

  14. 14.  Eric! You’re forgetting about Mercury, the Cardboard God who assumed the form of Herb Washington. He is or was on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,



  16. 16.  Longtime Met announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner once said of Maddox’s defensive prowess, “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other third by Gary Maddox.”

    And yes, muttonchops are admirable. Quite admirable. You must have more muttonchop cards somewhere, Josh.

  17. 17.  15 : “You must have more muttonchop cards somewhere, Josh.”

    Nobody outmuttonchopped this guy:


  18. 18.  Check out the hat. It looks like it’s superimposed or pasted on the photo. If it’s real, Maddox doesn’t take three steps without it falling off. Then again, maybe the afro is tucked so tight into the wool that Maddox could stick his head out of a moving car and the cap still wouldn’t fly off.

    Perhaps I’m thinking about this too much.

  19. Suffering Bruin, in their prime, late-’70s Afro-wearing days Maddox and the man to his left in the Phillies’ outfield, Bake McBride, had some of the most-dramatic hat-flying-off moments the game would ever see. Oscar Gamble had the best Afro, but Maddox and McBride covered more ground at high speeds in the field and on the bases and were always losing their hats.

  20. The Minister of Defense was a bad ass! Ralph Kiner’s quote about Maddox rates is perfect: “Two thirds of the earth is covered by water–the other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”

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