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Traveling All-Stars
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2004

by Bill Hogan


 
 

On Saturday, Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux will make his 594th career start. Currently, his Major League record stands at 299 wins and 170 losses, which makes his start this weekend against the San Francisco Giants pretty important.

Any time a pitcher has the opportunity to reach that elusive 300 win mark, a mere regular season game becomes an event worth watching for all baseball fans. Of the many great, Hall of Fame pitchers that have stepped onto a big league mound over the years, only 21 have reached the 300 win milestone.

 
 


Maddux will become the 22nd pitcher to accomplish the feat; if not Saturday, then soon. And he'll do it as a Chicago Cub. A fact that has a lot of Atlanta Braves fans grumbling. The word on Peach Street is that it's a crying shame Maddux won't be wearing a Braves uniform when he notches his 300th win.

After all, Maddux spent 11 winning years with the Braves, collecting 194 victories and three Cy Young Awards. Now it's the Cubs fans that will have the chance to root him on as Maddux adds his name to a very short, very illustrious list of baseball's greatest pitchers. "What a jip," they say, in Atlanta.

While it may be an injustice to Braves fans that Maddux will chalk up win number 300 for a different ball club, their "misery" has plenty of company. In fact, a pitcher racking up such a milestone in this fashion seems to be more the norm than the exception.

In the past 40 years, seven pitchers have joined the 300 win club. In 1982, Gaylord Perry won his 300th game in his first season with the Seattle Mariners. Perry spent the first 10 years of his career with the San Francisco Giants where he won 134 games and had two 20-plus win seasons.

On August 4, 1985, Tom Seaver, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, beat the New York Yankees 4-1 to collect his 300th win. Seaver will forever be remembered as the Ace of the New York Mets pitching staff where he won 189 games and three Cy Young Awards and led the Mets to an improbable World Series Championship in 1969.

Don Sutton won 230 games in 15 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers before moving on to Houston – then Milwaukee and Oakland. He finally landed back in Southern California where he would win number 300 as a member of the California Angels.

Maybe Atlanta Braves fans are miffed by the events now surrounding Greg Maddux because they've been through this before. Phil Niekro spent 18 seasons in Atlanta, winning 266 games for the Braves before moving on. He'd get to magic number 300 while wearing pinstripes. On the last day of the 1985 season, Niekro and the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 8-0.

Nolan Ryan spent 17 seasons with the Mets, Angels and Astros before joining the Texas Rangers in 1989. In his five years in Arlington, Ryan broke the all-time record for strike outs, tossed his record seventh no-hitter and – yes – notched his 300th career win.

On June 13, 2003, Roger Clemens became the 21st member of the 300 wins club when his beloved New York Yankees beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2. After 13 years and 192 wins, Clemens left Red Sox nation for greener pastures. He won two Cy Young Awards in Toronto and added another in New York while twice winning the World Championship that had eluded him in Boston.

Steve Carlton was with the Philadelphia Phillies for over 14 seasons. During that time, he won 241 games – including number 300 on September 23, 1983. Carlton would leave Philly with 318 wins, collecting 11 more in brief stints with the Giants, White Sox, Indians and Twins before retiring.

In the past 40 years, Carlton is the lone exception to the band of wandering pitching greats that had the talent and longevity to hang around baseball long enough to reach pitching's greatest milestone.

So, fret not, Braves fans, you are not alone. If it's any consolation, the six retired pitchers I mentioned all entered the Hall of Fame wearing the ball cap of the team for which they are best remembered. Your day will come again when Greg Maddux gets to Cooperstown.

Unless he happens to dispel the "Curse of the Billy Goat" and lead the Cubbies to their first World Series Championship in 96 years!

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