Not like this. It should not have happened like this.
Oh, I’m sure baseball fans around the country were fascinated by Maddux vs. Glavine, and rightfully so. And it wasn’t a disastrous pitching performance, by any means. Maddux went 5 innings and gave up 2 runs, and you’ll take that most of the time. Glavine threw 7 frames and gave up 5 runs, which is mediocre, but not bad, really. For the 26, 439 who watched from Shea Stadium, it was likely worth the price of admission.
But Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine deserved better than this. They deserved a game written by Hollywood, the deciding game of the NLCS, with that red, white and blue bunting adorning the railings. They deserved the rapt attention of 55,000 in the stands and countless millions at home. They deserved an epic pitcher’s duel, forever etched in the memories of fans.
What we got was a chilly, rain soaked affair between a first place team and a random last place ball club.
But for Braves fans, May 30th, 2003 was a day of conflicts. The team beat the Mets 5-2, and that was satisfying, because it was the Mets. We got to see John Smoltz strike out all 4 batters he faced. The Expos lost, pushing them 4 ½ games behind Atlanta in the division. It’s been an amazing season so far, and Friday was another excellent data point.
And yet, Friday was also a day of great pain for us. We watched two ghosts from a not too distant past, a past which we are likely to never again see, once more haunt our collective memories with thoughts of what once was. We saw two soldiers, comrades in arms who we had seen together so many days. But this time, one of them was wearing the wrong uniform, and called the wrong battlefield home. We watched for the same reason we watch car wrecks and the “The Crocodile Hunter”: The pain is somehow sickly fascinating. Watching these two men, these two Hall of Famers, who contributed so much to the Braves franchise, and did so with consummate grace and professionalism, square off could not help but draw our eye.
Greg Maddux hasn’t been the Greg Maddux of 1994 any longer. He’s not even the Greg Maddux of 2002. Tom Glavine has given the Mets their lone bit of class. That and 50 cents will get you a Snickers™ bar from the vending machine in the Reitz Union. Both are still good pitchers, but neither are good bets to have their past, dominating performances.
But we hoped, desperately, fiercely hoped, that tonight, just tonight, time could roll back 8 years, and Greg Maddux would be thin, and Tom Glavine would have that nifty mullet, and it would be 1995 once more, and that two once dominant pitchers could be dominant one more time. Sometimes, the scripts that are written for us do not bow to our whims.