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By Jon Weisman
News of “Greg Maddux III: This Time, It’s Tutorial” unavoidably brought back memories of his first appearance in a Dodger uniform — one that almost became the most memorable of his 740 career Major League starts.
Ten years ago this August, pitching for the Dodgers three days after they traded Cesar Izturis to the Cubs for him, Maddux took the mound on a humid night in Cincinnati after a 65-minute rain delay.
The 40-year-old then needed only 72 pitches to complete his first six innings, walking three (two of whom were eliminated by double-play grounders, including only the second 3-5-1 double play in the past 50 years) and striking out three.
He had allowed exactly zero hits.
Then, the rain came back, and by the time it stopped again, 45 minutes later, the Dodgers and Maddux decided he should call it a night.
“I’ve gone back out after a delay in the second or third inning, but never after six innings,” Maddux told reporters afterward. “I didn’t want to be selfish.”
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Had Maddux been able to finish the final three innings they way he completed the first six, he would have had the only no-hitter of his 23-year Major League career.
With the game taking place on my second child’s second birthday, I was having an interesting experience keeping up with it. In fact, I wasn’t sure I hadn’t jinxed it. And it was frustrating wondering what might have been. (The first batter for the Reds to face Dodger reliever Joe Beimel in the bottom of the seventh inning, Scott Hatteberg, singled, by the way.)
But still, it was quite a Dodger debut, and much more enjoyable to remember than his most famous game against the Dodgers, 10 years before that, when he won Game 2 of the 1996 National League Division Series for the Braves, 3-2, at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles scored two unearned runs off Maddux on two Atlanta outfield errors, only to surrender the lead in the seventh inning on home runs by Fred McGriff and Jermaine Dye. Now, that was really a frustrating night.