Is it possible that, on the biggest stage that Major League Baseball has to offer, arguably the greatest control pitcher of all time lost his composure?
It depends what you think truly happened in Game 5 of the 1995 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. Future Hall of Fame Atlanta starter Greg Maddux had mowed down his opposition in Game 1 of the series, allowing just two hits and two unearned runs in a complete game victory at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and he was ready to take Cleveland on again to end the Fall Classic.
The second time on the mound, however, wasn't going to be as easy, as evidenced by the two-run blast off the bat of Albert Belle to open up the scoring in the first inning. It was during the next at-bat, though, that the moment in question from that inning occurred.
Many may have thought that it was intentional — opposing starter Orel Hershiser respectfully reminded Maddux that he was also going to have the ball during the next half inning — and it clearly didn't sit well with Murray. Maddux, however, denied that there was any intent behind the pitch and said that it was "unfortunate" that it might have looked that way (via Gordon Edes and Ray Recchi of The Sun-Sentinel).
That was over 25 years ago. And more than a quarter-century later, Maddux maintains his innocence. He explained everything about the pitch in the latest episode of the "Hardball" podcast.
"I didn't throw at him. What happened was... (Carlos) Baerga was hitting and I threw him a cutter, and I didn't get it in enough," Maddux explained. "I kind of left it right down the middle, and you know, one of my things was I always pitch off my last pitch, and it was a bad pitch and he had fouled it off or something. I got away with a mistake.
"And then Albert Belle comes up, hits the home run. Eddie Murray comes up, and now I need to throw Eddie Murray a cutter and you know, five or six pitches ago I'd left my last cutter over the middle. So I had to make sure I get it in, and I kind of overdid it a little bit and it came up and in. It looked bad. I had just given up a home run and Eddie had a reaction to it and then, you know, the reaction was I couldn't back down because I don't want to show any weakness in that situation, and it looked like I threw at him, but I didn't."
So, based on Maddux's story, it was just a matter of losing control. And, to his point, why would he let his emotions get the best of him and influence his decision making when he could be the reason why the Braves win the World Series?
"I mean, it's the World Series. You're not gonna throw at guys in the World Series, especially in the first inning," Maddux said. "I think the last thing you want to do is give up 90 feet because of, I don't know, ego or a personal problem... that's the last thing you want to do."
Maddux settled down for four scoreless innings after his rocky first, but he was tagged for two more runs — both from singles off the bats of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez... what a lineup! — in the sixth and ended up losing that game.
For what it's worth, Murray later said that they spoke about the incident when they were on the Dodgers together — Murray was a coach with the team in 2006-2007, when Maddux was finishing his playing career — and there doesn't seem to be any bad blood between them.
Murray was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, his first year of eligibility, for an extremely consistent career that made him one of only a handful of players with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Maddux found his way to Cooperstown 11 years later, also in his first year of eligibility, for the pinpoint control and efficient dominance that led to four Cy Young Awards — though the brushback to Murray was a big blip on that radar.