Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #332, Elliott Maddox (Article 64)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
In the 1970s, there were many great centerfielders, but two of the best of them defensively were both named Maddox.
There was Garry Maddox of the Phillies (and Giants).
And there was Elliott Maddox of the Yankees (and Rangers, and Orioles, and Mets, and Tigers).
They were both right-handed hitters. They both played center field. In Strat-o-Matic, the fielding rating for each was a 1 (which is the best you can be).
In 1977, Topps added some special cards to the set. These cards highlighted Big League Brothers. Those cards featured:
George and Ken Brett
Carlos and Lee May
Paul and Rick Reuschel
Bob and Ken Forsch
They never made a card that featured Elliott and Garry Maddox.
That’s because they weren’t brothers.
A lot of kids growing up thought they were.
Often lost in the annals of baseball, and only found when one looks, reads, and researches players are fascinating people – amazing human beings who get overshadowed by life, the game, circumstances, other players, and more.
One of those amazing people was Elliott Maddox.
Elliott Maddox was a New Jersey kid who grew up a Yankees fan. He got to then play for the Yankees. A dream come true.
(I know a writer in his 50’s who is still waiting (hoping, desperately) for that dream to come true.)
Maddox was first drafted by the Tigers in the first round 1968 after attending the University of Michigan. As a minor leaguer playing in the south, he fought against the racism he encountered. When he and some teammates couldn’t get a hotel room and had to sleep in their cars, Elliott called the Tigers’ General Manager and complained. They soon had a hotel room like the other players.
By 1970, he was in the Major Leagues, playing all over the place. He appeared at each of the following positions: Second Base (1 game), Shortstop (19 games), Outfield (37 games), Third Base (40 games).
(We read and we learn… I never knew this great defensive outfielder played this much infield in his career.)
Maddox was, primarily, an outfielder, but it is interesting to note that in his first and last seasons, he primarily played third base (40 games in 1970, 115 games in 1980).
After that 1970 season, Maddox was one of the players in the famous trade that sent Denny McLain from the Tigers to the Washington Senators. He played in Washington Senators for that 1971 season – their last as the team was relocated to Texas and became the Texas Rangers in 1972.
Trivia – Who was the last player who ever batted for the Washington Senators? (Answer – Elliott Maddox, he hit a sacrifice fly. Soon the angry fans would swarm the field resulting in a forfeit when the game couldn’t continue. The visiting team won as a result. That visiting team was the Yankees.)
After three seasons with the Senators/Rangers, Maddox was sold to the Yankees for the 1974 season. Soon into that season, Bill Virdon, the Yankees’ manager, made him the centerfielder. Maddox responded by having his finest season as he batted .303 over 137 games. He was so good, he finished in the Top-10 in A.L. MVP voting that year.
Of course, that move to center did not come without some controversy. The Yankees already had a centerfielder… Bobby Murcer. Murcer was a big star on that Yankees team, but he was moved to right field and his spot was taken over by Maddox. After that season, Bobby Murcer was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds.
Maddox was having another solid season in 1975 when he slipped on the grass in a wet outfield and hurt his knee. This began two seasons of injury and a knee surgery.
After the 1976 season (he did return to play briefly in the post season), Maddox was part of a trade with the Orioles that brought the Yankees Paul Blair, who was at the end of his career, but still had a few nice seasons for the Yankees in a reserve role. Maddox was a great defensive outfielder. For this period, Paul Blair, though, was probably the best, even if he wasn’t still that player by 1977.
Maddox is pictured as Yankee for this 1977 set, but he didn’t play for the Yankees that year. He appeared in 49 games for the Orioles batting .262
After the 1977 season, Maddox returned to New York to play for the Mets where he finished out his Big League career.
After his career, Elliot Maddox helped to establish Little League baseball in Poland. He also spent much time coaching kids in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Israel.
The story of Elliot Maddox is a fascinating one.
His Yankees career was short (just 210 games over three seasons, the final two mostly injured), but he batted .299 in pinstripes, played great defense, and left his mark on the game.