Dec 23, 2014

Late Seventies Mets Outfielder: Elliott Maddox (1978-1980)

Elliott Maddox was born on December 21, 1947 in East Orange, New Jersey. The five foot eleven right handed hitter attended Union High School in Union, New Jersey , first drafted by the Hoston Astros in 1966 but chose not to sign.

He then went to the University of Michigan winning the Big Ten batting title in 1967 & was a first round pick (20th overall) by the Detroit Tigers in 1968. While at Michigan he began to take up Judaic studies. After batting .301 at AAA Rocky Mount in 1969 he was up with the Tigers in 1970.

Maddox spent one season in Detroit batting .248 with 3 HRs & 24 RBIs in 109 games. He was traded to the Washington Senators along with Denny McLain and Don Wert for Ed Brinkman, Aurelio Rodriguez, & Joe Coleman. He played for the Senators in their last season in the nation’s Capitol batting .217 with a HR 10 stolen bases & 18 RBIs in 128 games with 258 at bats.

In 1972 he moved to Texas with the franchise in the Rangers inaugural season batting .252 in 98 games as a reserve outfielder. In 1974 his contract was purchased by the A.L. New York club, where he would play for the next three seasons.

In 1974 while playing in Shea Stadium he batted .303 (sixth in the AL) with 26 doubles 45 RBIs and scored 75 runs. He was among the best in outfielders in the A.L. with 18 assists which was second in the league, posting a .986 fielding % . Maddox was an excellent defensive player, with a fine arm & recieved votes for the MVP award that season as well. Not only was he a top outfielder when he was healthy but he could also play the infield well.

In 1975, while both New York baseball teams were sharing Shea Stadium, Maddox slipped in the wet outfield injuring his knee, limiting him to just 55 games. Eventually he sued the team as his employer, the Mets as lessees of Shea Stadium, and the City of New York as owners of the stadium.

In a famous decision entitled Maddox v. City of New York, the Court ruled that he knew the condition of the grass at the time and decided to play anyway. During his playing days in New York, he converted to Judaism, following up on his studies from college.

After the 1976 season in which he only played in 18 games due to the injury, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Paul Blair. After one season and only 49 games, batting .262 he was granted free agency and signed with the New York Mets. For the 1978 Mets he began April seeing mostly pinch hitting action, debuting as a Met on April 25th grounding out against the Pirates Don Robinson. He began to get more playing time on the poor team & would play in 119 games on the season.

On May 10th he had two hits & drove in three runs in Montreal during a 7-2 win over the Expos. At the end of June he hit the first of just two HRs coming in a game at Wrigley Field in whih the Mets lost 9-8. On September 17th he helped Mike Bruhert pitch a four hit 2-0 shutout against the Phillies in Philadelphia, when he singled home Lee Mazzilli in the first inning. On September 10th, he singled off the Pirates Kent Tekulve in the bottom of the 8th inning. The hit scored Lenny Randle breaking a wild 9-9 tie leading to a 11-9 Mets win.

Maddox led the team with 71 walks posting a .370 on base %, while batting .257 with two HRs 18 doubles & 39 RBIs. He had three seven game hitting streaks throughout the year, showing little power. He began to play more third base appearing in 43 games at that position posting a .949 fielding %. Hamstrung injuries took their toll as he missed time in each of the next two seasons, and was never the same player as his early days.

In 1979 he was limited to only 86 games, batting .268 with a HR 13 doubles & 12 RBIs with a .335 on base %. On July 11th he helped the Mets tie up a game with a basehit off the Dodgers Jerry Ruess, scoring Alex Trevino. The Mets won the game with a John Stearns walk off hit in the 10th inning.

On September 24th he hit his only HR of the year, it came once again at Wrigley Field as he helped Craig Swan beat Dennis Lamp 3-1. In the outfield he played 65 games with a .985 fielding % & five assists.

His last season at Shea Stadium was 1980 & by now he converted over to being a full time third baseman. In 115 games at third he posted a .956 fielding % (5th best among NL third baseman) making 14 errors in 319 chances. He managed to play in 130 games overall, batting .248 with 4 HRs 16 doubles & 34 RBIs, leading led the league in hit by pitches with six. 

On May 24th he had one of his biggest thrills as a Met, driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning with a single off Rick Camp to beat the Atlanta Braves. Later in the month he drove in three runs in St. Louis helping the Mets to a 6-5 win over the Cards in St. Louis. In May he got his average up to .290 & helped the club by driving in runs in five different one run victories.

On July 17th he had another three RBI day, this time against the Braves at Shea Stadium in a 6-0 John Pacella shut out. On August 8th he drove in the games winning run with an RBI single off the Cardinals John Littlefield in a 3-2 Mets win in St. Louis.

Retirement: Maddox retired after the 1980 season, ending an eleven year career, at age 33. Overall he hit .261 with 742 hits 18 HRs 121 doubles 16 triples 409 walks 60 stolen bases 234 RBIs & a .358 on base %.

In 1989, Maddox visited Poland, where he initiated Little League baseball programs in four cities. He returned to the big leagues as a coach in 1990 and 1991 under Buck Showalter in New York with the AL team. Maddox also coaches baseball & football in Israel, where he lives part time as well as in Coral Springs, Florida.

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