Garry Maddox continues giving back


Ralph Kiner, the New York Mets' broadcaster, was once moved to say that "two-thirds of the earth is covered by water, the other one-third is covered by Garry Maddox."

As a major-leaguer, Maddox, known as the secretary of defense, indeed played his position superbly, More importantly, he played his role even better in showing what could be accomplished off the field as well as on.

Even though he is five years removed from the game, Maddox is still a quite the secretary of defense, only now he defends as best he can children who cannot defend themselves.

He has done so for nearly 14 years as an integral part of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, a place where the most innocent victims of violence in the home can find refuge.

Maddox knows all about such needs, for he has seen what violence can do to a soul. The night of his most recent fund-raiser for the children's clinic, Maddox gave a hint of how thorough his education has been.

The occasion was the 14th annual Garry Maddox Celebrity Bowling Tournament put on to benefit the clinic. This year the tournament happened to fall on Jan. 17, which was also the second day of the United States-led coalition's war against Iraq.

As other celebrities paired off the bowl at a South Philadelphia locale, Maddox met with reporters. He was asked if he felt it was appropriate that the Super Bowl go on as scheduled, considering the events of the day.

Maddox said yes. Such events are important to service men and women who might listen on Armed Forces Radio or watch via satellite, he explained. Maddox knew. He once clutched a radio so he could hear the 1969 World Series while serving as an Army combat infantryman in Vietnam.

Twenty-one years after his discharge, one invasion, one police action and one Desert Storm later, Maddox watched another generation go off to war. The most he could wish for was their safe return. In the least, he wished for them the small comfort of a game.

Days later, Maddox was almost apologetic about the reference. "I've made it my policy not to speak about the war," he said of the conflict that snatched him from the minor-league system of the San Francisco Giants at the age of 19. "I hope you understand."

And rare have been the glimpses the quiet, almost introverted Maddox has given. But there had been enough during his playing days for one to see that life at a forward base near Chu Lai was hell because it was war, with real mortars, real fears about chemical weapons (Agent Orange) and death itself.

Maddox came out of Vietnam whole if not completely healthy at first (skin rashes caused by allergies made it all but impossible for him to shave, thus resulting in his trademark beard, worn well before facial hair was commonly accepted in baseball).

Most important, Maddox did not return a bitter man. Instead, he immersed himself into society and the game which he played so spectacularly at times, as evidenced by eight Gold Gloves and a championship ring.

Maddox came to the Child Guidance Clinic shortly after being traded to the Phillies in 1975. He had to, Maddox figured, because he had just become a member of an athletic community nTC that was a veritable hotbed of such activities.

Julius Erving, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Clark, Bill Bergey, superstars all, seemed to be everywhere espousing their various causes. Leonard Tose, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, even helped found the nation's first Ronald McDonald House, a hospice for cancer victims' families.

In 1977, the bowling tournament was born. In any given year in that era, Maddox and his one-time co-host, Larry Bowa, would draft Erving, Schmidt, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton and ballplayers from around the country to participate.

Today, it's still the draw; fans come to see Charles Barkley, the musician Grover Washington Jr. and the like.

"Those guys are the ones who really make it successful," said Maddox. But it is Maddox who's remained the constant.

Not that Maddox hasn't had a notion to give way.

"The 13th tournament was going to be my last," Maddox admitted. "But there's been a tendency in this country to cut back.

"With fewer grants and the trouble Philadelphia is having with its economy, the funds were getting real short. Being on the clinic's board, it was an easy problem to recognize. I didn't have to be asked to stay."

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