December 21 – Happy Birthday Elliott Maddox
The 1974 season turned out to be a pleasant surprise for Yankee fans. George Steinbrenner had replaced Ralph Houk as Yankee manager with Bill Virdon after the 1973 season and the former Pirate outfielder was determined to make the Bombers his team. He boldly moved fan favorite Bobby Murcer from center to right field, inserted Lou Piniella in left in place of Roy White and named Elliott Maddox as his everyday center fielder. Neither Murcer or White were happy with the moves but they did not complain publicly and the new outfield began producing and preventing runs almost immediately. Maddox had been purchased by Gabe Paul from the Rangers during that preseason. He was an outstanding defensive center fielder and he had a great year offensively as well, averaging .303 with a .393 on base percentage. Murcer turned out to be an excellent right fielder, Piniella hit .305 and White got into 135 games as a DH and fourth outfielder. The Yankees surprised all of baseball by finishing second in the AL East with an 89-73 record, just two games behind a very good Baltimore team. So when the Yankees traded Murcer for Bobby Bonds and signed Catfish Hunter during the winter of 1974, most Yankee fans including myself thought 1975 would be the year the Yankees returned to the postseason.
That did not happen and perhaps a key reason why was that Maddox slipped on a wet Shea Stadium outfield in a June game against the White Sox and suffered an injury to his knee that not only ended his 1975 season but also took away some of his speed. In a famous court case, Maddox later sued both the Yankees and the Mets for forcing him to play on a field they knew was in an unsafe condition. Elliott lost the case in the New York State Court of Appeals. After appearing in just 18 games during New York’s 1976 Pennant-winning season, the Yankees traded their damaged outfielder to Baltimore for Paul Blair the following January. The following year he signed a free agent deal with the Mets. He spent his last three big league seasons back in the Shea Stadium outfield. He was released by the Mets after the 1980 season and never appeared in another big league game. Maddox was born in East Orange, NJ, in 1947.
Like Maddox, this slugger also played for both Big Apple baseball teams and currently ranks fifth on the Mets’ all-time career home run list. Both he and this one-time Yankee infield prospect was also born on December 21st.