Javy Lopez recalls 'goofy' Maddux, respect for former Braves coach Cox

Former Atlanta Braves catcher Javy Lopez, homering in Game 2 of the 2001 National League Championship Series at Arizona

Javy Lopez should have been a nervous wreck, with all the hopes and dreams of a team and its fans scattered to the Fulton County Stadium breeze.

But something wonderful happened as the catcher tracked the flight of a baseball, from the crack of Carlos Baerga's bat to the magical moment it landed in Marquis Grissom's glove in left-center field to preserve a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The final out in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, the one that gave the Atlanta Braves their first and only World Series title, gave Lopez his favorite big league memory.

"As the ball was in the air, this flashback came into my head," Lopez said by phone from Atlanta. "It was the beginning of our season to the end, a flash of all the things that happened. And then I realized we were champions. It was the best feeling in the world."

Lopez will share 1995 World Series stories and others from his 15-year career Friday night at the Charleston RiverDogs' 10th annual Hot Stove Banquet and Auction. Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro is the other featured speaker. Greg Colbrunn, hitting coach of the 2013 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and a Mount Pleasant resident, also will be on hand for a reception and dinner at the Charleston Marriott.

It's an exciting time for Lopez, 43. His former Braves manager, Bobby Cox, and two teammates, Atlanta pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, are part of baseball's 2014 Hall of Fame class.

Cox, Lopez confirms, was the ideal player's manager.

"Bobby was a guy that created so much respect for players," Lopez said. "He didn't have to say much for players to listen to him. He said his few simple rules one time, and one time was all it took."

The Cox record of 158 ejections is endearing.

"Players see that and they respect that," Lopez said. "Bobby was always getting thrown out protecting his own players. That's what players want to see, helping them out."

Maddux, Lopez quickly found out, was a "goofy guy" off the field, a professor between the lines.

"He was always making jokes, some of them nasty," Lopez said. "But when it comes to the game, he's one of the smartest players you could ever know. He studied hitters days before his starts. He would sit down in the video room and study everything about the hitters, including their mechanics. He would do that for days. Then after the win, he was the goofiest guy around."

Glavine was "pretty much the total opposite of Maddux," Lopez said.

"Glavine didn't study as much as Maddux did, but he studied, too," Lopez said. "But off the field, he was just a more serious guy than Maddux."

Lopez, a native Puerto Rican who has four children ranging in age from 18 years old to 5 months, hit 260 home runs in the majors. Like most of the Braves that were part of a bittersweet run of division titles - a baseball-record 14 in a row but only one World Series crown - he is best remembered for October.

Lopez played in 60 postseason games for Atlanta and was named MVP of the 1996 National League Championship Series conquest of St. Louis.

Nothing compares to Game 6 in 1995.

David Justice provided the only run with a homer off former Georgia Tech pitcher Jim Poole, Tom Glavine pitched a 1-hitter for eight innings and Mark Wohlers closed with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"After the game, I jumped onto Mark Wohlers," Lopez said. "I didn't care how heavy I was, and I don't think he cared either."

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