'HE MADE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WERE SPECIAL'
Who's the nicest shopkeeper you can remember?
That was Bobby Cox, at least when he was minding the store for the Atlanta Braves or the Toronto Blue Jays. You'd stop in every once in a while, maybe for the first time in years, and he would look up from what he was doing to welcome you, ask how you were you doing, and start a conversation that would make you realize why the place was doing so well.
He was honest and gallant, smart and unflappable. There was this one time when I was talking to him in the runway between the dugout and the home clubhouse after the Braves had won a postseason series -- they won so many of them I honestly can't recall which one. What I do remember was that a huge rat seemed to be eavesdropping at our feet. Cox saw the look on my face, laughed and said, "Welcome to Fulton County Stadium."
If umpires bothered him -- his record 158 ejections may never be broken -- it was because he was protecting his players and widening the strike zone for his pitchers, two of whom are going to Cooperstown with him this weekend. "You coulda been the 25th player on the team," says Brewers coach Garth Iorg, who played for Cox in Toronto, "and he made you feel like you were special."
That leadership resulted in 2,504 victories, 15 division titles and five pennants. There should be an asterisk attached to Cox's only world championship in 1995 because it was really his first of three -- the 1992 and 1993 world champion Blue Jays were as much his doing as anyone else's.
That's why Paul Beeston, the president of the Blue Jays then and now, felt a little conflicted about beating the Braves in '92. "I don't want to lose to anyone," says Beeston, "but right after we won, I thought, 'Shoot, it's Coxie.' We wouldn't have been there without the lessons he passed on to our players. To know the guy, to play for the guy, was to love him."
The plaque alone won't do him justice. Underneath it should be a chair you can pull up for a chat.
-- Steve Wulf
HALL OF FAME GALLERY
See more photos of Bobby Cox and the other five members of the 2014 class. Launch gallery »
FACTS AND STATS
• BORN: May 21, 1941
• FROM: Selma, Calif.
• POSITION: Manager
• SEASONS: 29 (1979-85, 1990-2010)
• TEAMS: Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves
• RECORD: 2,504-2,001
HONORS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
• Won five NL pennants (1991-92, 1995-96, 1999)
• Won 1995 World Series
• Teams qualified for playoffs in 15 straight seasons (1991-2005)
• Sixteen postseason appearances is most all-time among managers
• Ranks fourth all-time in wins (2,504)
• Holds all-time record for ejections (158)
• Won Manager of the Year award four times (1985, 1991, 2004-05)
In so many ways, they don't come any better than Cox: It's been a rewarding life for Bobby Cox. http://t.co/cyxGs5xi8f
- Patty O'Sullivan (@patty_osullivan) July 24, 2014
Don Sutton on Bobby Cox: he set the example for his expectations. <
- Marybeth NeeSmith (@Marybeth622) July 24, 2014
@kapaya1234 you know my favorite Bobby Cox moment was last season.....50k plus fans doing the Bobby chant when they showed he was there
- Kevin Etheredge (@etherkehhi) July 24, 2014
"If I was a ballplayer, I'd want to play for Bobby Cox."
-- Umpire Bob Davidson
"A small part of Bobby Cox changes you as a baseball player.
Twenty years with the man changes your life."
-- John Smoltz
"He treats you like a man. He's very simple in what he wants. He doesn't have a whole lot of rules. You show up on time, and you show up ready to play,
and you play the game the right way."
-- Tom Glavine
"If I were on the field, I'd want the manager sticking up for me. Sometimes players are dead wrong, ranting and raving, but you stick up for them. They appreciate that."
-- Bobby Cox