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He paused for 11 seconds.
"Everything's important," he finally said. "The game of baseball's important. Your family life's important. It's important, for me, to give everything I can give. You know, as a manager. That's very important. So. What else?" And he chuckled.
Here are a few of the ways in which Bobby Cox gives everything he can give as a manager. He treats everyone like a man, from bat boys to 20-year veterans. He keeps track of retired players and occasionally writes them checks if they need money. When a player is released, Cox calls other teams, trying to find him another job. When the game starts, he stands on the top step of the dugout, calling out encouragement. He calls his players by affectionate nicknames. Over the years he has cheered for Knucksie, Campy, Boggsy, Pokey, Hubby, Rock, Horns, Murph, Lemmer, Smoltzie, Teepee, Mad Dog, Glav, Chip, Fookie, Mac, Roscoe, Esco, Schafe and Wick. His voice carries across the infield and into the other dugout, where opposing players hear him and wish they could play for a man like that.
THERE IS no way to know how many times Cox has saved a player from ejection. The number must be large. David Vincent found that since Cox took over in 1990, the Braves' player-ejection rate has been about half the major league average.
We found evidence of at least six times that Cox took an ejection to keep a player from getting tossed. Then we looked at how those players used their second chances.
The salvation backfired once, on June 8, 1996, when Tom Glavine allowed 12 hits and seven runs after Cox rescued him from the thumb of Gary Darling.
Four other times it succeeded. Steve Avery pitched 2 1/3 innings more without allowing a hit. Tim Hudson cruised through the next six innings to get the win. Chipper Jones had that walk-off double against the Giants. It even happened once in the World Series, Game 6 in 1996, when Marquis Grissom exploded over a blown call at second base and Cox was ejected after helping other coaches restrain the Atlanta outfielder. In the ninth inning Grissom hit a two-out single to bring in a run and put the tying run on second. The Braves could have sent it to extra innings if Mark Lemke hadn't popped up to end the Series.
The sixth time is notable in its own way. On May 4, 1998, Ryan Klesko was in the dugout, airing various grievances to umpire Joe Nauert, when Nauert walked toward the bench to shut him up. It was the eighth inning. Klesko had already made his final plate appearance and was scheduled for defensive replacement in the ninth. Cox stepped up and took the ejection anyway.
ALONG ABOUT January 1978, in a clothing store in a midsized city in northeastern Georgia, a young female employee watched a man with suspicion. She thought he was a shoplifter, as opposed to the new manager of the Braves passing the time before a publicity appearance at the mall. Which is why she tried to have him arrested.
When it was all ironed out, Cox said the least she could do was give him her phone number. And so eventually she became Pam Cox, Bobby's second wife.