Wolfe may not have been able to go home again, but Mad Dog could.

Not only that, but Greg Maddux orchestrated his return to the Chicago Cubs just in the nick of time, too.

See, after departing the northside after winning his first Cy Young Award in 1992, Maddux went on to capture three more in a row with the Atlanta Braves, who wooed him as a free agent.

And then, he stuck around another eight seasons, helping the Braves win ten division titles, three pennants, and a World Series.

He also established himself as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation — and all-time — while cementing his standing as a future Hall of Famer.

But for all of The Professor’s accomplishments in an Atlanta uniform, he left at least one big milestone for later — 300 wins.

Yep, Maddux became a free agent again after the 2003, entering his age-38 campaign with 289 victories to his name and an opportunity to shape his destiny.

It took until late March of 2004 for the veteran to pick his next destination, and it turned out to be the familiar, friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Then, after a slowish start that included three straight losses to begin his second Cubs tenure, picked up his first victory in late April. He stayed in the rotation pretty much all season, as usual, and won on a regular basis despite a 4+ ERA.

Then, on August 7, Maddux went five innings against the Giants in San Francisco to notch career victory number 300.

He would finish the season with 16 wins in total, and, though he didn’t figure in the Cy Young voting, Mad Dog did garner his 14th Gold Glove after seeing his streak of 13 straight snapped (by Mike Hampton) in 2003.

So, how did Topps celebrate Maddux’s triumphant homecoming that fall in their year-end Traded set?

Well, like this …

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So, in the year that Maddux came back to the Cubs, won his 300th game, and restarted his Gold Glove conquest, we got to see him bunting.

In a road uniform, to boot.

It was an odd choice that at least looks sort of interesting now, and, of course, there are dozens — probably hundreds — of different Maddux cards out there showing him in his “office.”

And if you really need to bask in his pitching glory while perusing 2004 Topps Traded, you can always just flip the card over …

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No stat line for his return to Chicago there, but you do get a full accounting of Maddux’s legend-building Braves years, plus a tagline about his 2004 with the Cubs.

Is that enough, along with the unusual nature of the Maddux-at-bunt card front, to save this 2004 Topps Traded from “prodigal” status, wherein the old gum company squandered an opportunity to build a legendary monument to a legendary reunion?

That’s in the eye of the beholder, of course, but it’s all a reminder that, often, going home looks different than you might have imagined.

Warrick Dunn 2004 Topps #147 Atlanta Falcons

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