ATLANTA -- When the Braves signed Greg Maddux before the 1993 season, they added the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner to a rotation that had already carried them to the World Series in each of the previous two years.
With Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz serving as the anchors, the Braves built a rotation that will forever stand as one of the most formidable and successful baseball has ever seen. This trio monopolized the NL Cy Young Award voting during most of the 1990s, and the three thrived in one another's company while carving their personal journeys toward Cooperstown.
In a perfect world, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz would have received baseball's greatest honor at the same time. But because he played one extra year, Smoltz will have to wait at least 12 more months to experience the ultimate thrill that was felt by Maddux and Glavine on Wednesday afternoon, when they learned they had gained the distinguished honor of becoming first-ballot Hall of Fame selections.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Maddux said on MLB Network following the announcement. "It's a tremendous honor."
Maddux, Glavine and Frank Thomas were all elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame after receiving the necessary 75 percent of the votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Craig Biggio fell just short of the threshold, receiving 74.8 percent.
"I'm flattered, honored and extremely proud to be sitting here today and talking to you guys about my selection to the Hall of Fame," Glavine said while meeting with media members at Turner Field before catching a flight to New York early Wednesday evening.
Although it was already known that Maddux would not become the Hall of Fame's first unanimous selection, there was reason to wonder if he would receive the highest percentage of votes ever cast. He fell just short of that mark, receiving 97.2 percent (555 of 571 ballots). Tom Seaver holds the record, with 98.84 percent, with Nolan Ryan just behind, at 98.79 percent. Maddux's percentage was the eighth highest, also trailing Cal Ripken, Ty Cobb, George Brett, Hank Aaron and Tony Gwynn.
Glavine was also viewed as a "no-brainer" selection by most, receiving a vote on 91.9 percent of the ballots.
Cooperstown will certainly have a strong Braves presence when Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are inducted on July 27. Joining the two former Atlanta pitchers on the stage in Cooperstown that day will be their beloved skipper, Bobby Cox, who, along with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, became a part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class through an Expansion Era Committee vote in December. In addition, Torre was manager of the Braves from 1982-84, and La Russa briefly played for the club in 1971.
"It certainly would have been disappointing had I not gotten the call today," Glavine said. "But what I think what would have been really disappointing would have been to not have the opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg. If there would have been something that would have killed me about not getting that phone call today, I think that would have been it. It's such a rare opportunity to go into the Hall of Fame. It's an even more rare opportunity to go in with a teammate and a manager and go in at the same time, particularly with Greg and Bobby, two guys who were so influential on my career."
This marks the first time since 1946 that two pitchers who spent least one whole season in the same rotation will be part of the same induction class. Maddux and Glavine are also the first 300-game winners to be elected at the same time since Braves legend Warren Spahn and Mickey Welch gained entry in 1973.
While pitching in the same rotation from 1993 to 2002, Maddux and Glavine won more games and posted the top two ERAs among all NL pitchers with at least 250 starts. The Braves participated in the World Series three times and won nine of their record 14 consecutive division titles during this span.
The lone World Series title won during this span was secured on Oct. 27, 1995, when Glavine displayed his stoic demeanor while limiting Cleveland's powerful star-studded lineup to one hit over eight scoreless innings and leading the Braves to a 1-0 Game 6 victory.
"Glav taught me that you don't have to be 100 percent to pitch," Maddux said. "I think it's awesome to go into the Hall of Fame with Tom Glavine. It's just an added bonus."
After Glavine won the 1991 NL Cy Young Award, Maddux captured each of the next four, including the one he won while pitching for the Cubs in 1992. The two pitchers combined to receive 125 of the 132 (94.7 percent) first-place NL Cy Young Award votes cast from 1991-95.
Maddux began his career with the Cubs in 1986 and experienced the first of his 11 seasons with the Braves in 1993. He rejoined the Cubs in 2004 and did stints with the Padres and Dodgers before retiring after the 2008 season.
As he journeyed toward Cooperstown, Maddux went 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA over 740 career starts. His 355 victories stand as the eighth-highest total all-time and rank second only to former Brave Warren Spahn among pitchers since 1930.
Maddux became the first pitcher to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards, an accomplishment since matched by Randy Johnson. He compiled an incredible 1.98 ERA during the 124 starts he totaled during the four-year stretch from 1992-95. Jose Rijo was the only other qualified starting pitcher who produced a sub-3.00 ERA within that span.
During the strike-shortened 1994 season, Maddux went 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA -- the second-lowest mark recorded in a season since the mound was lowered in 1969. The next year, he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA.
"I think Greg's greatest influence on me was the way he would go out there and have a game plan and execute that game plan or change that game plan not only based on what he wanted to do, but what hitters were telling him," Glavine said. "That really wasn't anything I paid attention to up until talking to Greg Maddux. My game plan was always, 'Here is what I want to do, and I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to do it, and hopefully, I'm going to beat you.
"But listening to Greg and talking to Greg about hitters' reactions, whether it be how they took a pitch or how they fouled off a pitch or how they swung at a pitch, all of that was valuable information that he used and processed. That was really the first time I started paying attention to all of that."
Armed with pinpoint command, unflappable poise and an intense competitive desire, Glavine went 305-203 with a 3.54 ERA in 682 career starts. The legendary lefty produced five 20-win seasons and was honored with the NL Cy Young Award in 1991 and 1998. He finished second for the award twice (1992 and 2000) and third twice (1993 and '95). Glavine made his Major League debut for the Braves in 1987 and spent 17 of his 22 Major League seasons as a member of Atlanta's pitching staff. While pitching for the Mets from 2003-07, he completed his journey toward becoming one of just six left-handers in Major League history to record 300 wins.
Although the Cy Young Awards and the 1995 World Series MVP honor provide tangible proof of Glavine's greatness, his success was also a product of the toughness and determination he showed while making 672 career starts before making his first trip to the disabled list at the age of 42 in 2008.
"Winners make commitments, and losers make excuses," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "[Glavine] never ever made an excuse for why he couldn't take the ball or why he couldn't start that day. This guy has been a winner. This guy has been committed to leading his team and his teammates and his organization to the very top. Today I'm happy we celebrate his going to the very top, to baseball's Hall of Fame."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.