Smoltz adds levity to solemnity in Hall speech

Reflective pitcher addresses seriousness of Tommy John surgeries, dons wig to fire back at HOF mates

July 26th, 2015

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- John Smoltz did not intend for his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech to run as long as it did. But it only seemed fitting that the last man to wear No. 29 for the Braves' organization spent a little more than 29 minutes extending gratitude and drawing some laughs with that same sense of humor that made him such a beloved teammate during his legendary pitching career.

"The best way to describe my career is unique," said Smoltz, who was inducted alongside Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. "I can't think of any other word. It's unique in every way. I have fingerprints on my career from all of those who have touched me and impacted me and helped me along the way. It is a huge army that got John Smoltz from Lansing, Michigan, to where I am today."

As Smoltz officially became the latest draftee (22nd round by the Tigers in 1985) and first Tommy John surgery recipient to enter the Hall of Fame, he reminisced about how he fulfilled the dream that developed when, at 7 years old, he dashed his accordion-playing parents' hope that "he would become the next Lawrence Welk."

"You loved me enough to go after my dream," Smoltz said to his parents, who were seated directly in front of him. "You didn't discourage me from leaving the accordion for Major League Baseball. You just told me to have a backup dream, and I did that as well, even though it was [to be] a gas station attendant at the time."

Smoltz's dream to play for the hometown Tigers ended when he was the pitching prospect Detroit sent to Atlanta during the latter part of the 1987 season. But this deal paved the way for him to share a significant portion of his career in a Braves' uniform with three other current Hall of Famers -- Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine -- and Chipper Jones, who could enter Cooperstown as early as 2018.

While Smoltz once again expressed his appreciation for the significant impact Cox had throughout his career, he donned a wig during his address to light-heartedly retaliate after Maddux and Glavine issued bald jokes in his direction during their induction speeches last year.

Though his good friend, Jeff Foxworthy, begged him not to display too much of his corny humor, Smoltz provided a little more levity when he poked some fun at the fact that Jones has been known to occasionally draw some ire via his Twitter account.

"I'm not going to say anything about [Jones], because he will have the [microphone] last, but please somebody steal his Twitter account," Smoltz said with a laugh.

Smoltz used a portion of his speech to address parents about his belief that young pitchers could avoid Tommy John surgery at a young age if they did not play baseball on a year-round basis. But much of his address was aimed toward thanking guys like his former pitching coach Leo Mazzone and Dr. Joe Chandler, the Braves' long-time doctor who has been credited with the extended longevity Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux experienced throughout their respective careers.

When Smoltz exited the ceremony, he expressed regret that he had mistakenly skipped over the portion of his speech that was reserved for Ted Turner, the former Braves owner who was willing to provide the financial resources necessary for the club to rise from the basement to the penthouse during Smoltz's now immortalized career.

"I can't believe I'm a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Smoltz said. "I just never dreamt that when I was 7. I did dream about pitching in the big leagues, but never getting to the Hall of Fame."