COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Home plate is 17 inches wide. Its width is a matter of rule and regulation, though not necessarily a matter of reality. As much as Doug Harvey, Bruce Froemming, Joe West and the others paid to distinguish between balls and strikes might deny it, the plate sometimes grows. Occasionally it expands vertically, but usually the change is horizontal.
Greg Maddux added an inch or so to the inside when left-handed batters were in the box. And his former teammate and new Hall of Fame colleague Tom Glavine steadfastly and famously added inches to both sides in his career-long effort to avoid sweet spots. When Glavine pitched, the width of the plate extended from here to way over there, where batters with the longest arms and bats were challenged to reach his pitches, but to areas that nonetheless qualified as strikes.
Glavine was inducted into the Hall on Sunday for a number of reasons -- 305 victories among them. And it was his practice of playing keep away that enabled him to produce a career that was Cooperstown-worthy.
"He never gave in," Mike Piazza said in March. "Tom was as stubborn as he could be. He just kept throwing away, away, away. When I caught him, the strike zone was always 18 inches. When I faced him, it was at least 20."
The source of the stubbornness that became Glavine's hallmark in 22 summers was introduced during his induction speech Sunday afternoon. The grateful son thanked his father, Fred, for teaching him the benefits of an ambitious work ethic. And, after he had apologized to mother Millie for naming her as his source, he thanked her for her stubbornness.
Call it a left-hander's compliment.
Tom Glavine ranks fourth all-time in wins for left-handed pitchers.
|Pitcher ||Wins ||Years |
|1. Warren Spahn ||363 ||21 |
|2. Steve Carlton ||329 ||24 |
|3. Eddie Plank ||326 ||17 |
|4. Tom Glavine ||305 ||22 |
|5. Randy Johnson ||303 ||22 |
|6. Lefty Grove ||300 ||17 |
|7. Tommy John ||288 ||26 |
|8. Jim Kaat ||283 ||25 |
|9. Jamie Moyer ||269 ||25 |
|10. Eppa Rixey ||266 ||21 |
Later, after he completed his 17-minute, 12-second "10-minute speech," Glavine told about a New England upbringing that had helped him find a place and a plaque in baseball's Smithsonian. "As much as we tell ourselves as kids that we're not going to be like our parents, we inevitably inherit their characteristics," he said. "My mom was the one who hammered home what I was supposed to do. Home from school, do your homework, then you can go out."
Gary Sheffield, years after playing with Glavine, accused him of creating a "Silly Putty strike zone" because it was stretched beyond recognition after three batters.
"Sometimes," Sheffield said, "he wouldn't get a call on the outside corner -- I think it happened 20 times in his career. So you figured he'd come closer with the next pitch. You'd be ready to take it the other way. Then he'd go further away and you couldn't get anything but the end of the bat on it."
Glavine stubbornly won two National League Cy Young Awards and at least 20 games in five seasons, creating a resume that earned him HOF election in his first year of eligibility. His most prominent victory in the decisive Game 6 of the 1995 World Series -- he allowed one hit in eight innings while his teammates scored once for him -- was a testament to the discipline he had developed at an early age.
Glavine says he didn't have particularly narrow tunnel vision that night when he defused the Indians' potent batting order. He was accustomed to pitching with a high level of concentration. In a video that preceded Glavine's introduction, Leo Mazzone, his pitching coach through nearly all his time with the Braves, said Glavine might have had "the strongest mind in the game."
The ability to focus was demonstrated during his speech.
Dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and pink tie and pocket square, all chosen by his wife, Glavine delivered it with an almost blank, almost stern expression. But he made all his pitches and his points, acknowledging the influence and support of his parents and brothers, pitching coaches Mazzone and Rick Peterson, Maddux and John Smoltz and of course Bobby Cox. He thanked Ted Turner, John Schuerholz, Fred and Jeff Wilpon and the trainers who continually put the Humpty Dumpty, No. 47 back together again.
It was Peterson who, when he and Glavine were with the Mets, convinced Glavine to throw inside to keep hitters from cheating and to offset some of the effects of QuesTec.
Glavine thanked Maddux for making him a better pitcher and "for all the money we took from Smoltzie in golf."
The man who had thrown 56 complete games was comprehensive. "I knew he'd deliver," Cox said. "That's Tommy. Always reliable. He gives you everything he's got."
Glavine saved his final salutes for his wife, Chris, and his children. He always has put family before his professional life and even his golf game. And he thanked kismet for the coincidence that brought him, Maddux and Cox to Cooperstown in the same summer to share the grand finales of their careers.
"It couldn't get any better for me," he said.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com.