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Schuerholz: Cooperstown the 'Valhalla of baseball'

Braves' architect ready to take his place among legends in baseball's 'Valhalla'
MLB.com @mlbbowman

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- During his 50-plus years in the baseball world, John Schuerholz has always enjoyed a fond appreciation for any opportunity he had to visit the baseball haven formally known as Cooperstown. The legendary executive has gladly traveled to this quaint town in upstate New York to see his former players and one of his former managers receive baseball's greatest honor.

But this weekend's trip has stirred emotions in a different way for Schuerholz, who will be one of five greats of the game inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 76-year-old Braves vice chairman is being honored for the tremendous success he had while serving as general manager in both Atlanta and Kansas City -- a pair of cities that celebrated World Series titles under his leadership.

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- During his 50-plus years in the baseball world, John Schuerholz has always enjoyed a fond appreciation for any opportunity he had to visit the baseball haven formally known as Cooperstown. The legendary executive has gladly traveled to this quaint town in upstate New York to see his former players and one of his former managers receive baseball's greatest honor.

But this weekend's trip has stirred emotions in a different way for Schuerholz, who will be one of five greats of the game inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 76-year-old Braves vice chairman is being honored for the tremendous success he had while serving as general manager in both Atlanta and Kansas City -- a pair of cities that celebrated World Series titles under his leadership.

"I love [Cooperstown]," Schuerholz said. "I regard it as sort of the Valhalla of baseball, where all of the ... greats are gathered in recognition of their greatness. I have a wonderful appreciation for that -- and always have. ... So my admiration and appreciation didn't just start, but it is ticked up because I'm personally involved now."

:: 2017 Hall of Fame induction coverage ::

MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- begins with MLB Tonight today at noon ET, followed by the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Prior to today's live coverage, you can watch a rebroadcast of the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network. It features Rachel Robinson (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award), Claire Smith (J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers), and the posthumous honoring of Bill King (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters). The presentation will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film, "A League of Their Own."

Video: Glavine remembers Schuerholz's key decisions

As the architect of each of the 14 consecutive division titles the Braves won immediately after he came to Atlanta to serve as GM, Schuerholz has recently been given a good reason to celebrate this great run on a nearly annual basis. He came to Cooperstown in 2014 to see Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and longtime manager Bobby Cox inducted, and returned the following year for John Smoltz's induction. Schuerholz plans to be back again next summer, when Chipper Jones is expected to add to Atlanta's strong presence in the Hall.

"We're going to change the name here in Cooperstown to the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame," Hall of Famer Wade Boggs playfully said. "It's amazing what Mr. Schuerholz has done. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, having put all of those teams together."

Schuerholz certainly benefited from the fact that for a decade the Braves' rotation was anchored by Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. But he was the one who made the financial decisions that allowed this trio to stay together -- and he also made the decision to sign Maddux instead of Barry Bonds in 1993.

"I hesitate to say never, but I'm pretty sure [winning 14 straight division titles] will never happen again," Glavine said. "To be able to put that together is a lot of work. Sure, it helps when you have three guys in your rotation that stay healthy and you can count of them year after year. But there were also a lot of guys that came in and out of there. John did a great job of revamping the Minor League system when he came over, making that the pipeline of the sustainability portion of those years of success."

Video: Snitker on excitement to hear Schuerholz's HOF speech

Blessed with tremendous communication skills, Schuerholz was also seemingly gifted with the ability to captivate any audience with his great knowledge and wit. But he has said the speech he will deliver today is the most challenging one he has ever had to construct.

"I thought of the people I started with -- all the way back to my Baltimore Oriole days in 1966, all the way up through the 23 years in Kansas City and now the 27 years in Atlanta," Schuerholz said. "A lot of people sort of pitch in to lift you up and to keep you on point and push you forward. I will recognize as many of those people as I can."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves