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Hall excitement robs Glavine of usual eloquence

NEW YORK -- How many times have we heard a player use the crutch "It hasn't sunk in yet"? Sounds all right. Sounds authentic. Sounds acceptable to those whose workday is complete once a sound bite has been obtained. And it beats silence. I've always thought it was a copout, though, a way of saying something that is akin to saying nothing. Usually, when athletes prefer not to share their feelings, they say they have none and probably won't for a few days -- whenever those feelings sink in.

Tom Glavine never has been that sort of athlete. He always had something to say, usually something based in wisdom and truth and delivered with a level of eloquence not often heard in clubhouses of any game. Whether he was speaking publicly as the National League rep for the players' union or as a member of the Braves or the Mets or as a man approaching the 19th hole, he delivered.

Glavine was a go-to guy for reporters, columnists and those in pursuit of sound bites. Any reporters with a sense of what they had just witnessed wanted Glavine's take on it. At times we wore him out, but he seldom declined to provide insights others couldn't or were unwilling to provide.

So it was almost startling to hear Glavine speak in the hours following the announcement of his election to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon, and to hear him speak at a Hall of Fame news conference in Manhattan on Thursday morning. He seemed off balance, uncertain, almost guarded.

"I'm not sure how I feel," Glavine said at one point on Wednesday.

Of course, he was delighted by the developments of the day and the prospect of being inducted to the Hall with two of his favorite people, former teammate Greg Maddux and ex-manager Bobby Cox, come July 27. But Glavine spoke almost in a monotone. The spontaneity that was usually part of the conversation of this intelligent and confident man was missing.

"You don't sound like you," he was told during his Cooperstown conference call on Wednesday.

But then, during another hectic hour on Thursday morning, Glavine quietly explained himself.

"This is such a great thing," he said, emphasizing the word such. "It's what, I guess, I expected. I knew I had a good chance. But I guess I wasn't ready for it, not as ready as I thought I was. I wasn't prepared to feel the way I do. I don't know, even now I'm not sure it has sunk in yet."

Glavine promised that he was concealing nothing. He merely was unsure of the full impact of Hall of Fame election. His life has changed to a degree. His identity has changed dramatically. His name has been lengthened, to Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.

The clubhouse-born contraction, Glav, no longer suffices, nor does Tom. Now, when he accommodates the folks who seek his signature on a baseball, he almost is obligated to include the monogram he has earned, HOF.

Until Wednesday night, Glavine had declined to include that now-permanent suffix. About 90 minutes after he had gained his 300th career victory, on Aug. 5, 2007, in a Mets game at Wrigley Field, he was approached in the clubhouse by two boys who were quite satisfied with a simple signature. Their father asked for the "HOF" addendum.

"Not yet," Glavine said. "It wouldn't be appropriate."

Glavine wasn't worried about jinxing his Hall of Fame candidacy. He knew the credentials he had created at that point of what became a 22-year career would open all doors in Cooperstown. He declined because it was the proper response.

David Wright was apprised of that anecdote two days later -- David Wright, who lives his life by a code similar to Glavine's.

"Would you expect Tom to do anything else?" Wright said. "I have so much respect for him. You can learn a lot about being a good person and being a professional by watching Tom Glavine."

Glavine said on Thursday that he'd been right to decline, but also said, "I told each of the people who asked to come back if they could. I'll be happy to add the H-O-F now."

Happy and so proud. Glavine knows what it takes to gain election, and he understands the specialty of an election in the first year on the ballot. He wanted that. He knows how proud he has made his family. His father had a great appreciation for another left-handed Braves pitcher, Warren Spahn, also elected in his first year, with a percentage almost nine points lower than Glavine's 91.9.

A family headline: "Tommy outpolls Spahnie."

Glavine knows how difficult it had been to succeed without great stuff, without greater-than-average velocity.

"When you see guys like myself and Greg able to have the success we've had -- not only not being imposing figures physically, but certainly not imposing in terms of our velocity -- I think it gives hope to kids that, 'Hey, I have a chance, even though I may not be the hardest-throwing kid on my team,'" Glavine said.

A sincere thought from a sincere man.

At times as Glavine was speaking on Thursday and not necessarily focused on anything in particular, there was a sense that he was reviewing how he'd come to be standing in the Waldorf Astoria in New York, wearing a Hall of Fame jersey on a Hall of Fame day.

"My daydreams have been a little different since I got the call," he said.

The first two days of the experience, an experience that only 210 other players have had, had begun to sink in. Glavine acknowledged as much as his normal self began to reappear. He was reminded that, for as long as the Hall stands and as long as baseball followers measure excellence in the game, he will be identified as one of the elite. Glavine's face cracked a bit.

"Yeah," he said to that after taking a breath.


Marty Noble is a reporter for

New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Tom Glavine