Master of corners, Glavine to cut some today
Hall of Fame electee's induction speech needs to say a lot in little time
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The diminished state of the American attention span being what it is, the phrase "long story short" certainly has a place in our impatient, sound-bite, "lol" culture.
Not here, though, not this weekend. Not in this lovely burg during these thoroughly enjoyable 72 hours. When Whitey Herzog, Billy Williams or Bob Gibson are on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel telling tales, baseball truly is the game with no clock. They're urged to make a short story long. Tangents and asides are welcome -- even preferred.
Sadly, that preference will have little impact this afternoon when the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are staged. As much as a Woodstock-type audience -- blankets on a vast lawn with possible rain showers -- might want to hear Joe Torre's war and lore stories, the thoughts of Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Greg Maddux, and the insights of Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, the afternoon won't have enough minutes to accommodate any extended speeches.
Yeah, right. Torre could fill that if he merely read from the list of 300-plus friends and family members who have flooded this locale to share his moment. But it is 10 minutes, at least in theory. And 10 minutes, when recalculated by the Hall of Fame designate who routinely distorted the strike zone when he pitched, equals "12, maybe 13 minutes" in real time.
Hence the dilemma facing Tom Glavine on the eve of his finest hour in the game. Articulate, proper and armed with more to say than "I wanna thank everyone," Glavine will have to speak the way Gibson pitched, as if double parked, to touch all his bases. The guy who barely hit the corners en route to 305 victories, five 20-win seasons and two National League Cy Young Awards will have to cut some when he tries to fit all that and the rest of 22 baseball summers into 600 seconds.
Glavine said it's possible and remained calm Saturday afternoon in his last public appearance before the inductions. Hall of Fame coverage begins at noon ET today with MLB Tonight live from Cooperstown on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com and the At Bat app, with the induction ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m.
But he acknowledged a sense of urgency is likely to come upon him when he awakes today. In that way, his cool will be attacked the way it was on the mornings of critical starts he made for the Braves and Mets.
As any pitcher with eventual Hall of Fame credentials, Glavine trusted his stuff when he pitched. Mettle detectors sensed when he was on a mound. Speaking to a tens of thousands -- the police and the Hall estimate 40,000 people might attend today -- is different from pitching in front of 50,000 in October.
"It's not what I do," Glavine said. "It's not what I got paid for."
But Glavine has momentum. He's been speaking more than usual since January, when he, Maddux and Thomas were introduced as the other half of the Class of 2014. He's in shape.
"My larynx is good. I'm not worried about it," Glavine said clearly.
And he doubted he would need what Torre located on the induction stage -- "A place to throw up."
Unlike Torre, who has an outline but who essentially will wing it today, Glavine will rely on a printout of his thoughts and thank yous. He completed his speech weeks ago and has regularly fine-tuned it since then. He bats third today.
"The first time I've ever batted that high," he said.
Maddux leads off. So if Glavine needs to trim a few lines, he can merely avoid repeating anything his former teammate has said.
"But I think we'll both mention Bobby a few times each," Glavine said.
With Cox and his two pitchers composing half the class -- and Torre has a Braves past as well -- the afternoon is bound to develop an Atlanta atmosphere. Thomas is an Auburn (Alabama) alum who was raised in Georgia, and John Smoltz and Chipper Jones are waiting in the wings. Atlanta may soon be identified as a suburb of Cooperstown.
"I planned to be back a few times for those guys," Glavine said a few weeks back. And after enjoying all this weekend has provided and will provide, he's certain to become a Cooperstown regular.
Most of them come back each year. This year, Nolan Ryan is back for the first time since his induction in 1999; Mike Schmidt for the first time since 2008. With Yogi Berra and Willie Mays not attending as they had planned, 54 of the 66 living Hall of Famers are expected to be on the raised stage today. That number will increase to 60 by the end of the afternoon.
"I know there are going be thousands out there when I'm speaking," Glavine said. "But Lou Brock, and Ryan and Gibson and [Carlton] Fisk are going be behind me. Some guys I'd never met before [Friday night]. Fisk -- you know where I'm from [Massachusetts]. ... I had to resuscitate my wife after she saw him.
"And, yeah, I've been warned 10 times already not to go as long as Fisk [The former catcher filibusted for 30-something minutes in 2000]. So I'm still looking for words and phrases I can cut."
Still looking to make a long story short.