Glavine reflects on journey that led to Hall call
Legendary lefty thrilled to join teammate Maddux, skipper Cox in Cooperstown
ATLANTA -- As Tom Glavine went about his business at his home in suburban Atlanta on Wednesday morning, he felt the same kind of tension and nervousness that had been present before each of the eight World Series starts he made during his pitching career for the Braves.
But instead of preparing himself to navigate through a formidable lineup, Glavine was left to simply battle the nerves and anticipation that had built as he eagerly awaited the phone call that eventually came from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
With his wife, Christine, and his children surrounding him, Glavine displayed his usual stoic demeanor as he received the message that every baseball player has dreamed of receiving. But when the call was complete, the legendary left-hander expressed the excitement and jubilation expected from a player who had just learned that he will forever be recognized as a Hall of Famer.
"I think it was one of those moments where I was thinking, 'Oh my God, this phone call is really happening,'" Glavine said. "It was more of a reaction to so many reactions going through me that I didn't know which one to feel. I just kept things in check. Then, once I hung up the phone, it was kind like, 'Yeah!' To have Chris and the kids there and be a part of that moment, I know it's something I'll never forget, and hopefully something they'll never forget."
Glavine also learned on Wednesday that his longtime friend and rotation-mate Greg Maddux will be joining him and Frank Thomas on July 27 as first-ballot inductees. Adding to the splendor of the event will be the fact that Glavine and Maddux will share the stage that day with their beloved skipper, Bobby Cox, who was elected to the 2014 Hall of Fame class in December by the Expansion Era Committee.
"Bobby is the single greatest influence in my baseball career," Glavine said. "Greg had a huge impact on me as a player. ... He made me want to work harder and keep up."
As Glavine drove to Turner Field for a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, he received a phone call from Tony DeMacio, the Braves' director of scouting, who as an area scout in 1984 convinced the Braves to take Glavine in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft.
"Who would have thought this 30 years ago?" Glavine asked DeMacio.
"I think that sums up where I am right now emotionally," he added. "The anticipation of this day really picked up steam last night, and certainly this morning as you're making preparations for what you hope will be a phone call and getting out of [Atlanta] and getting to New York and have a whole lot of things start to take place."
As he traveled to New York to participate in a Hall of Fame news conference on Thursday morning, Glavine had more time to reminisce about the great journey that carried him toward two National League Cy Young Awards, 305 career victories and, ultimately, Cooperstown.
Fortified by the work ethic instilled in him by his blue-collar father and enriched by the stubborn demeanor of his mother, Glavine spent 22 Major League seasons exhibiting discipline, determination and an unwillingness to waver in the face of adversity.
After Glavine lost 17 games during his first full Major League season (1988), he made the necessary adjustments that led to 14 victories a year later. The struggles he endured while going 10-12 with a 4.28 ERA in 1990 led to trade speculation, rumors that were quickly squelched by a phone call from Cox, who at the time served as Atlanta's general manager.
Strengthened by the confidence Cox expressed in him, Glavine returned the next season to win the first of his two Cy Young Awards and help the Braves capture the first of their record 14 consecutive division titles.
"There was always that willingness to look at myself and know there were things I could do better and I needed to do better," Glavine said. "In my mind, I was never shy about taking those things on to try to get better."
That desire to succeed led to five 20-win seasons, the two Cy Young Awards (1991 and '98) and the fourth-most wins (305) by any left-handed pitcher in Major League history. Glavine joined the 300-wins club on Aug. 5, 2007, while in the middle of a five-season stint with the Mets, the only other organization for which he played before pitching his final career game with the Braves one year later.
Throughout the years they spent together in Atlanta, Glavine, Maddux and John Smoltz -- who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next year -- enjoyed a friendly rivalry that was void of any hint of jealousy. If one of them tossed seven scoreless innings one day, the next attempted to complete eight scoreless the next.
As he soaked in the excitement on Wednesday afternoon, Glavine said that he believes the presence of Maddux and Smoltz had a significant impact on his career.
"Being who I am and believing the things I believe, I believe everything happens for a reason," Glavine said. "There is not a doubt in my mind [that] everything -- from where I got drafted and who I got drafted by -- happened for a reason. There is no question that the guys I was surrounded by ultimately made me a better player. You don't win Cy Young Awards, 300 wins or 20 wins in a season without a lot of help around you.
"People always talk about that competition that went on within the pitching staff, and we did, we had it in a lot of different things. It was always in a fun way and in a respectful way. But it was always in a way [where] we honestly drove each other to be better."