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Glavine's Hall orientation quite the experience

Former Braves left-hander, 300-game winner amazed at baseball's storied history

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- He had watched a short movie entitled "Yea, baseball" and exited the theater smiling. He had been introduced to artifacts from the first 170 years of the game. He had lingered briefly at a display of the bat Bobby Thomson used in 1951 to alert the planet that the Giants had won the pennant, won the pennant, won the pennant. And he had learned that long before Jackie Robinson slipped into a No. 42 Brooklyn jersey, the distance separating the bases was 42 paces. (Whose paces? Who knows? But they better not have been Eddie Gaedel's, who is known as the shortest player in the history of the Major Leagues.)

Before the morning would pass, Tom Glavine would be exposed to hundreds more prized pieces of the game -- the tiny, unpadded gloves players -- even catchers -- used long ago, a photo of the Mets' first owner, Joan Payson, the gallery plaque of Warren Spahn, his dad's favorite, and so many others. He held Lou Gehrig's bat and the blessed bat David Justice swung to make the '95 Braves World Series champions. And he was reacquainted with the pair of spikes he wore in that decisive, 1-0 Game 6 in Atlanta 19 years ago.

This was Glavine's Hall of Fame orientation, a St. Patty's Day introduction to the building that houses millions of memories and where, beginning in late July, his accomplished baseball career will live for longer than even a Red Sox-Yankees game. This was a guided, entertaining and informative tour of what has gone before, a morning filled with wait-till-you-see-this moments that constitutes a most splendid perk for those awaiting induction.

It is a welcome that must last until July 27, the day Glavine's plaque is to be placed below that of his Braves manager and diagonally down from his fellow 300-game winner/teammate. The Bobby Cox, Glavine, Greg Maddux corner, a Mount Rushmore under construction and awaiting another golf partner named John Smoltz.

The orientation is a series of lessons as well, an indication of why the brick structure down on the right on Main Street in this lovely burg is officially identified as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

So there was Glavine, a respectful HOF designate and a bright man, soaking up the facts, some of the figures and the anecdotes that make the game the most storied professional sport we have. He was moving among decades-old rulebooks, quotations from Casey, statues of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, a Warhol painting of Tom Seaver, jewelry Gehrig had made into a charm bracelet for his beloved Eleanor, a looped film presentation of "Who's on First?" and hundreds of photographs of Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Lou Boudreau and "Dem Bums."

And Glavine acknowledged that not all that much of the game's past has been stored inside his 47-year-old noggin. Yes, at some point during his 2 1/2-hour crash course of how baseball came to have a grip on us that is mightier than Gil Hodges' handshake, Glavine confessed, "I wouldn't consider myself an historian of the game."

Maybe not, but after Monday morning, he certainly has moved toward that distinction. A few more visits to baseball's Smithsonian, and Glavine will have a degree of expertise about the game he conquered. He already has an abiding appreciation.

The numbers are not what he embraces. He can't even identify the leading home run hitter among the Q players -- Frank Quilici or Jamie Quirk. But he appreciates how the game and American culture are intertwined. The connections intrigue him. He lingered long at the Jackie Robinson exhibit.

He did more than peek at an exhibit of Stan Musial, the man who stood for decency even when he was crouched and coiled in the batter's box. And the Hank Aaron exhibit called to him. Glavine gazed at some Bonds -- Barry, not Bobby -- memorabilia. And what was he thinking then? It's all part of history -- good, bad and fill in the blank.

"It's been an informative and entertaining day," Glavine said in the late afternoon.

And he admitted he'd been overwhelmed by all that had been presented to him. Cy Young had pitched 18 scoreless innings and lost in the 20th on unearned runs. Talk about overwhelmed. Glavine's eyebrows rose.

He stopped at Spahn's plaque and read it carefully. Fred Glavine had understated Spahnie's greatness when he introduced his son to the other left-handed Braves Hall of Fame pitcher.

"It's amazing. You know -- but you don't know -- how much history there is in this game," Glavine said. "How many cool things have happened, how many things guys accomplished, and you just shake your head and wonder how they do that. So, it has been a really neat perspective.

"Kids come here now and they're probably not aware of how the game has changed over the years. They can't believe [Spahn] had all those 20-win seasons [13]. Will my kids see me here? Will kids come here and see 305 [Glavine's career victory total] and be amazed?"

Glavine said he can justify being in the Hall with his contemporaries -- Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Barry Larkin. "I can relate to them," he said. But he thought of the all-time greats -- his plaque will be quite close to the plaques of first-class Hall of Famers The Babe, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson -- and it unsettled him. "Every once in a while," he said, "I'll have some moments where it's hard to get my brain around what's going on."

Glavine had been looking forward to the visit he shared with his wife, Chris, and a half dozen chosen media members. It must have preoccupied his thoughts; he is one half Irish and arrived wearing earth tones and gray. What would John McGraw say?

He had been to Cooperstown once, last summer when his son Mason played in a tournament here. With an hour to kill, father and son visited the Hall. It was a superficial tour; he hadn't yet been elected.

"Now, I'm here with the objective of becoming more familiar with this place," Glavine said. "So it's a little bit different in that regard."

And a little much.

"A lot to take in," Chris Glavine said, acknowledging her husband is "a little bit" uncomfortable with the attention. "It's surreal. He's proud. But he's such a humble guy."

She was intrigued by Gehrig's gift to his wife. Glavine may soon have an appointment with a jeweler. She was impressed by Sandy Koufax's penmanship on an autographed ball from his second no-hitter and surprised to learn that Yogi was the source of "It ain't over till it's over." She's working on the guest list for July. It stands at 80 -- for now.

The Glavines' summer is bound to be quite different from the summers since his retirement from the game. One change already has happened.

"The boys listen to him now," Chris said. "[Glavine's election] has legitimized his baseball knowledge to them."

Considerable time will be devoted to his polishing his acceptance speech. And there is more "getting used to" the idea of having a plaque in such a sacred baseball setting.

"It's hard to believe I'll have one," Glavine said.

Between now and induction, he probably will admit several more times that he is not a baseball historian. How can he be? He doesn't even know about WAR. But with each day, he becomes more a part of the game's history.

"I'm learning," Glavine said. "There's so much to it, it's amazing. And I'm going to be part of it. I'm learning. There's a lot to this -- all of it amazing."

Marty Noble is a reporter for
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