Tour of Hall reunites Smoltz with Braves history
Looking forward to induction, righty visits plaques of Glavine, Maddux and Cox
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Snow-covered sidewalks served as the red carpet that John Smoltz walked across as he entered Baseball's Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning for the first time as a Hall of Famer.
"There are no words to describe it," Smoltz said. "You feel like your movie is being played. I feel like every Hall of Famer who has been here and has a plaque had so many of those moments that they had to overcome to achieve something and appreciate their career. Numbers are numbers and stats are stats. But I think everyone has that story. For me, it just goes all the way back to Lansing, Mich., and all the grinding and the playing. I just loved it."
Smoltz's story began in his native Michigan, where as a child he dreamed of following in the footsteps of Mark Fidrych, Jack Morris and other great Tigers pitchers of yesteryear. His dream of playing for his "hometown team" ended with a 1987 trade that ultimately allowed him to share a journey toward Cooperstown with three other Braves legends -- Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and manager Bobby Cox.
Smoltz was joyfully present as Glavine, Maddux and Cox were inducted into the Hall of Fame last July. A little more than six months later, he finds himself preparing to realize this same great honor that was bestowed upon him on Jan. 6, when he learned he would be part of this year's induction class
"It was like seeing the greatest preview to a movie that you can't wait to watch," Smoltz said of last summer's induction ceremony. "To have it happen [to me] the following year, it's like the movie is almost here and I get to actually be a part of it."
Though Smoltz has already started to think about how to make this event special for his family and friends who will attend, he admits that he has not fully grasped the fact that he will now be immortalized alongside all of baseball's other legends who have gained a spot in the Hall.
But Smoltz was provided some sense of reality on Tuesday, when he and his wife, Kathryn, were given a private tour of the Hall of Fame. He reminisced about his high school days as he viewed a display that featured members of the 1984 Tigers club that won the World Series. A few minutes earlier, Smoltz had stopped to see a pocket watch that was given to his distant cousin Charlie Gehringer, the former Detroit second baseman who was elected to the Hall in 1949.
Smoltz obviously also took time to appreciate a number of different Braves artifacts, including the jersey he wore as he became the most recent of the 16 Major Leaguers who have notched at least 3,000 strikeouts. He carefully examined the memorabilia located in the section dedicated to Hank Aaron and posed for a picture in front of Warren Spahn's Hall of Fame plaque.
When Smoltz was taken to the Hall's basement to view special items not currently on display, he held a Babe Ruth bat. But he seemed to take even more delight in holding the bat David Justice used to hit the home run that proved decisive in the 1995 World Series -- the only one the Braves have won since moving to Atlanta.
"I've always had decent perspective of the evolutional changes, but I never really got a chance to see them up close," Smoltz said. "To hold a bat or to hold a ball from 1905 and see and read some of the captions that are on plaques is pretty cool."
Smoltz concluded his tour by viewing some of the plaques of the current Hall of Famers. After making his way through a portion of the room, he was given the treat to stand in front of where his plaque will rest once he is inducted in July. Fittingly, it will rest on the same wall that honors the careers of Glavine, Maddux and Cox.
"To one day be enshrined in the Hall Fame just doesn't make sense," Smoltz said. "The reality is I never did anything [with the intent] to get in the Hall of Fame. But my career ended up becoming a Hall of Fame career. That is where it is very humbling."