7/25/2014 10:00 A.M. ET
Glavine finds permanent home in Hall of Fame
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
He was characterized in December 2002 as a traitor, a defector and worse. He had left Dixie, the Chop House and the "A" Team and moved his distort-the-strike-zone career northward, to New York City of all places. Home of the Mets. How dare Tom Glavine, of all people, make such a treasonous move?
Glavine had been the one of the three pitchers the Braves had developed; he, Steve Avery and Pete Smith. They would be the foundation. And Glavine, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, was the one who made it big. Greg Maddux later joined the fraternity as a free agent, and John Smoltz was acquired in a trade. The Braves' Mount Rushmore had only three faces; Glavine's was the one with an exclusively Braves pedigree.
Hall of Fame coverage begins at noon ET 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.
Atlanta embraced the hockey player from Massachusetts because he was a purebred Brave, because he made his offseason home in nearby Alpharetta, Ga., and because he could pitch and win. It endured Glavine's growing pains and that unbecoming 7-17 record in 1988. The city had taken him to its heart and made him a favorite son. Glavine could have run for office had he not run to the Mets. But with powerful misgivings his general manager later made public, he split.
The south was less offended after the 2003 season when Maddux left -- he'd never become an Atlantan. And five years later, when Smoltz departed, the circumstances were different and, by then, the city had acquired a sense of indifference. But not about Glavine.
And then it was September 2007, one year after Glavine had played an important role in the Mets' ending the Braves' streak of successive division championships. And he was entrusted with a critical assignment, the start in the Mets' final regular-season game when victory was all but essential. And if the Phillies won their final game, it was essential.
It was Glavine, seasoned, skilled and most of all, trusted, who would oppose the last-place Marlins on Sept. 30 at Shea Stadium. The Mets had steamrolled the Fish one day earlier, winning 13-0. They had won 11 of 17 games against them to that point that season. It was up to the old pro who had earned the 300th victory of his career eight weeks earlier.
Glavine faced nine batters that afternoon, seven scored. The Mets lost, the Phillies won. The process of elimination was complete. And now New York -- albeit, the smaller half of the big city -- held only Glavine responsible for a most exasperating shortfall. He was condemned before the 8-1 loss was complete, and when Mets partisans thought Glavine wasn't sufficiently contrite during the day's postmortems, they too labeled him a co-conspirator, the imbedded Phillie.
Glavine would return to the Braves the following season, but before he opted out of New York, Mets partisans wanted him exiled.
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Come Sunday afternoon, Glavine will be characterized once again, reclassified if you will. This time though, words of description will be purely positive as they should for one of the most accomplished pitchers in the history of the game. And a small town in upstate New York will welcome him warmly. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll like this one more," Glavine said a few weeks ago from his home outside Atlanta. "But yeah, it was true. For a while, I didn't have much support in the only cities I played.
"I knew I upset some people around here when I signed with the Mets. And my last game with the Mets was, probably, the worst performance of my career, considering what was at stake. It certainly wasn't what I had in mind for how I might be remembered."
The performance was one matter. That disappointed, unforgiving and staunch Mets fans heard Glavine say shortly after the loss to the Marlins that he was disappointed, but not being devastated increased the vitriol to a level commensurate with what Chicago developed for poor Steve Bartman and St. Louis for Don Denkinger. The way Mets folks perceived it, they had been denied by one of their own.
"I think I had a pretty positive image in the '90s," Glavine said. "We [the Braves] won a lot, I had good seasons. I pitched the game that made us World [Series] champions and I won individual honors. And my time in New York was pretty good. But for a while there ... "
Glavine left the thought unfinished. The following words would have been at least borderline appropriate: I didn't have a comfortable baseball home.
A victory that afternoon or a teary mea culpa would have spared him. But Glavine stayed true to his personal values in the aftermath of an embarrassing performance. He reserved "devastated" for something far more critical than baseball, even a game with such ramifications. "If I'd thought about it," Glavine said in December 2007, "I would have chosen other words. In a baseball sense, I was very upset. 'Baseball-devastated' would have been better.
"I spent a pretty big hunk of my career in New York. And I know at first I was just a guy coming in. But after a while, I became comfortable, and I think I was accepted. Winning [the National League East] in 2006 made it better, and then I won my 300th with the Mets. I felt I had the city behind me. If we had beaten the Marlins in the last game, I don't think I would have lost any standing. But the way it worked out wasn't as good as it could have been."
But now, Atlanta has forgiven Glavine, and New York probably has forgotten most of his ignominious moments in Queens and moved on to other, more current targets. And he's about to move into his dream home, a permanently pleasing and fulfilling baseball abode replete with a plaque and forever standing among the game's elite.
Cooperstown will overflow with Braves fans this weekend. Glavine, Maddux, their manager Bobby Cox and another man who made a mark in the south. Fourteen years before his Yankees handled the Braves in the 1996 World Series, Joe Torre managed the Murph-Horner-Knucksie-Garber Braves into the NL playoffs.
It was an isolated success for Ted Turner's guys, their first championship since 1969, the last until the Avery-Glavine-Pendleton team reached the World Series in '91. It began then, that difficult-to-conceive run of excellence Cox's teams produced. Glavine was there, contributing, for most of it.
Cox always referred to him as "Tommy," as if they were father and son. The day Glavine agreed to a contract with the Mets, Cox said, "It won't be the same without Tommy even if we bring in a guy who wins 25. We went through so much together."
Now they will go through the Hall's front door together. "The Hall of Fame," Glavine said the morning after he'd been elected. "Bobby, Doggie [Maddux] and me. And we have to include Joe. All with Atlanta in their backgrounds. The Hall of Fame. You can say we'll be bringing our A game."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.