MLBPA leader Glavine enters Hall of Fame
Braves legend bestowed honor 20 years after guiding union through labor stoppage
Tom Glavine will join the most exclusive club in sports Sunday, when the 305-game winner is officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, along with fellow Braves legends Bobby Cox and Greg Maddux plus Tony LaRussa, Frank Thomas and Joe Torre.
The high point of Glavine's career comes 20 years after a period that defined him as a leader of his fellow players. He served as the Players Association's NL player representative throughout the 232-day strike in 1994-95.
Glavine -- well-spoken, informed and comfortable in front of a camera -- was a natural at a job he never wanted. When negotiations started, Glavine said he was focused solely on his duties as the Braves' player rep, a position he took following the 1990 lockout.
"Somehow, someway, I found myself being one of the [main] guys, along with [AL player representative David Cone], and really being the guy that did the bulk of the interviews and answering the questions after negotiating meetings and things of that nature," Glavine said during a Hall of Fame conference call on July 18.
"That happened by chance. That wasn't by design."
Then-Los Angeles Dodgers veteran Brett Butler was pleased things worked out as they did.
"There was something about the way Tom carried himself. He had an understated confidence about him," said Butler, who was in his 14th season when the strike began. "He was like the Rock of Gilbraltar for us during that period. When something needed to be said, he was the guy who would speak up and get the point across in a strong and meaningful manner.
Alas, while Glavine's fellow players greatly appreciated that he was taking on the responsibility, it also put him on the firing line with the media and the public.
And the longer the strike went on, the more sentiment turned against the players. By January 1995, the owners had 50 percent of the support in a Gallup poll, as opposed to just 28 percent for the players.
Play finally resumed in April 1995, but fans -- especially in Atlanta -- were not quick to welcome back Glavine, whom they had seen as the face of the strike. He was booed at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. In 2002, he told USA Today that the 1995 season marked the first time in his career he didn't enjoy pitching at home.
"Certainly took some lumps, in terms of my reputation around town and around baseball," Glavine said during the July 18 teleconference.
But Glavine had never lost touch with his blue-collar roots. He grew up in the Boston suburb of Billerica, where his father, Fred, worked in construction. Even after reaching the Major Leagues, he preferred off-the-rack clothes -- especially during the 1994 strike, when Glavine was self-conscious about his press-conference wardrobe.
"It's hard for people to be sympathetic for you if you're standing there in some $700 suit," Glavine told USA Today in 2002.
"Give me a shirt and shorts or blue jeans, and that makes me happy."
Fortunately for Glavine, the anxiety of the 1994 strike eventually gave way to euphoria. The Braves, who lost the 1991 and 1992 World Series and fell in the 1993 National League Championship Series, finally won it all in 1995, when Glavine threw the game of his life: eight innings of one-hit ball in the clincher over the Cleveland Indians.
"I think the previous years' frustrations certainly made that championship that much more meaningful, because I think in a lot of our minds, it erased that," Glavine said.
And while there is no forgetting what happened in 1994, the subsequent two decades have gone a long way toward erasing the bad feelings that boiled over during the longest player strike in sports history.
In fact, Major League Baseball is now the standard bearer for uninterrupted labor peace. While the last three collective bargaining agreements have been negotiated without a work stoppage -- the current CBA runs through 2016 -- the NBA, NHL and NFL have combined for eight lockouts since 1994.
"Looking back on it now, [serving as NL player rep is] something I'm proud to have been a part of," Glavine said. "Baseball is now the sport that has had the longest and best labor relations. I think, in large part, that had to do with the strike of '94 and the pain that everybody went through.
"In a good way, going forward, (that) kind of hung over everybody and was a strong influence on everybody to get something done to make sure we didn't go through that again."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.