Featured Image Credit: George Napolitano
NEW YORK, NY – Tom Glavine admitted he was “a little bit anxious” awaiting the confirmation phone call. Greg Maddux spent a typically low-key morning with his wife and mom. Frank Thomas, admittedly superstitious, refused to let his family pack — even though he had five kids and a wife to prepare for a visit to The Waldorf.
The Big Hurt was part of The Big Reveal — the formal introduction of the three men elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the baseball writers. They join managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa, selected by the Expansion Era Veterans Committee, to give the Hall a six-man induction class, its largest since 1971.
That’s a far cry from last summer, when no living members were inducted.
In fact, Glavine and Maddux are the first pair of teammates ever selected on the first ballot. Thomas is also a first-timer.
The pitchers gave the Braves 363 wins, the exact same number as the career total of former Braves great Warren Spahn. Maddux, who also pitched for the Cubs, Dodgers, and Padres, finished with 355, more than any living pitcher and second only to Spahn among pitchers who worked after 1930. Glavine won 305, bagging his 300th as a member of the Mets.
The lefty revealed he has keepsakes from his 200th, 250th, and 300th wins — or at least “everything that the Hall of Fame didn’t take from me.” He also has two Cy Young trophies, his World Series MVP award from 1995, and balls signed by fellow Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.
Thomas has more than 50 bats signed by players he encountered during his 20-year career in the majors but Maddux seems more interested in golf than baseball memorabilia or milestones. He says he paid no attention to catching Spahn on the lifetime wins list.
Maddux and Glavine, born just a few months apart, began their pro careers after they were second-round draft choices, by the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, respectively.
When asked to remember their first days in the majors, Maddux said he was given a locker adjacent to then-Cubs ace Rick Sutcliffe and watched a pitcher’s duel between Nolan Ryan, the hardest thrower in the majors, and Jamie Moyer, the softest. “I thought that was pretty special,” he admitted.
Glavine’s first start was a short one — against Mike Scott in the Astrodome. “When he threw me that first pitch, I had never seen a fastball like that before,” he said.
Glavine, also drafted the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, remembers his days in the minors too. “No matter where you’re drafted, you have to pay your dues in the minor leagues,” he said. “You start there and grind things out.”
Thomas spent only eight months in the minors before the Chicago White Sox promoted him to the majors; he had played major college football at Auburn and was used to playing before big crowds.
When asked by Barry Bloom of MLB.com whether their Cooperstown plaques would be as wide as the strike zone umpires routinely gave the Atlanta aces, Glavine admitted “some guys get the benefit of the call over some others. It depends upon your reputation. When I started there was more of an east-west strike zone but there’s more of a north-south strike zone now.”
According to Maddux, “Glav would throw 20 pitches outside and the other pitcher would throw two or three. That;s because Tom was making his pitches.”
In a private interview later, the Las Vegas resident said he felt he could throw a shutout if he could make his pitches two out of every three times. A hitter, he said, only needs to succeed once in three tries to be considered good at his craft.
John Smoltz, the third member of the troika that helped the Braves win 14 straight division titles, joins Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as first-time headliners on next year’s ballot. Neither Glavine nor Maddux tried to get Smoltz to quit at the same time, though Glavine said, “It would have been cool to have him up here with us.”
Baseball history would have been vastly different had Maddux signed with the New York Yankees instead of the Braves. He rejected a Yankee offer worth $4 million more.
“I was a National League player and wanted to stay a National League player,” he said. “The Braves were really good in 1991-92 and I wanted to get a World Series ring.”
In 1995, when Glavine worked eight, one-hit innings against the heavy-hitting Cleveland Indians in the decisive sixth game of the World Series, he did.
The pitcher won four straight Cy Young trophies, twice as many as Glavine, while Thomas brought him consecutive Most Valuable Player awards. All sailed well over the 75 per cent needed for election.
Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said the average ballot returned by the voters had 8.4 names listed with more than half listing the maximum 10 players. The new electees swells the Hall of Fame roster to 305 members, including 211 players.
Idelson noted that the newly-elected managers represent “the heart of the order,” since LaRussa, Cox, and Torre rank third, fourth, and fifth on the career victory list.