By Paul Post
Tom Glavine has all kinds of collectibles from his 22-year Hall of Fame career with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.
The list includes his Cy Young and Silver Slugger awards, All-Star Game and World Series rings and jerseys, along with things related to personal milestones such as his 300th win.
However, two of his favorite pieces aren’t from baseball, but his next best sport. A Boston area high school hockey star, Glavine was a 1984 draft pick of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
“I’ve got a few other jerseys in my house,” he said. “I’ve got a Bobby Orr jersey, and a Wayne Gretzky jersey. Those are pretty prized possessions.”
And do those Hockey Hall of Famers have his jersey?
“If they don’t, they need to get one,” said Glavine, with a smile, during a Spring 2014 tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The Hall of Fame gives each new member a chance to visit the shrine ahead of the July induction, so they can absorb museum highlights before crowds numbering in the tens of thousands descend on the “Birthplace of Baseball.”
Glavine was especially thrilled to be going in with Cox and Maddux.
“How could you make an opportunity like this any better? That’s how,” Glavine said. “To have an opportunity to go in with two guys I spent such a large part of my career with, a manager and a teammate; two guys who were as influential on me as anybody during my career as a player, guys who have meant so much to me; that’s the only way I could have taken what’s already an unbelievable experience and made it better.”
The only person missing is former Braves hurler John Smoltz, who along with Glavine and Maddux, helped the Braves win 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series, where Glavine was named Most Valuable Player. Glavine said it’s just a matter of time before Smoltz takes his place in Cooperstown, too.
In January, when Hall of Fame election results were announced, the MLB Network interviewed all three former Braves hurlers together.
“We razzed him (Smoltz) a little bit,” Glavine said. “I’ve given him a little grief about how he shouldn’t have tried to hang on for one more year. But he’ll be here soon enough, hopefully next year, and the circle will be complete.”
A five-time 20-game winner, Glavine still has trouble adjusting to his new status. After his tour, he took part in a press conference, seated before the plaques of inaugural Hall of Fame class members Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Glavine said. “I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I’m going to be here. It’s one thing to be coming into the Hall of Fame and being around guys that I played with or played against. I can relate to those guys. But when I start trying to relate myself to guys like Warren Spahn or Sandy Koufax, that’s really hard for me to do.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming to put myself in their category because they just seemed out of reach.”
Several Hall of Famers, including Joe Morgan, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson reached out to congratulate him when the election results were announced. Glavine grew up rooting for the Red Sox.
Laughing, he told how he didn’t answer one or two calls because he didn’t recognize the phone numbers. But while in Boston, he answered Jim Rice because he recognized the area code.
“It’s pretty neat to get those phone calls, but it also speaks to the relatively small, close-knit community that is Hall of Fame guys,” Glavine said.
Just having his name associated with Cooperstown has a nice ring to it.
“My introductions sound a lot nicer now: Hall of Famer Tom Glavine or Tom Glavine, Hall of Famer,” he admitted. “I’m a little bit more famous again and a little bit more a topic of conversation again.”
However, he doesn’t miss the daily grind of competition.
“I don’t miss waking up the next morning and my arm hurts or some other body part, or wondering how I’m going to pitch in five days, or the feeling you have after a bad game,” Glavine said. “I don’t miss all that stuff. I don’t miss the travel. But there are times that I’ll be sitting home watching a guy pitch, especially if it’s a tight ballgame, and knowing how important every pitch is. I miss that part a little bit.”
Glavine is a Braves color commentator now, and the game looks a whole lot different to him from the broadcast booth. Things that are painfully obvious weren’t so obvious when he was on the mound.
“Trust me, you’re in the booth thinking, please throw him another slider. I know you’ve thrown him six in a row. But there’s no way he’s going to hit it,” Glavine said. “When you’re on the mound you’re thinking, ‘My God! I can’t possibly throw him another slider.’ ”
Occasionally, he daydreams about working out of a jam and the pitches he’d use.
“It’s usually my changeup, Smoltzy’s slider,” Glavine said. “Never my slider, I can promise you that.”
The several dozen fans who visited the Hall of Fame this past St. Patrick’s Day were pleasantly surprised to find Glavine in attendance. After speaking with reporters, Glavine took his time signing a variety of articles for people, in typical accommodating fashion.
“We’re loving it,” said Joe Darnell, of Philadelphia, who was on hand with his 7-year-old grandson, Aidan McDermott, of Delaware.
Sal Viviano, who sings the National Anthem prior to Mets games at Citi Field, showed up with his two sons. “The boys were on school break so we just decided to come up,” he said. “This is great. It’s pretty unexpected.”
Glavine said choosing between hockey and baseball wasn’t difficult at all. The hardest decision was whether or not to turn pro or play college ball, which he opted not to do.
“I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about it,” he said. “In the end I felt like it was the right opportunity to try to do something with baseball. Fortunately, I never had to go back to college.”
He made his major league debut on Aug. 17, 1987 and after a rough couple of years got things turned around and won 21 games in 1991 – the first of three straight 20-game seasons. No big league hurler has accomplished the feat since.
Glavine won his 300th game on Aug. 5, 2007, almost 20 years to the date of first big-league game. From that momentous occasion, he donated his game-worn jersey to the Hall of Fame, along with a game-used baseball autographed by himself and catcher Paul LoDuca. He kept the game’s final ball for himself.
Glavine has been to Cooperstown before. But now, for all time, he’ll have extra incentive to visit, and each trip there will likely include a walk through the Hall of Fame Gallery for a glance at his Hall of Fame plaque.
“There are times when it’s overwhelming,” he said. “You’re overwhelmed by the history that’s here.”
Paul Post is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.