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Glavine joins ranks of Braves' greats

Glavine joins ranks of Braves' greats

ATLANTA -- Simply looking at his statistical accomplishments, it's apparent that Tom Glavine ranks as one of the most successful figures in the long and storied history of the Braves. But to truly understand what he has provided the organization and the game of baseball, one has to truly get to know this man, who has obviously not forgotten the many people who influenced his rise toward greatness.

"I've always said that winners make commitments and losers make excuses," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "Tom Glavine, with his preparation, his determination, his winning spirit, his intellect, his desire to win and to succeed, never has made an excuse in his life. But he always made commitments to winning."

Schuerholz's message served as one of the many compliments Glavine received during a Friday afternoon luncheon that celebrated his induction into the Braves Hall of Fame. A few hours later, during a pregame ceremony at Turner Field, the accomplished left-hander enjoyed the honor of seeing his No. 47 jersey retired.

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"What a pleasure it was to watch you and what a pleasure it was to vicariously relive some of the past events of my life," Braves broadcaster Don Sutton said as he addressed Glavine during the luncheon. "You're my favorite player who ever came through here and thank you for letting us take a little ride on your trip."

After sitting through a lengthy rain delay, Glaivne was obviously emotionally moved when the Braves staged the pregame ceremony and allowed him to see his No. 47 displayed above the 755 Club in left field. The proud father then joined his three oldest sons on the field to simultaneously throw out the first pitch.

"I'm in awe," Glavine said after his number was retired. "There aren't too many events that have left me speechless. This is one of them."

During his long journey with the Braves, Glavine notched two Cy Young Awards and earned the honor of being named the 1995 World Series MVP -- he produced the Game 6, eight-inning masterpiece that gave the city of Atlanta a chance to celebrate a World Series championship on Oct. 28, 1995. But along the way, he drew some disfavor from fans, who were unhappy with his highly visible union role during the 1994 work stoppage and his decision to accept the more attractive contract the Mets provided at the end of the 2002 season.

After a five-year stint with the Mets, Glavine returned to Atlanta and endured an injury-plagued 2009 season that only set the stage for him to be unceremoniously released last year, just four days before he was scheduled to make his season debut and have the opportunity to prove he had bounced back from the surgical procedures performed on his elbow and shoulder.


"Winners make commitments and losers make excuses. Tom Glavine, with his preparation, his determination, his winning spirit, his intellect, his desire to win and to succeed, never has made an excuse in his life. But he always made commitments to winning."
-- Braves president John Schuerholz

Now that time has healed most of the wounds, Glavine finds himself back as a proud member of the organization and fittingly immortalized alongside many of the other greats who have called themselves Braves.

"I'm happy that everything has kind of come full circle," Glavine said. "I had couple of contentious departures from the organization and some situations where things didn't work out for certain reasons. Because of that, there's emotions, animosities and hard feelings toward me. I understand all of that, but at the end of the day I'm happy that we were all able to sit down as grown men and hash out our differences and put all of that behind us.

"This is the right place for me to be. This is how this all should have ended. I would have been disappointed, had this not happened and I continued to live here in Atlanta and my kids don't get to appreciate the organization that their dad made his biggest mark with. I want my kids to be Braves fans. I want my kids to want to go down to the ballpark. For a little while, that wasn't happening. Now it is."

When the Braves selected Glavine in the second round of the 1984 Draft, they obviously didn't know that they would be the direct benefactors of 244 of his 305 career victories. But from his earliest days within the organization, the young kid from Billerica, Mass., provided indication that he was determined to achieve.

"I'll never forget the day he knocked on my door," said former Braves second baseman Mark Lemke, who served as Glavine's roommate during the summer of 1984. "He'd been the club's second-round pick that year, so you knew who he was. As you started to talk to him, you could tell he wasn't the average 18-year-old kid. You weren't thinking Hall of Fame or 300 wins or anything like that. But you knew he was going to be successful at whatever he wanted to do in life."

Still, as Glavine looks back on a career that included more wins than just three other left-handers in Major League history and 10 All-Star selections, he recognizes it might not have been possible without the sacrifices made by his parents, siblings and his wife, Christine.

During a significant portion of his 30-minute induction speech, Glavine addressed what he'd been provided by Fred and Millie Glavine, who were proudly sitting in front of their son. After expressing his appreciation for all that his wife had done, the accomplished hurler bowed his head and seemingly fought back some tears.

"I know what my parents did for me," Glavine said. "I know what my brothers and sister sacrificed for me. I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for what Chris was able to do for me while I was on the road. That stuff largely goes unnoticed. But it's a large reason for why we're all successful."

When Greg Maddux retired at the end of the 2008 season, he provided Glavine the greatest compliment by recognizing how his longtime Braves teammate had set the example through his determination to pitch through the various injuries that may have sidelined many other pitchers.

"There was a lot of times that he didn't have to go [to the mound], but he went anyway," former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said of Glavine, who pitched throughout the majority of one season with a cracked rib and also spent most of his career ignoring the discomfort created by a cranky left shoulder.

Regarded as one of the most determined pitchers to stand on a mound, Glavine made 672 starts and compiled 4,361 1/3 innings before making his first career trip to the disabled list shortly after rejoining the Braves prior to the start of the 2008 season.

While recognizing manager Bobby Cox as the greatest influence during his Major League career, Glavine also took time to thank Dr. Joe Chandler and athletic trainers Dave Pursley and Jeff Porter.

"It's my view that good players allow you to win baseball games," Schuerholz said. "Great players lead you to championships. That's why we are here today to honor a great player, Tommy Glavine, who was a leader and a winner not only for the Atlanta Braves, but for all of baseball."

Supported by the determination instilled by his parents, Glavine dealt with the inconsistencies that were present when he played for the woeful Braves teams that existed in the late 1980s. Once Schuerholz arrived and upgraded the clubhouse and club's defense with the acquisitions of guys like Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream, the young left-hander found himself a part of something special.

Glavine notched the first of his two Cy Young Awards during the memorable 1991 worst-to-first season that carried the Braves to within one win of a World Series title. With Maddux and John Smoltz, he provided the foundation of the pitching staffs that would help Atlanta to win an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.

"I'm just glad that he chose baseball instead of hockey, because it was a wonderful thing that happened to all of us during that time and he was the leader of the pack," Mazzone said, alluding to the fact that Glavine was also drafted by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings out of high school.

Maddux, who is currently vacationing in Europe, and Smoltz, who spent Friday afternoon competing in the Georgia Open, both taped congratulatory messages that were played during Friday's luncheon.

Without knowing if he had made the cut that would allow him to continue playing the final two rounds, Smoltz left Savannah on Friday afternoon and made the 3 1/2-hour drive to Turner Field just to enjoy the opportunity to see Glavine's number retired. En route, he learned that he made the cut and would need to turn around and drive another 3 1/2 hours to prepare for Saturday's round.

There is a strong chance that Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz will once again be reunited when each of them has the honor of being inducted into Cooperstown's National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Whatever year, if it happens that I get in, will be a great year," Glavine said. "If I'm fortunate enough to get in and get in with one of my teammates, that would be even better. John, Greg and I are forever intertwined with one another. You don't talk about a Braves team without talking about Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz or Smoltz-Maddux-Glavine, whatever order you want to put us in."

It's been 26 years since the young kid from Billerica knocked on Lemke's door and began the journey that fittingly allows him to forever be linked with the six other Braves greats who have had their numbers retired -- Hank Aaron (44), Eddie Mathews (41), Warren Spahn (21), Dale Murphy (3), Phil Niekro (35) and Maddux (31).

While he might have drawn some public scrutiny during this long journey, Glavine finds himself with every reason to be proud about everything that he gave the Braves and baseball. He said he still draws great satisfaction from those who thank him for what he did on the field and the influence that he had while setting a good example for children.

"I hope at the end of the day, whether you liked me or you didn't like me, you at least respected what I did when I went out on the field," Glavine said. "That's all I can ask for. I know that I tried to go out there and pitch and represent the organization to the best of my ability -- to give you 100 percent of what I had when I went out there."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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