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Glavine officially ends illustrious career

Glavine officially ends illustrious career

ATLANTA -- Historical accounts will forever remember Aug. 14, 2008, as the day that Mark Kotsay became just the second player in Atlanta Braves history to hit for the cycle.

Two years later, Tom Glavine has provided much more significance to that summer evening.

Tom Glavine

While Glavine's results during a four-inning effort against the Cubs proved forgettable, the determined left-hander and all of his fans will now remember this as the final day that he took the mound during his Major League career.

Like so many other legendary figures from the world of sports, Glavine found his storied career didn't include anything that could be mistaken for a storybook conclusion.

But as Glavine accepted a new role with the Braves' front office and officially announced his retirement on Thursday afternoon at Turner Field, he expressed no regrets about a career that will seemingly allow him to one day mingle with a handful of ex-teammates in Cooperstown.

"You know the expression the time of your life -- it was," Glavine said in reference to his 22-season career, which included two National League Cy Young Awards (1991 and '98) and 305 wins -- fourth most among left-handed pitchers in Major League history.

Once the Braves surprisingly released him in June, Glavine quickly began taking the mind-set that he was retired. Thoughts of undergoing another shoulder surgery or enduring long hours of rehab negated any desire to pitch again.

But instead of bringing attention to himself, Glavine chose to make this retirement announcement on Thursday, at the same time the Braves revealed that he was being welcomed back into their family to serve as a broadcaster and special assistant to team president John Schuerholz.

Scintillating southpaws
Most career wins by a left-handed pitcher
Rank Player Wins
1. Warren Spahn * 363
2. Steve Carlton * 329
3. Eddie Plank * 326
4. Tom Glavine 305
5. Randy Johnson 303
6. Lefty Grove * 300
7. Tommy John 288
8. Jim Kaat 283
9. Eppa Rixey * 266
10. Jamie Moyer 258
* -- Hall of Famer

"I'm fortunate in that I obviously had a great career individually and a great career in terms of the teams and teammates that I played with," Glavine said. "We were able to accomplish a lot of great things, and I had the luxury of coming to the ballpark and watching a lot of great players and being a part of a pitching staff that is probably going to have three Hall of Famers before it's all said and done."

Because both Glavine and his longtime Atlanta teammate Greg Maddux both threw the final pitches of their careers in 2008, they'll both become eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2014. As two of the game's 24 300-game winners, both seemed destined for first-ballot selections. The two might be joined by slugger Frank Thomas, who told MLB.com he is retiring as well.

"If you're fortunate enough to go in the Hall of Fame, it's a special day for you," Glavine said. "If you have the opportunity to go into the Hall of Fame with friends and teammates at the same time, that's even more fun."

Glavine's legacy in Atlanta will always be highlighted by the dazzling performance he produced in the clinching Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. His eight scoreless innings against the potent Indians lineup is celebrated just as much as the decisive solo homer delivered that evening by David Justice.

While helping the Braves advance to five World Series and capture 11 of their unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles, Glavine joined Maddux and John Smoltz to form a trio as talented and successful as any to ever grace the same rotation for an extended period.

When Braves manager Bobby Cox reminisces about the days he had these Cy Young Award winners on his pitching staffs, he talks about their talents and determination to take the mound while battling the inevitable aches and pains that develop over the course of a season.

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 during the 2008 season. A torn flexor tendon in his left elbow would necessitate two more trips and lead to the August surgical procedure, during which Dr. James Andrews also cleaned out some tissue around the veteran hurler's left labrum.

Braves workhorses
Most innings pitched in franchise history
Rank Player Years Inn.
1. W. Spahn 1942-64 5,046
2. P. Niekro 1964-87 4,622 1/3
3. K. Nichols 1890-1901 4,549
4. T. Glavine 1987-2002, '08 3,408
5. J. Smoltz 1988-2008 3,395
6. L. Burdette 1951-63 2,638
7. V. Willis 1898-1905 2,575
8. G. Maddux 1993-2003 2,526 2/3
9. J. Whitney 1881-85 2,263 2/3
10. T. Bond 1877-81 2,127 1/3

"He was a warrior," said Cox, who saw Glavine notch 244 of his wins with the Braves. "He pitched with every injury you can imagine. You don't run around guys like him too often. He was a team guy and it was always great to have him on your team and in your clubhouse. He meant everything to this organization."

During his retirement speech in December 2008, Maddux praised Glavine by recognizing him as the man who led by example and showed him that he could overcome the sore shoulders, elbows and legs that he encountered during the long season.

"One of the biggest things I learned pitching with Glavine was to realize you don't have to be 100 percent to win," Maddux said back then. "You have to take the ball and you have to go out there. That's what he taught me.

"Sometimes it's really easy to say, 'I need another day or two.' But in Atlanta, we pitched. Tommy led the way with that. He showed everybody that if you go out there, if you could throw the ball over the plate, you had a chance to win, no matter how bad you felt."

Glavine made his Major League debut during the middle of the 1987 season and lost 17 games the following summer while playing for some of the forgettable Braves teams that existed before things turned around with the worst-to-first season in 1991.

After the 2002 season, Glavine began a five-year stint with the Mets, who helped him notch his 300th victory on Aug. 5, 2007, at Wrigley Field.

Three months later, Glavine re-signed with the Braves to be close to his family and have another opportunity to play for Cox, who has announced that he will retire at the end of this season.

"Bobby obviously meant so much to so many people who played here," Glavine said. "He was such an influence on so many of these guys' careers. I fall into that category. He taught me so much about the game and myself and about respecting the game and how you carry yourself. Those aren't things that are just limited to baseball.

"It's an understatement for me to say he had a huge impact on my career and my life."

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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