Tom Glavine: The First G-Brave in Cooperstown
Though he played just two games with the club, legendary Atlanta Braves’ left-hander Tom Glavine is a former G-Brave. With the announcement of Glavine as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2014 induction class yesterday, the Gwinnett Braves Baseball Club has its first member of Cooperstown.
Glavine, who will be enshrined in the Hall alongside rotation-mate Greg Maddux and their manager Bobby Cox on July 27, 2014, was ever-so-briefly a member of the Gwinnett roster in 2009. The G-Braves were not quite two months into their inaugural season at then-named Gwinnett Stadium when Glavine came to town on a minor league injury rehab assignment.
Glavine had rejoined Atlanta as a free agent in 2008 after spending the previous five seasons with the New York Mets. He went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in 13 starts that year, a campaign shortened by three trips to the disabled list. A nagging left elbow strain ended the left-hander’s season in mid-August, and Glavine underwent surgery with Dr. James Andrews to repair a torn flexor tendon on August 21. The 2009 season was to be the 43-year-old’s comeback from the only major injury of his career.
His first rehab outing came with Double-A Mississippi on April 12, 2009, a 2.0-inning start in which he allowed a run on three hits in a no-decision. Though he was efficient with 26 strikes among his 36 pitches, Glavine wouldn’t take the mound again until late May.
It was on May 23, 2009 when Glavine made his Gwinnett Braves debut. In front of a Gwinnett Stadium crowd of 9,294, he turned in 3.0 innings against Toledo, yielding three runs on five hits. Two of those runs came on a two-run homer by Mud Hens’ first baseman Ryan Roberson in the third inning. Glavine left in line to lose, but the G-Braves scored seven runs over the fourth and fifth innings to take a 9-3 lead. Two scoreless frames from reliever Francisley Bueno and a rain storm that erupted prior to the sixth gave Gwinnett the 9-3 victory in a shortened five-inning contest.
Five days later, Glavine made his final appearance in a G-Braves uniform and provided one last glimpse of his legacy for the 5,571 in attendance. He handcuffed the Indianapolis Indians to six hits over 5.0 scoreless innings, walking one while striking out two. Glavine threw 67 pitches, 41 for strikes to earn the win as Gwinnett prevailed, 10-6.
Those two outings (1-0 with a 3.38 ERA) marked the whole of Glavine’s time as a G-Brave. However, it was not his final outing in professional baseball. The last start of his career came with the Class-A Rome Braves on June 2, 2009. Glavine won that game as well, tossing 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings, walking none and striking out two in a 3-0 blanking of Augusta.
Glavine’s rehab assignment ended after that game, as did his professional career. Though he had been dominant in his last two minor league starts, the 22-year Major League veteran was released on June 3, 2009. The following February, he officially retired from the game in order to join the Atlanta Braves’ broadcast team and serve as a special assistant to Braves’ president John Schuerholz.
Four years later, Glavine is rightfully headed to the Hall of Fame. He goes in as a career 305-game winner, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a 10-time All-Star, a World Series MVP and lastly, a former G-Brave.
Though Glavine is the first player to don the Gwinnett Braves uniform to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, he’s not the only member of the 2014 class with ties to the Richmond/Gwinnett franchise. Glavine, along with managers Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa, all spent time as players with the Richmond Braves.
Long before his days in the Atlanta dugout, Cox was a Braves’ farmhand himself, playing in 99 games with Richmond in 1967. A 26-year-old third baseman, Cox batted .297 with 17 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs and 51 RBIs for manager Luman Harris and the ’67 squad. That team finished first in the International League with an 81-60 regular-season record before falling in the first round of the playoffs.
LaRussa played second base for Richmond in 1972 and appeared in 122 games for the club led by manager Clyde King. Like Cox, he was productive at the plate, hitting .308 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. The ’72 R-Braves finished sixth in the IL with a record of 65-78, missing the playoffs.
And finally we’re back to Glavine, who also pitched for Richmond in 1986 and 1987. After going 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 22 starts for Double-A Greenville in 1986, Glavine joined Richmond and went 1-5 with a 5.62 ERA in seven starts. Though his numbers weren’t great, he contributed to a team that claimed the franchise’s second Governors’ Cup Championship. A 21-year-old Glavine returned to manager Roy Majtyka’s club in 1987, and despite a tough-luck 6-12 record, posted a respectable 3.35 ERA and four complete games in 22 starts. That would be his last non-rehab stint in the minor leagues, as he joined the Atlanta Braves that same season and became a Major League mainstay in 1988.
While Cox, LaRussa and Glavine are going into the Hall based on the merits of historic Major League careers, each began their journey to Cooperstown in the minor leagues. For a moment in time, those journeys intersected with the rich history of the Richmond and Gwinnett Braves franchise.