Results tagged ‘ Greg Maddux ’

Tom Glavine: The First G-Brave in Cooperstown

Newly-minted Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine pitched twice for Gwinnett in 2009.

Newly-minted Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine pitched twice for Gwinnett in 2009 (Gwinnett Braves).

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.

Bobby Cox, Richmond Braves third baseman in 1967.

Bobby Cox, Richmond Braves third baseman in 1967 (left photo).

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.

Tony La Russa played for Atlanta in 1971 and was a member of the Richmond Braves in 1972.

Tony LaRussa played for Atlanta in 1971 and was a member of the Richmond Braves in 1972.

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.

Glavine as a member of the Richmond Braves, likely during the 1987 season.  (Gwinnett Braves Archives)

Glavine as a member of the Richmond Braves, likely during the 1987 season. (Gwinnett Braves Archives)

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.

-DL

Interview: Atlanta Braves Legend John Smoltz

Major League legend John Smoltz stopped by Coolray Field Friday night to sign his book Starting and Closing, then I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the man afterward. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for all those involved as over 7,000 thrilled fans crossed through the gates in Lawrenceville. I was able to sit down and chat with Smoltz once all the commotion settled down and his book signing concluded. Here is what he had to say in part 1 of our 3-part interview…

The entire book signing process and interaction with the fans:

“This has been my eighth one (book signing appearance) so far, but this is by far, hands down, double anything that I’ve done in my other cities,” said Smoltz. “We went to Nashville which was great, Birmingham, Roanoke, New York, St. Louis….This was cool, plus I’d never been out here which is something I was embarrassed to say because of my schedule. Getting out here to see this place (Coolray Field) was great. Hopefully, days down the road I can watch games here and enjoy what you never get to enjoy when you’re in the mix of doing what you’re doing (playing Major League Baseball).”

Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease

The experience of writing a book:

“The experience was a pretty cool one. If the book never got published, to see the hands of life and how it all unfolded and the different paths people take, it was pretty cool,” Smoltz said. “I never thought I would do a book. I never dreamt about doing a book. There was no desire to a do a book, until I realized the timing and the message that I could literally get out there was for so many more people than just baseball (fans).”

Realizing when you wanted to write the book:

“It wasn’t until about six months ago, whatever it took to put the book together, we literally did it in that timeframe. I met Don Yaegar,” said Smoltz. “I always heard great things about him. I had been prompted and told to do a book but I said ‘no way.’ Then, finally it happened.”

The driving force behind wanting to do the book, Starting and Closing:

“I felt compelled in this day and age. Look, I’ve always wanted to fight for what’s right. I believe in being competitive,” Smoltz said. “The things that have happened in this sport are a small example of the things I’m talking about (in the book). A competitive balance is what we all strive for, but more importantly I played with and seen so many great athletes literally have exactly what I’m talking about in the book. The fear of failure and the not ability to get out of their comfort zone. They have been given a measure of talent and yet the fear of failing has caused them to not be as good as they can be. I also wanted to talk to the business world, teachers, you name it, whatever field…to dare to be great to get outside your comfort zone you have to experience some tension and that tension is going to cause you to either walk away from what you’re doing or move forward towards it (your goals). I’m trying to get people to understand how they can move toward it.”

Speaking about what drove him more during his playing career, the fear of failing or his competitive nature:

“I was never afraid to fail. That was the No. 1, that’s me. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care what arm angle. I was willing to use something immediately and failure could happen and that wasn’t going to stop me from going right out and becoming better,” said Smoltz. “My competitive drive that was instilled in me at a young age, I don’t know how…My dad was very competitive and I just always believed I always wanted to win. I always believe you should be your best no matter what the issue’s are, no matter what the circumstances are, but it seems like people always believe there has to be something at stake personally, financially, whatever. I didn’t care if it was a pick-up game. I didn’t care if I was by myself throwing a baseball against a wall, I was always putting myself in a position to be successful.”

When in the middle of answering the previous question, Smoltz had his back to the playing field. The game was going on between the G-Braves and Rochester Red Wings as we talked. All of a sudden, in the middle of discussing his competitive nature, there was a crack of the bat in the background….John Smoltz paused from his thought and muttered without hesitation, “that ball’s gone.” Indeed it was a home run off the bat of G-Braves third baseman Joey Terdoslavich as the former Atlanta legend called, thus illustrating what a special and unique human being John Smoltz is. By the way, he still has it.

Be sure to check out the G-Blog in the coming days for part 2 and 3 of our interview from Coolray Field on Friday night.

By: Tony Piraro

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