Getting to Know You
Tom Glavine tours new Hall of Fame home in Cooperstown
Though he claims partial Irish heritage, Tom Glavine was not sporting any green on Monday. But for the former star southpaw, this St. Patrick’s Day will always be memorable.
Glavine, the left-handed pitcher who was part of the famed Atlanta Braves starting staff of the 1990s along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, got his first tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since he was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January.
Glavine, accompanied by wife Chris, were in Cooperstown as part of his Orientation Tour. Glavine’s first visit to the Museum came last summer when his son Mason was playing in an area baseball tournament.
“When I came here last year, obviously, it was more to see the Museum, so to speak, and kind of hoping I would be here someday,” said Glavine, standing in the Plaque Gallery, casually dressed in brown pants, a gray shirt and black vest, and only feet away from where his bronze plaque will be placed on a wall in four months. “Now I’m here with the objective of becoming more familiar with this place, and where my place will be in terms of my plaque, so it’s a little bit different in that regard.”
This year’s Induction Ceremony, to be held 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 27, will feature BBWAA electees Glavine, Maddux and Frank Thomas as well as Expansion Era Committee electees Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. The Class of 2014 will feature a half dozen living electees, the first time since 1971 that six living candidates have been elected.
“Leading up to it, everybody kept asking me ‘What will a first ballot Hall of Fame mean?’ and ‘Will you be disappointed if you don’t get it?’ Of course I would have been disappointed, because the first ballot Hall of Fame is a big deal,” Glavine said. “There’s a lot of guys in here who were great players that weren’t elected on the first ballot. So to be that first ballot guy is certainly a great honor.
“Had I not gotten in, I know the biggest disappointment for me would have been missing out on that opportunity to go in with Bobby (Cox) and Greg (Maddux). Those two guys I spent a lot of my career with and were very influential on me as a baseball player. And to have the opportunity to go in with two guys that were a teammate and a manager for a long time, guys that were such a big part of my career, but also helped make me a better player, that’s a great opportunity.”
The Glavines spent time in the 19th century baseball exhibit Taking the Field, learned about one of the game’s great sluggers in the Babe Ruth Gallery, and took some time in Pride and Passion, which documents the African-American baseball experience.
“It was nice having the opportunity to walk through it the way that we did today. It’s amazing,” said Glavine soon after his tour led by Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections Erik Strohl. “You know – but you don’t know – how much history there is in this game, how many cool things have happened, how many things you look at what guys accomplished, and you just shake your head and wonder how they do that. So it has been a really neat perspective.
“I’m not a huge baseball historian. I’m aware of a lot of things, but when you get into this atmosphere and you really start breaking down the history of the game and how it has evolved over the years and how guys have done the things that they’ve done, it’s really remarkable.”
When Glavine’s wife saw a charm bracelet legendary New York Yankees’ first baseman Lou Gehrig had made out of jewels from his World Series and All-Star Game appearances for his Eleanor, Chris joked, “That’s a good idea.”
Glavine also revisited some artifacts he had donated over the years, including his spikes from the 1995 World Series in which he was named MVP after coming away with two wins in the Braves’ six-game triumph over the Cleveland Indians.
“That would have been the ideal thing: To win it in 1991,” said Glavine of the year the Braves went from worst-to-first before losing in the World Series to the Twins. “Losing that year was probably the lowest point in my career. But 1995 was very gratifying after all we’d been through with the near misses.”
Glavine spent the vast majority of his career with the Braves where he not only came away with the 1995 World Series MVP but also captured National League Cy Young awards in 1991 and 1998. The 10-time All-Star and five-time 20-game winner ended his career with a 305-203 won-loss record.
“When you’re not playing the game anymore, that scenario of being talked about and being in the spotlight, all that stuff kind of goes away,” said Glavine, who ranks fourth all-time among lefthanders in wins. “Sure, you run into people from time to time that know you, that recognize you, but with the announcement of the election and the attention that goes along with that, it’s picked up some of that stuff.”
After his tour, and standing in the Plaque Gallery, Glavine was asked if he felt he belonged in a room with the images of the greats of the game.
“I do – but I think there’s always going to be that separation between the guys that you performed against versus the guys you either had the opportunity to watch as a kid or never had that opportunity to watch but know of them and know what they accomplished,” Glavine said. “Those guys seem a little bit more out of reach. Maybe someday as I get older and get more comfortable with being here I might be able to put myself in their company a little bit more. But for right now it’s still a little bit hard.
“Every once in a while, I’ll have some moments where it’s hard to get my brain around what’s going on, and this is probably one of those moments.”
While admitting life has been “crazy but in a fun way” since the news of his election was made public, he does admit to liking the sound of his new name.
“There’s obviously a little bit more demand on my time and the whole process leading up to the induction, but it has been a lot of fun,” he said. “And I have not tired whatsoever yet of people introducing me as Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. That sounds nice.”
As for his induction speech, Glavine says he’ll wake up at night sometimes and go, “Okay, I want to say that,” but has not yet physically written anything down.
“I’ve been more concerned with my guest list and where everybody is going to be staying and making sure that’s all taken care of,” Glavine said, “Once I’m past that I’m sure the focus will shift to what I’m going to say.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum