Always in control

Tom Glavine debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Tom Glavine. (Brad Mangin/NBHOF Library)

Tom Glavine never lit up the radar gun, so opposing batters often came to the plate anticipating a good at-bat. 

But in most cases, those same batters trudged right back to the dugout – victimized by a steely-eyed strike thrower who overwhelmed opponents with control and determination rather than speed. 

Glavine, whose 305 victories are surpassed by only three other left-handers in history, debuts on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this fall. Glavine is one of 36 players on the 2014 BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2014. 

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

“Anybody who plays this game long enough, if they tell you then don’t think about (the Hall of Fame), they’re lying.” 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born March 25, 1966 in Concord, Mass., and raised in the Boston suburb of Billerica, Glavine lettered in both ice hockey and baseball in high school. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1984 National Hockey League entry draft by the Los Angeles Kings, but chose baseball when the Braves tabbed him with a second-round pick that same year. 

[Scouting reports on Tom Glavine]

“I just felt in the long run, being a left-handed pitcher game me an advantage in this game that I didn’t possess in hockey,” Glavine said. 

By 1987, Glavine was in the majors as the Braves assembled a young rotation – including John Smoltz and Steve Avery – that would power the franchise for years to come. After losing a big league-worst 17 games in 1988, Glavine went 14-8 in 1989. Over the next 18 seasons, Glavine would post only three more losing seasons. 

In 1991, Glavine led the Braves to the National League West title – a worst-to-first story for a team that finished last in 1990. Glavine was 20-11 with a 2.55 earned-run average and a league-leading nine complete games, earning the National League Cy Young Award. He helped the Braves advance to their first World Series in Atlanta, where they fell to the Twins in seven games. 

It was the start of a stretch of 14 straight first-place finishes (in complete seasons) for the Braves, an all-time record. 

Glavine became well known for his calm demeanor on the mound and his dogged refusal to give in to batters. He would paint the outside corner with pitch after pitch, expanding the strike zone ever so slightly throughout the game. He walked 1,500 career batters because he would not throw pitches down the middle of the plate – even if he was behind in the count. The result was more than 5,800 base runners in 4,413.1 innings, but hardly any huge scoring outbursts that drove him from games. 

“He might seem laid-back facially,” said Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. “But he’s very emotional when he comes out on the mound.” 

Glavine broke into the majors averaging about 85 miles per hour on his fastball, then dipped to about 80 mph during the middle of his career. But he caught a second wind later in his days with the Braves and Mets, reaching 87 mph through a combination of conditioning and throwing. 

Glavine notched 20-win seasons in both 1992 and 1993, finishing second and third (respectively) in the Cy Young Award voting. The Braves fell to the Blue Jays in the 1992 World Series, then lost to Philadelphia in the 1993 National League Championship Series. 

Glavine was 13-9 in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign, then was 16-7 in 1995 – finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting. In the World Series, Glavine threw eight-shutout innings in Game 6 against a powerful Indians lineup, earning a 1-0 victory and wrapping up the Fall Classic title for the Braves. He was named the World Series Most Valuable Player after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA. 

It would be the only World Series the Braves would win in the 11 seasons that Glavine helped the team advance to the playoffs. But even without further titles, the remainder of Glavine’s career featured more success than virtually any other pitcher in the game. 

From 1996 through 2002, Glavine averaged almost 17 wins a season while earning another Cy Young Award in 1998 following his 20-6 campaign. Glavine won 21 games in 2000 and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting, all while maintaining his status as one of the game’s most durable pitchers. From 1990 through 2007, Glavine started at least 32 games a season – except for the 1994 and 1995 seasons that were shortened by the labor dispute. In that stretch, Glavine led the NL in starts six times, including four in a row from 1999 through 2002. 

“He was a warrior,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox. “He pitched with every injury you can imagine. You don’t run around guys like him too often. He meant everything to this organization.” 

Glavine left the Braves following the 2002 season, signing with their NL East rival the New York Mets. In five seasons in the Big Apple, Glavine won 61 games – including his 300th win on Aug. 5, 2007, becoming just the 23rd pitcher (and sixth left-hander) to reach that plateau. 

Glavine was also a respected union representative, helping hammer out several collective bargaining agreements between players and management. 

“Anyone who knows Tom, you can’t help but respect him,” said Braves President Stan Kasten. “He’s a guy you want on our team. You want him as your neighbor. And you want him in your organization.” 

Glavine returned to the Braves in 2008 at the age of 42, but suffered the first major arm injury of his career and went just 2-4 in 13 games. The next season, Glavine attempted a comeback from shoulder and elbow surgery in the minor leagues before being released on June 3, 2009, ending his big league career. At the time, he was the winningest active pitchers in the major leagues. 

Glavine’s career numbers: 305-203 with a 3.54 ERA and 2,607 shutouts. He was named to 10 All-Star games, earned Cy Young Award votes in six seasons and won four Silver Slugger Awards as a pitcher. His 682 games started ranks 12th all-time. 

“You know the expression ‘The Time of Your Life?” said Glavine in reference to his career. “It was.” 

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
1987 21 ATL 2 4 .333 5.54 9 9 0 0 0 0 50.1 55 34 31 5 33 20
1988 22 ATL 7 17 .292 4.56 34 34 0 1 0 0 195.1 201 111 99 12 63 84
1989 23 ATL 14 8 .636 3.68 29 29 0 6 4 0 186.0 172 88 76 20 40 90
1990 24 ATL 10 12 .455 4.28 33 33 0 1 0 0 214.1 232 111 102 18 78 129
1991 25 ATL 20 11 .645 2.55 34 34 0 9 1 0 246.2 201 83 70 17 69 192
1992 26 ATL 20 8 .714 2.76 33 33 0 7 5 0 225.0 197 81 69 6 70 129
1993 27 ATL 22 6 .786 3.20 36 36 0 4 2 0 239.1 236 91 85 16 90 120
1994 28 ATL 13 9 .591 3.97 25 25 0 2 0 0 165.1 173 76 73 10 70 140
1995 29 ATL 16 7 .696 3.08 29 29 0 3 1 0 198.2 182 76 68 9 66 127
1996 30 ATL 15 10 .600 2.98 36 36 0 1 0 0 235.1 222 91 78 14 85 181
1997 31 ATL 14 7 .667 2.96 33 33 0 5 2 0 240.0 197 86 79 20 79 152
1998 32 ATL 20 6 .769 2.47 33 33 0 4 3 0 229.1 202 67 63 13 74 157
1999 33 ATL 14 11 .560 4.12 35 35 0 2 0 0 234.0 259 115 107 18 83 138
2000 34 ATL 21 9 .700 3.40 35 35 0 4 2 0 241.0 222 101 91 24 65 152
2001 35 ATL 16 7 .696 3.57 35 35 0 1 1 0 219.1 213 92 87 24 97 116
2002 36 ATL 18 11 .621 2.96 36 36 0 2 1 0 224.2 210 85 74 21 78 127
2003 37 NYM 9 14 .391 4.52 32 32 0 0 0 0 183.1 205 94 92 21 66 82
2004 38 NYM 11 14 .440 3.60 33 33 0 1 1 0 212.1 204 94 85 20 70 109
2005 39 NYM 13 13 .500 3.53 33 33 0 2 1 0 211.1 227 88 83 12 61 105
2006 40 NYM 15 7 .682 3.82 32 32 0 0 0 0 198.0 202 94 84 22 62 131
2007 41 NYM 13 8 .619 4.45 34 34 0 1 1 0 200.1 219 102 99 23 64 89
2008 42 ATL 2 4 .333 5.54 13 13 0 0 0 0 63.1 67 40 39 11 37 37
22 Yrs 305 203 .600 3.54 682 682 0 56 25 0 4413.1 4298 1900 1734 356 1500 2607

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum