2005 NEWS

2005 News > 7/15/05

GLAVINE, SMOLTZ TURN BACK THE CLOCK

By Tom Singer, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

NEW YORK -- By the second inning, Bobby Cox knew he wouldn't get his ultimate wish. Six innings later, everyone else knew they'd gotten theirs.

A crowd of 34,444 had come on Friday night to Shea Stadium to celebrate the past, but no one celebrated as well as Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, who turned back the clock -- and each other's teammates -- on a night of nostalgic drama.

Not even Romy and Michele had a reunion quite like this. Glavine and Smoltz ended their respective outings with identical seven-inning lines, good ones. Were they locked in? Like cops' radars on speedsters.

Smoltz won the 2-1 decision. Glavine didn't lose. No one or nothing took a beating, certainly not friendship.

"I said in an interview just yesterday that in the best scenario, we both go seven innings, give up one run, and each of us gets the hit to knock it in," said Smoltz.

Except for the hitting part, the best scenario happened.

"Tommy didn't get the loss, and that was good. We got the win, and that was great," said Cox.

The Atlanta manager hadn't had mixed feelings about watching his former livelihood -- Glavine was the butter, Smoltz the bread -- pitch against each other. He wanted Smoltz to win ... "But I hope it's 1-0."

The Mets had the only 1-0 lead in this game -- after a second-inning homer by David Wright, who was in kindergarten when Smoltz and Glavine first joined forces under the tomahawk -- and only briefly.

"There's something special about them going at it," Cox had mused before the game, quickly adding by way of lowering expectations, "Matchups usually aren't what you expect."

Whatever we expected from this one, it was more. Cox himself said, enthusiastically, "The matchup couldn't have been better."

If his main concern was seeing neither of his boys embarrassed, it went even better than he had hoped.

"Both of them were psyched up, you bet," said Cox, who called the duel "one of those great pitched games, for both sides, a good old-fashioned National League game we used to see years ago."

Seeing his team lose old school, to an old friend, eased Glavine's disappointment.

"It was fun," said Glavine, "and I'd like to see more of it. In this day and age, those kinds of games seem few and far between. To me, being, I guess, a baseball purist, there's nothing more exciting than being in a game where every play matters."

The Braves did pounce on a former teammate for the winning run, but it was Roberto Hernandez, who, interestingly, had replaced Glavine on the 2003 Atlanta roster. Hernandez had less luck replacing him on the mound.

It wasn't quite like Al Gore running for president against Bill Clinton, or Wayne ratting out Garth. But it was close.

The two joined forces as fuzzy-cheeked young men. Glavine was 21 and Smoltz 20 that morning in February 1988 when they first donned matching Atlanta Braves jerseys, starting their first of 15 Spring Trainings together.

Across the next decade and a half, they shared summer laughs and October tears, and 403 wins.

Who can count the number of times they met on a golf course? Or on a blacktop basketball court, trying to beat each other?

But this was the first time they wanted to beat each other at the game that brought them together.

Smoltz, the born-again starter, went into the game with nine wins. Glavine entered with a losing record. Smoltz knew it didn't matter. This was Duke-North Carolina basketball, USC-UCLA football. Throw the records out.

"Coming into the game, I felt that no matter what his record was, I honestly believed he wouldn't give up much," said Smoltz. "There is something different when you face a teammate for so long. You want to do so well.

"I think both of us pitched the type of game we hoped to pitch if we ever matched up against each other."

Their Friday night confrontation had no special grip here. Shea Stadium was not electric -- beyond the static raised by any mid-July game between teams 4 1/2 games apart in the standings. Mets fans do not yet consider Glavine one of their own.

It was different in Atlanta, where fans still consider them two of their own. Two pillars of a dynasty still standing. The only way the occasion could have oozed more nostalgia was if Greg Maddux had been shouting smack from either bench -- but he was in Chicago, preparing to start on Saturday for the Cubs.

Not sure what happened when the Three Musketeers were broken up, but we're reasonably certain Aramis didn't go swing his epee for Cardinal Richelieu.

Glavine won the best mano-a-mano battle. In what was still a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the fifth, he faced Smoltz with one out and men on first and third, and induced him to slap a slow grounder to second baseman Miguel Cairo.

When shortstop Jose Reyes' throw off Cairo's feed doubled up Smoltz, Glavine allowed himself a celebratory shake of the fist. However, as he walked off the field, he made sure to keep his eyes on the grass.

Any eye contact there could've triggered mutual guffaws. And how unbecoming would that have been?

Glavine's fist-shake got a little big bigger for Reyes' tie-saving play on Wilson Betemit the next inning, and bigger still when he struck out Kelly Johnson with the bases loaded to end the seventh, after which he dropped into the dugout and out of sight.

Smoltz got an even bigger rise out of that last escape.

"I drew adrenaline from watching him get out of the bases-loaded jam, not give in," he said. "That's one of the things I learned from him. If you're hurt, or things aren't going great ... don't give in, stay in the game. He certainly did that tonight.

"Tommy pitched great. I think he's gonna pitch great the whole second half."

And so Mets fans streamed into the night and into the weekend singing a familiar tune. TGIF. But this time, it meant Tom Glavine Is Fine.