2005 NEWS

2005 News > 10/05

TOM GLAVINE'S SUCCESS

By John McMurray, Baseball Digest

On October 28, 1995, Tom Glavine pitched one of the greatest games in World Series history.

In Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians, a team that had led the American League in batting average and runs scored that season and which had won its Division title by a record 30-game margin over second-place Kansas City, Glavine allowed only one hit in eight scoreless innings pitched. A single by Cleveland's Tony Pena to lead off the sixth inning was all that prevented Glavine from being on the verge of a World Series no-hitter.

"No question, that was the best game I've had in my career," says Glavine ten years later. "I had good stuff, and I had good control. When you have that combination going, you have the chance to pitch a good game. At the same time, against a lineup like Cleveland's, you never know. Up to that point in my career, it was definitely the best offensive team I'd ever faced."

Glavine struck out eight Indians hitters that night, and his victory allowed the Braves to clinch their first World Series title since 1957.

While his performance in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series is Glavine's biggest postseason highlight, he also won Game 2 of that Series by allowing only two earned runs in six innings. Glavine's 2-0 record along with his 1.29 ERA led to him being named the Most Valuable Player of the Series.

In his 19-year major league career, Glavine has pitched in 22 postseason series, including five World Series. How does he handle the pressure? "I think what it boils down to," he says, "is your ability to trust yourself to go out there and do the things you know you can do. You kind of have to have an attitude of not being "afraid to fail. You have to know you're prepared, you have to go out there and try and execute the things you want to execute, and in the end, you can't be afraid to fail."

Thomas Michael Glavine graduated from Billerica (Massachusetts) High School in 1984, where he was a standout in both baseball and hockey. He was selected in the second round of the amateur draft that year by the Atlanta Braves and also in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. Glavine chose to sign with the Braves. "In the end, I just felt like I had more of a chance to make it as a baseball player, says Glavine. "You just got through the plusses and minuses of both sports. I think that two things that weighed heavily with me in both sports were the health factor and the ability to play baseball probably longer than hockey. I also felt that being a left-handed pitcher, I possessed an advantage in baseball that I didn't have in hockey."

Glavine's major league career got off to a rocky start: in his first full season with the Braves in 1988, he finished with a 7-17 record and led the National League in losses for an Atlanta team that lost 106 games. With experience and more run support, Glavine was able to win 20 or more games in every season from 1991 through 1993.

His durability combined with a consistently low ERA made him a cornerstone of the Atlanta pitching staff along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. In 1991, when he went 20-11 with a 2.55 ERA and a career-high 192 strikeouts, Glavine won the National League Cy Young Award.

Glavine's list of pitching accomplishments is substantial. He has led the National League in wins five times, has led the N.L. in games started in six seasons, and he has been in the top ten in the league in ERA eight different times. He also won his second Cy Young Award in 1998, when he compiled a 20-6 record for the Braves.

Always known as an exceptional athlete, Glavine is also one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball. He won the Silver Slugger Award, given annually to the best hitting pitcher in baseball, four times during the 1990s. He has collected more than 200 career hits. and, in a 2-1 Atlanta win on August 10, 1995, Glavine hit his only career home run off of Pittsburgh's John Smiley.

Though overshadowed defensively by former teammate Greg Maddux who won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves as a pitcher and 14 overall, Glavine is considered an exceptional fielder himself.

"Practice has a lot to do with being a good fielder," Glavine says. "Certainly how you finish your delivery is important, too. Ideally, you'd like guys to finish up as squarely as they can, but some of these guys throwing as hard as they do and the momentum they create with their body, it's difficult to be in a good fielding position. But I think whatever your landing position is, you have to be ready to anticipate a ball coming back at you, and when it does, you have to be comfortable fielding it. And the only way you get comfortable doing that is through taking a lot of ground balls."

After 16 seasons with the Braves where he won a total of 242 games, Glavine signed as a free agent with the New York Mets on December 5, 2002. Although he had won 34 games in his last two seasons in Atlanta, Glavine was only able to win 20 total games over his first two seasons in New York, noticeably below his career average of 15 wins per year. Through July 31, Glavine was 7-9 with the Mets, giving him 269 career victories for 31st on the all-time wins list and seventh among left-handers.

Glavine is the third-winningest active pitcher behind Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux, and Glavine and Randy Johnson are the two active pitchers closest to reaching the 300-win mark. "A lot of people talk about it, and I think about it, but not a lot," Glavine said about his chances at reaching 300 career wins. "It's certainly a distant goal of mine, but I think from my standpoint, I focus more on the current year. I figure that if it takes the rest of this year and maybe two more years to get there, then it's a possibility."

One advantage Glavine has over many other 39-year old pitchers is that he is in excellent health. "I feel as good now as I have probably at any point in my career," he says. "As long as the health stays there, then it's just a matter of assessing whether or not I'm still able to pitch at the level that I want to pitch at. And if I am, then I think it makes that pursuit a little bit easier."

Glavine has pitched 160 or more innings in every season since 1988, and he has pitched 200 or more innings in every season but one since 1996. Staying injury-free, Glavine says, "is good mechanics and a little bit of luck, probably a lot of luck. I've had injuries off and on throughout my career, but fortunately nothing with my arm that's ever required me to have surgery.

"I've certainly had to pitch through some things, some worse than others, but I think what allowed me to pitch through some of my injuries was my style of pitching, and my mechanics certainly helped all of that. So I've been blessed in that regard, and I've been pretty lucky in a lot of areas, too."

Catcher Mike Piazza batted against Glavine for eleven seasons before the two became teammates in 2003. Says Piazza: "He's a good guy, he's got a great sense of humor. It's been fun to play with him. There've been some tough times here as an organization, but you can see the way he is, the class guy he is. He's always been a stand-up guy, and he's done as well as he could through some losing seasons. In the end, his numbers are going to speak for themselves."

Never a particularly hard thrower, Glavine is more likely to induce ground ball outs than he is to strike batters out. In that respect, he is similar to Jamie Moyer of the Seattle Mariners. That type of pitcher, according to Piazza, "just keeps you off-balance, and then they can jam you with 85 mile-per-hour pitches."

The 6-1, 190 pound Glavine calls himself "motivated, stubborn, and very committed to what I do. I'm the kind of personality that tries to get the most out of myself and to be as good as I can be. I know I am very stubborn in terms of my pitching, and that's part of what's made me successful. But I think away from the field, I would characterize myself as pretty quiet and very unassuming. I just kind of go about my business."

Off the field, Glavine devotes a lot of time to his children: "My kids are getting to the ages now where they're getting involved in sports, and I have a blast going to their baseball games and going to their hockey games, going to their practices, and participating with them in all that stuff. And the free time I have on top of that, I'm usually on a golf course." Glavine has also volunteered his time for the National Leukemia Society of America.

Glavine still keeps up with former teammates John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.

"John and I spent a long time together in the Braves organization, and he and I are real good friends. Greg, I talk to whenever we're playing against each other. I still watch those guys when I get the opportunity and I still root for them and want to see them do well, unless it's against us, of course."

Through July 2005, the Mets had a 53-52 won-lost record, and Glavine was optimistic for the future: "I think we're a team going in the right direction," he says. We've got a lot of young talent on this team. We have some veteran guys who have had a lot of successful years, so it's a nice mix of guys. You know, I think we're an exciting team. Right now, we're definitely a streaky team. We've got a great nucleus of young players with David Wright and Jose Reyes, and certainly Carlos Beltran, who's going to be here for a long time. These guys are going to be the cornerstones of this organization, and they're pretty good cornerstones."

Glavine is one of the most accomplished left-handed pitchers in baseball history. "Hopefully," he says, "I'll be remembered as a player that a lot of people respected, both for the way I played the game and for the work I put into being as good as I could be."