2007 NEWS

2007 News > 4/5/07


By Mark Bowman, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

PHILADELPHIA -- They've navigated countless golf courses together and counseled each other through life's tribulations. In the process, two of the most recognizable players in Braves franchise history have formed a friendship that has stood the test of time and separation.

Once their paths intersected in 1988, they marched toward greatness together for each of the next 14 years. As their careers have wound down over the past five years, they've found themselves as division rivals, who have once previously had the opportunity to match their masterful mound skills against each other.

But this second opportunity to do so will be much different. It will bring a nostalgic feeling that will have some Braves fans reminiscing about those days when Tom Glavine's head contained no gray and John Smoltz's head included a little more hair.

When Glavine and Smoltz oppose each other in Saturday afternoon's game between the Braves and Mets at Turner Field, they'll be back in the same neighborhood in which together they grew into men and celebrated many division championships.

"As we wind down our careers, this will certainly be a thing to remember," said Smoltz, who joined a Braves pitching staff that included Glavine in 1988 and has remained a member ever since.

After making his Opening Day start against the Phillies on Monday afternoon, Smoltz placed a call to Glavine. His primary intention was to have his close friend leave some tickets for him in St. Louis. But before hanging up, he made sure to ask, "You are pitching on Saturday, right?"

"This time might be different," Glavine said while acknowledging the historic and nostalgic presence this matchup brings. "It might be the last time."

There's certainly a chance that this will be the last time Braves fans get to see Glavine in Atlanta before he notches his 300th career win. He is nine wins away from completing this milestone march that began with the 242 wins he garnered in Atlanta from 1987-2002.

During Glavine's stay in Atlanta, the Braves won 11 of their 14 consecutive division titles and captured a World Series that may not have been realized without his dominance. After allowing just one hit over eight scoreless innings of the decisive sixth game of the 1995 Fall Classic, the crafty southpaw was fittingly named World Series MVP.

Smoltz may be the greatest postseason pitcher the Braves have ever seen. But it was Glavine who provided the one postseason start that allowed the city of Atlanta to celebrate its only major professional sports championship.

"His career has taken the path that it has," Smoltz said referencing Glavine's move to the Mets before the 2003 season. "But I think we can all assume what hat he's going to wear when he goes into the Hall of Fame. ... I think everybody will remember what he gave to Atlanta."

Smoltz emerged the victor during his first matchup against Glavine. During that July 15, 2005, game at Shea Stadium, he allowed one earned run and four hits over seven innings. As for Glavine, he found himself with a no-decision after limiting the Braves to one earned run and six hits over seven innings.

"When it's John, I hope I just win," Glavine said. "[Winning] 4-1 would be OK with me. Knowing him, he's probably thinking 2-1 or 1-0. But I prefer a little cushion."

Glavine, who tossed six scoreless innings in his Opening Day start against the Cardinals on Sunday night, will certainly be looking to avoid the disasters he too commonly encountered when he first began facing the Braves.

During his first 11 starts against the Braves, Glavine was 1-8 with a 6.94 ERA. His fortunes seemed to turn when he was given that first opportunity to oppose Smoltz two seasons ago.

Including that start, Glavine has gone 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in his past six starts against his former team.

"Now he's a totally different pitcher," Smoltz said. "It's amazing what a few changes can do. He's pitching as good as he ever has."

For the most part, Glavine and Smoltz have downplayed this matchup. They've said the only time they'll truly be opposing each other is when the other is in the batter's box.

"The first time I actually had to bat against him, I know I smiled," Glavine said. "How do you not? It's your friend. He's my best friend in the game. The second time, it was all business.

"I mean, I want to get a hit because it might help us win. And no matter what he does against me, in 10 years, he'll be saying how he raked against me."

During their first matchup against each other, both Smoltz and Glavine went hitless in one at-bat. But that doesn't mean one didn't escape with some bragging rights.

As Smoltz unfortunately remembers, Glavine got him to ground into a double play with the bases loaded.

So has Glavine talked trash ever since?

"He doesn't have to," Smoltz said, admitting he certainly hasn't forgotten the moment.

By the time Saturday concludes, Smoltz and Glavine will have shared yet another moment in Atlanta that they'll remember as their friendship continues to prosper many years from now.