2007 NEWS

2007 News > 8/11/07

By David Pevear, Lowell Sun

BILLERICA -- Fred and Millie Glavine will next year celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They live on Treble Cove Road in the house that Fred built in 1962, a warm home with a solid foundation, evident by the four well-grounded children who were raised here.

Two of those children grew up to be major league baseball players.

Tom, as you may have heard, is a New York Mets left-hander who last Sunday night became the 23rd pitcher in major league history to win 300 games.

His younger brother Mike, now an assistant coach at Northeastern University, also made it to the major leagues, appearing in six games for the Mets in 2003.

"Michael's the one you want to interview," said Fred Glavine, 73, a retired contractor, sitting in his living room this week while a Mets game played on a TV in another room. "He knows his baseball. It's really enjoyable when he does attend the games with us."

"Even to (the point of telling us) what pitch Tom should throw next," added Millie.

Thirty family members, friends and neighbors were at Wrigley Field in Chicago last Sunday night to watch the Mets defeat the Cubs 8-3 for Tom's 300th career victory, the milestone being reached in his second start since winning No. 299.

"It wasn't too bad (i.e. nerve-wracking) until he got to 299," said Fred Glavine. "We were nervous because we know how much Tommy wanted to get it out of the way. He didn't want (his quest for 300) to disrupt the team. They're trying to win the (National League) East."

The cards and letters have since poured into the Glavine's mailbox. There are notes from former coaches and teammates of Glavine from his baseball and hockey-playing days in Billerica. There is a card from a 93-year-old woman who graduated from Howe High School in 1932 and moved out of Billerica shortly thereafter. She lives in Maryland.

"She wrote us a beautiful letter about how she always thought she'd move back to Billerica, but never did, and how closely she followed Tom's career," said Fred.

Here in Billerica, the father of baseball's newest 300-game winner is a sports legend as well. Fred Glavine was a three-sport captain at Howe High, precursor to Billerica Memorial High. He was the star running back on the only unbeaten-untied football team in Billerica high school history, the 1952 team that finished 9-0-0.

"I could play a little. I liked football best. But there was no worry about me going anywhere (after high school stardom) but to work," said Fred, a member of the Billerica High Athletic Hall of Fame, as are his brothers Fran and John and two of his sons. (A granddaughter, Jen McBride, who was a standout pitcher in softball, is in the Stonehill College Hall of Fame.)

Tom got his athletic genes from his mother's side of the family as well. Millie's father Fred Towle, a catcher, and her uncle Harold Towle, a pitcher, were renowned semipro players in Cambridge during the Depression. Harold had a tryout with the Red Sox, but blew out his arm.

"All I know is that when Tommy signed with the Braves, (Harold Towle) said, 'Ah, he should go to college. He'll blow his arm out in the pros,'" said Fred.

There was a contingency plan for a sore arm. Tom was an honor-roll student. Fred and Millie had one steadfast rule for all their children: They needed to finish their homework before going out to play after school.

Tom was usually headed out to play street hockey. Ten of Tom's friends often waited in the living room for Tom to finish his home work.

Neighborhood traffic patterns then were altered. The boys put up sawhorses to divert cars away from their games.

'Just likes his peace'

In 1984, Fred Glavine, on a handshake, promised the Atlanta Braves' scout who signed Tom that his son would not skate again. Tom also had been drafted by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings.

That handshake did not cover street hockey.

"Even kids who used to come home with Tom from the minor leagues couldn't believe the street hockey games he used to play," said Millie.

Fred and Millie agree that Tom is more like his Mom than his Dad.

"Easy going. Just likes his peace," said Millie, smiling.

When the Braves promoted Tom to Triple-A Richmond in 1986, his first start was in Pawtucket, R.I.

He got shelled.

"Tough night," Fred said as he greeted Tom outside McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

"Yeah," Tom answered.

Millie cheerfully chimed in, "You did get them out 1-2-3 in one of those innings."

"Thanks, Mom," Tom said, cracking a smile. "Only a mother could see something good in what I did tonight."

They've traveled the country

Fred and Millie have traveled countless miles to see Tom pitch hundreds of games since he reached the big leagues with the Braves in 1987. On some nights Tom was pitching back then, Millie would call a friend in a town that had TBS -- the station that carried the Braves games -- on its cable package. She would have them place their telephone next to their television while she listened on the other end of the line.

Billerica residents soon petitioned the local cable company to add TBS to their cable package. They wanted their Tommy Glavine.

When Tom was 10, one of his Little League coaches, Jim Bowley, had said to Fred and Millie, "We're going to pay to watch Tommy play someday.'"

Millie told Tom this story many years later. Tom's reply: "You've still never paid to see me play, Mom. I always get you tickets."

Fred and Millie are in New York to watch their son go after career victory No. 301 tonight against the Florida Marlins. Tom will be honored at Shea Stadium before tomorrow afternoon's game.

"He's achieved really what he always wanted -- playing in the major leagues, hockey or something," said his mother Millie. "He always wanted to do this."