2007 NEWS

2007 News > 9/3/07

GLAVINE FINALLY FEELS AT HOME IN OLD HOUSE
By Joe Gergen, Newsday

For Tom Glavine, the weekend began with a video tribute and ended with a victory. After the verbal assaults of previous years, he heard only cheers from the fans who once perceived his departure as treason. If this was his last appearance in a major-league uniform at Turner Field, he would be leaving on a good note.

Glavine has not decided whether 2007 will be his final season, and there's no guarantee that a team will choose to satisfy the monetary demands of a pitcher with more than 300 wins who will be 42 next March. All the more reason to want closure for a difficult period in his life.

"If it is the last time," he said yesterday after the Mets defeated the Braves, 3-2, to complete a three-game sweep, "you don't want it to be a negative memory."

It was anything but. Glavine received credit for his 302nd win, drove in the first run with a long sacrifice fly against old friend John Smoltz and left the mound to a warm ovation in the seventh inning. With his family seated in a box alongside the Mets' dugout, the pitcher who in 1995 won the deciding game in Atlanta's only world championship appeared to make his peace with the city where he maintains his permanent residence.

"You don't ever want to be disliked," he said afterward. "We all expect it in our business, but you don't have to like it."

Glavine was the face of the franchise when the Braves moved into Turner Field a decade ago, so much so that he was chosen to deliver home plate from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to the new park in an opening ceremony. But after he accepted a free-agent offer from the Mets following the 2002 season, he was routinely reviled whenever he appeared here.

In his first game back, in May 2003, he was booed, jeered and cursed by the fans and battered by the Braves in a 10-4 loss. The reception did not get appreciably better from either party during the next couple of years.

But he felt a thaw starting last season and had an inkling there might be a measure of appreciation this time around after he attained his 300th victory. Still, Glavine was touched by the video tribute from No. 1 to 300 compiled by the Braves and displayed on the centerfield board before Friday night's game. He acknowledged it with a broad smile, an exaggerated tip of the cap and a bow or two.

After squeezing out of a tight jam in the first inning at the cost of a single run, he will have only fond memories of yesterday's game. There was his bases-loaded drive off Smoltz, who likely will join him in the Hall of Fame someday, that only Andruw Jones could have caught. Although it failed to clear the bases, it did tie the score at 1 and -- with the addition of David Wright's two-run homer in the fifth -- put Glavine in position to beat his buddy for the first time in five encounters.

"It won't be the last competition between us," Glavine said, referring to their duels on the golf course. But it's likely to be their last confrontation on a baseball field, and the lefthander finally got the upper hand.

Not that there weren't a few sweaty palms in the ninth when Billy Wagner surrendered a double and single to the first two batters, cutting the lead to a run and resurrecting memories of a shaky week in Philadelphia.

The Mets fans scattered throughout the ballpark, including the Glavine clan, held their collective breath as the closer stranded the tying run by retiring the next three Braves on ground balls.

It was left to Jonathan Glavine, who will turn 13 this week, to express what they all were thinking when he crossed paths with Wagner in the clubhouse.

"Hey, Mr. Billy," he said, "thank you so much. You scared me."

"I scared myself," Wagner replied. "You should see what it's like out there."

It's a lot better out there now for Tom Glavine than it's been in a long time. All may not be forgiven or even forgotten but, for a man approaching retirement, it's nice to know he can come home again.