1998 NEWS

1998 News > 8/19/98

GLAVINE THE CHOICE IN A BIG GAME

By Terence Moore, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A writer friend of mine refers to the starting pitchers of the Atlanta Braves as Thing I, Thing II, Thing III, Thing IV and Thing V. That's about right. After all, they often have this tendency to range from great to even greater than that after their first pitch.

Among those five, you have the Big Three. Not only do they all own at least one Cy Young Award, but they all have no less than a couple of fingers beyond the city limits of Cooperstown.

There is Greg Maddux, baseball's Picasso. Pitch after pitch, hitter after hitter, inning after inning, game after game, he hurls his way toward another masterpiece at a speed slightly greater than lightning.

As for John Smoltz, he's never met a big game that he didn't like. Only Whitey Ford and Dave Stewart have as many postseason victories. Plus, nobody matches Smoltz in today's game by throwing so well through so much pain during so many seasons.

Still, if forced to choose between the Things to pitch a single game to decide the fate of the universe, I'm going with one of the most underrated players of our times. No, of any time. And that is Tom Glavine, owner of the three Ps. We're talking about poise, potency and professionalism.

Whether it was a decade ago, when Glavine played for 100-game losers, or his contributions to the Braves' current run as the winningest team of the 1990s, Glavine has remained Glavine, with the three Ps in place.

The problem is that, Glavine always has featured a Maddux or a something in his world to hide the true extent of his contribution to the game in general and his craft in particular. But Glavine isn't necessarily my choice to pitch that game of the ages because he is peerless among left-handers in victories over the past 11 years. Neither is it totally because he sits behind Maddux in most victories overall since 1991.

One more thing: Glavine rolled into Wednesday night's game at Turner Field against the San Francisco Giants with a 16-4 record and 2.35 ERA after throwing 23 consecutive scoreless inning.

I'm going with Glavine, because he is among the toughest players mentally of our times. No, of any time.

"He's definitely the most mentally tough guy on our team," says Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. "You never see much emotion from him whether he's going good or bad. He's Steady Eddie. All you have to do is remember that, here is a guy who almost was exiled from Atlanta."

No question there, and it goes back to Glavine's courageous stand during the Mother of All Strikes in 1994 against the Evil Owners. No player was more outspoken during that ugliness than Glavine.

As a result, no player was more vilified by the public than Glavine when the strike ended during the spring of 1995.

It didn't matter, though. With Glavine ignoring the heavy boos from the hometown fans, he sprinted to a record of 16-7 during the regular season and allowed the Cleveland Indians only a run through eight innings during the Braves' World Series clincher in Game 6.

So here we are, three seasons and several more gutsy games by Glavine later, and nothing has changed.

Not when it comes to the three Ps.