1999 NEWS

1999 News > Lefty Pitchers


By Carroll Rogers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Both Cy Young award ceremonies he has attended have brought back memories for Tom Glavine, baseball's winningest left-handed pitcher in the 1990s.

And not the kind you might think.

In 1992, after the baseball writers banquet in Boston, where he was honored as the National League's best pitcher, Glavine was invited to skate with the Boston Bruins of the NHL. The Bruins were Glavine's favorite hockey team while he was growing up in Massachusetts and would have been an opponent had he followed the wishes of the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him with their fourth-round pick in 1984.

His baseball success has prevented Glavine from second-guessing his decision after his senior year at Billerica (Mass.) High to play baseball instead of hockey. But it also helps to stay away from the ice.

"When I watch games, I really miss it, and when I go to games it's even harder," Glavine said. "I've tried to stay away from it, because I know if I get it back in my blood, I'm going to want to keep doing it."

Glavine began playing organized hockey at age 7, baseball at 8. He played both sports throughout his childhood--baseball April to August, hockey September to March. He committed to the University of Lowell in Boston, where he planned to play both sports.

Then the Kings drafted him and the Braves also selected him two days later in the second round.

"The big thing that really influenced my decision was being a left-handed pitcher," Glavine said. "I knew it gave me a distinct advantage in baseball that I didn't possess in hockey."

So he chose baseball. But a few weeks into his rookie-league season in Bradenton, Fla., when his arm was sore and he was sitting on the bench between starts, he wondered if he made the right decision.

"Baseball got back to being kind of slow for me," Glavine said. "I went from playing every day, whether it was pitching or playing a position to pitching once every five days, and that was really hard to deal with. Sitting there watching four days out of the week, thinking, 'Golly, this isn't what I had in mind.' "

But his arm and his spirits held up.

"I was fairly confident I'd made the right decision," Glavine said. "It was just a matter of whether or not it was going to work out."

Pitching Atlanta to its first World Series title in 1995 and bringing home another Cy Young award this past season add to the overwhelming evidence in his favor.

"Obviously, I'm happy with the decision I made," said Glavine, 33. "But I still wonder what would have happened if I'd played hockey, how far I would have gotten or how good I would have been."

This most recent Cy Young banquet was in New York in February. Glavine took his family to Rockefeller Center and put on skates for the first time since that outing with the Bruins.

This time, it was his 4-year-old daughter, Amber, who succumbed to the skating bug, especially when she spotted a team of figure skaters in the center of the ice.

"She's watching these girls do their thing, and she's trying to stand there on one leg; she's trying to do spins; she's really loves it," Glavine said. "That was fun for me. That'd be an easy way for me to get back around it."