By Greg Klein Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — Tom Glavine got a peek at the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, but it was nothing like what he saw Monday.
“When we had a break, we came in for about an hour, but it wasn’t much time,” Glavine said of his last Hall visit, part of a summer trip to watch his son Mason play baseball at the Cooperstown Dreams Park.
On Monday, Glavine had plenty of time to look around as the 2014 Hall of Famer took his orientation tour with his wife, Christine.
Erik Strohl, the Hall’s vice president for exhibitions and collections, narrated the private tour for the retired left-handed pitcher who spent his Major League Baseball career with the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets.
“I am overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that’s here, by the amount of history that’s here,” said Glavine, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who appeared on 91.9 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America earlier this year. “I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I will be here.”
Glavine won 305 games, two National League Cy Young Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards in a career that stretched from 1987-2008. The 10-time All-Star earned World Series MVP honors when the Braves won the title in 1995 and also appeared in the 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1999 Fall Classics.
Glavine had to work for his accolades, though. He lost 17 games in 1988 and was 33-43 after four years in the majors. Glavine said two things helped him improve.
“No. 1, my recognition, after my first full year when I lost 17 games, that I had to have better command of my pitches,” he said. “Certainly I did that my fourth year, when I won 14 games. It was the progression of throwing more strikes that helped me go from losing 17 games to winning 14.
“The thing that put me over the top,” he continued, “was developing a change-up.”
Glavine went on to win 20 games and his first Cy Young Award with a 2.55 earned run average in 1991, when the Braves lost the World Series in seven games to the Minnesota Twins.
He followed with 20-win seasons in 1992 and 1993 as well, making Glavine the last pitcher to win 20 games in three straight years.
Glavine won the second and sixth games of the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He allowed one hit over eight innings in the latter as the Braves clinched the title with a 1-0 victory.
By then, the Braves had signed pitcher Greg Maddux as a free agent. Maddux and Braves manager Bobby Cox will be inducted into the Hall with Glavine on July 27, along with Frank Thomas, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa.
“How could you possibly make something like (being inducted) any better? Well, that’s how,” said Glavine, whose second Cy Young Award came in 1998. “To go in with two guys that mean so much to me ... that’s the only way to make it better.
“It is a great group,” he continued. “It is great to be going in with two other guys that are great players. Certainly it is a classy group. On the manager side, you’ve got three guys that are certainly among the greatest managers in the game. It is really neat for me because it is a pretty good cross-section of guys I came across in my career.”
Glavine said he and Maddux have teased their Braves’ batterymate John Smoltz for waiting one more season to retire. Smoltz, who retired in 2009, will be eligible for election to the Hall by the BBWAA for the first time in 2015.
“After I got the phone call that day, Greg and I went on MLB (Network) and gave him a little grief,” he said. “That’s OK. He’ll be here soon enough, hopefully next year, and the circle will be complete.”
Glavine said he has received a few congratulatory calls from other Hall of Famers, such as Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Joe Morgan.
“It is pretty neat to get those phone calls,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t answer because they aren’t phone numbers I recognize. I actually did pick up when Jim Rice called because I knew it was a Boston number.
“I think Chris was more excited about that one,” he said, adding that his wife grew up as a Red Sox fan.
A New England native himself, Glavine was drafted out of high school in 1984 by the Braves and by the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL. He said he didn’t regret choosing baseball over hockey but did think twice about skipping college.
“Hockey is different. They own your rights for five years, so they expect you to go to school,” he said. “The decision was not an easy one, not because I wanted to play hockey, but because I had wanted to go to college. In the end, I had to take a chance. Fortunately, I never had to go back to college.”
With his Hall of Fame induction four months away, Glavine said he is nervous about his speech. He also said several inductees have told him that he will enjoy the ceremony more when he returns next year.
“Don Sutton has alluded to it,” he said of the Hall of Fame pitcher who works with Glavine during Braves’ broadcasts. “Certainly your individual year, you enjoy it. But at the same time, the guys come back year after year because they enjoy it. If you can get guys to come back year and after, that’s certainly a testament to it.”
Glavine said that his life hasn’t changed much since the BBWAA vote was announced in January, but his introductions have gotten better.
“Tom Glavine, Hall of Famer,” he said. “That’s not something I am going to get sick of hearing.”