On Friday, August 6, the Atlanta Braves will retire number 47, the number that Tom Glavine wore while pitching the majority of his career in Atlanta.
Drafted in the second round back in 1984, Glavine decided passed up a chance at a hockey career (he was a fourth-round pick in the NHL’s draft) to pitch for the Atlanta Braves.
After pitching well in AAA for the majority of the 1987 season, Glavine was called up to Atlanta and made his MLB debut on August 17 . In his first start, he allowed six runs in just 3.2 innings. Overall, his 1987 major league campaign was forgettable.
1988 was better (ERA-wise) but Glavine led the league in losses. By 1989, Glavine started to figure things out, going 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA.
After a solid (but unspectacular) 1990 season, Glavine (and the Braves) started creating their legacy in 1991.
The 1991 edition of the Atlanta Braves went from worst to first, in large part thanks to Tom Glavine. With a league leading 20 wins and a sparkling 2.55 ERA, Glavine won his first Cy Young award and led the league in ERA+. Although the Braves eventually lost in the World Series, their dynasty had started.
Glavine picked up where he left off in 1992, winning 20 games for the second year in a row, and finishing second in Cy Young voting.
The Braves dynasty started a new era in 1993. The Braves signed free agent Greg Maddux, who, along with Glavine and John Smoltz, became the “Big Three” in Atlanta. Although Maddux won the 1993 Cy Young, Glavine led the team in wins with 22.
To say the least, 1995 was a special year for Glavine and the Braves. After the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Braves won the NL East for the third straight year, and eventually made it back to the World Series.
With the Braves leading the series 3-2, Glavine got the ball in game six. Glavine was at his finest, shutting down the Cleveland lineup for eight innings. Although the Braves managed to push just one run across, Glavine made it stand up. He allowed just one hit while striking out eight before giving way to Mark Wohlers.
When Wohlers recorded the final out, the Braves were World Series Champions and Glavine was named Series MVP. Although Glavine went on to pitch seven more seasons for the Braves before departing to the Mets, the World Series win was his signature moment with the Braves.
In 2007, Glavine won his 300th game while with the Mets, essentially guaranteeing himself a spot in Cooperstown.
Glavine returned to Atlanta for the 2008 (and 2009) season, but was a shade of his former self, and retired from baseball after the Braves released him.
Glavine finished his career with 305 wins and a 3.54 ERA. He won 20 or more games five different times. Glavine appeared on 10 All-Star teams, and won two Cy Young Awards and four Silver Sluggers.
But Glavine’s legacy to the Braves goes deeper than the jaw-dropping numbers. He was a member of possibly the greatest pitching three-some of all time. He, along with Maddux and Smoltz defined a Braves team that won an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.
Just about every Braves home game, it seems that the television cameras found the picture of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. To say the least, the three are all Atlanta icons. Three aces on one team, a feat which may never again be accomplished.
Glavine even wrote a book about his time with the Braves (and their World Series win): None but the Braves: A Pitcher, A Team, A Champion.
But Glavine has something that neither Smoltz nor Maddux have: a World Series MVP. Glavine’s masterpiece was probably the most memorable game that the Braves have played during their time in Atlanta.
Glavine was part of an iconic pitching staff, and will be inducted into the Braves Hall-of-Fame on Friday. Without a doubt, this will just be practice for Glavine’s eventual call to Cooperstown.