Thursday, January 9, 2014

Glavine and Maddux go into the Hall of Fame Together!

              Congratulations to Former Braves Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux for being selected to the HOF. Growing up as a Braves fan, I really enjoyed watching them pitch for “my” team. I remember watching Maddux pitch for the Cubs when I was in graduate school in Kentucky and was in awe of his great control of the ball and the game as a whole. I was ecstatic when the Braves picked him up for the ’93 season. There are many who have written about his career and that’s not my style anyway so I will get to the relatively untold story in a few lines.
               Tom Glavine to me was always the epitome of the smooth, crafty left-handed pitchers. Why is it that the ball seems to move more when it comes from the left side? I don’t know it is true, but it sure seems like they can make it move more than the right handed guys can. He never seemed to be un-nerved or rattled. He just dominated the other team’s lineup without breaking a sweat or so it seemed.
               When the two of them were in the starting rotation for the Braves, I felt like Atlanta would never have a three or four game losing streak because I was confident neither of them would lose two starts in a row. The great run of the Braves was in large measure a result of a tremendous pitching staff anchored by both of these now Hall of Fame Players.
               In December I was in Atlanta for a conference and the organizers arranged for the group to tour Turner Field and have dinner in the 755 club. We were given a tour of the stadium including the dugout and clubhouse as well as the press box. In addition we were able to use the throwing and hitting games located on the concourse of the stadium. But the real treat was after dinner, Javier Lopez and Brian Jordan, spent some time with the group relating their stories of how they were discovered and developed within the Braves organization and baseball in general.
               Among the many stories they shared was one related by Jordan in response to the question, “Who was the best player you ever played with or against?” I wish I had recorded it so I could quote it verbatim but I will recount it to you as close as I can. I offer my apologies to Brian in advance if I get any of the details wrong in this article.
               He said that prior to a game when they were going over the scouting report of the opposing team, Maddux told him he was going to help him do something that Jordan had never done before. He said when this certain guy comes up, I am going to get him to hit you a line drive one hopper between the first and second baseman. You play the guy shallow and charge hard and throw him out at first. Jordan said he was a bit skeptical that anybody could have that much control of a batter. So when the guy came up to the plate, Jordan moved in closer than normal. He said all I could think about was what if this guy hits one over my head, but that is what Maddux wants so I am going to do it. Sure enough, Maddux throws a pitch and the guy hits a screamer between first and second. It bounced once in the outfield and Jordan charged the ball and threw the guy out at first base. He said after that he believed Maddux could do anything to any batter he wanted to with a baseball in his hand.
               Lopez added that it was great to be able to catch both of them because he knew that it would be a quick game with either of them on the mound. They were there during the transition to the “Power Arms” era that baseball is now in where the emphasis is on how hard can you thrown. And they were definitely not in that category. They relied on the ability to change speeds and move the ball around in and out of the zone to be effective.

               It is fitting that they enter the HOF in the same class. As a Braves fan it is hard to think of one without the other. They will now forever be linked together in the HOF as well. Now the question becomes will Smoltz join them in that rotation as well?

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