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Starting Nine: A study in No. 47, Tom Glavine

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He delivered the Braves a 1995 title, ranks among the great left-handers in history ... and is arguably the best baseball player ever taken in the NHL draft.

National League Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Three
Tom Glavine is just one of five left-handers with 300-plus wins and an ERA+ of 110 or more.

Tom Glavine made a career out of reigning in his emotions. Whether he’d given up a homer or struck out the side, Glavine was unaffected. That stoic demeanor defined him, and made the one moment on record — in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series — when he broke character that much more impactful.

He refused to give in to hitters, living on the edges of the plate and bewildering hitters with a circle change-up that he’d discover by accident. In the last 60 years, Glavine is just one of six starting pitchers with 4,000-plus innings to allow 0.73 HR/9 or less, while also walking 3.06 or fewer per nine innings, and one of only two left-handers on that list.

“Very good, very consistent, very stubborn, wanted to win more than the other pitcher,” former rotation mate and fellow Hall of Famer Greg Maddux said of him.

As we complete our deep dive through the Braves’ retired numbers, we finish with the first of the Big Three to land in Atlanta, No. 47, Tom Glavine.

A study in No. 3, Dale Murphy

A study in No. 6, Bobby Cox

A study in No. 10, Chipper Jones

A study in No. 21, Warren Spahn

A study in No. 29, John Smoltz

A study in No. 31, Greg Maddux

A study in No. 35, Phil Niekro

A study in No. 41, Eddie Mathews

A study in No. 44, Hank Aaron

1. His place in the pantheon of left-handers

With more wins than any left-handed pitcher in history, it’s hard to quantify anyone but former Brave Warren Spahn as the greatest southpaw, when we’re discussing those whose resumes have been set in stone. Glavine, at least, has a seat at the table, especially when discussing those in the Expansion Era. All time, he’s one of five with 300-plus wins and an ERA+ of 110 or more, joined by Spahn, Eddie Plank, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton, and has an ERA+ (118) that’s just one point behind Spahn. Boil it down to 1961-on and it’s a trio of Carlton, Glavine and Johnson, and if you include 200-game winners, Glavine has the second-best ERA+ behind only Johnson’s 135.

2. The Game (6) of a Lifetime

“Just get me one, because they’re not getting any.” It’s the quote that sums up the defining game of Glavine’s career, as he allowed just one hit over eight innings to silence the Indians and give the Braves the 1995 World Series. During an off-day workout before Glavine’s Game 6 gem, he rode to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with Maddux from their Alpharetta homes, and Maddux told his rotation mate that the way he saw it, it was only fitting that Glavine be the one to deliver the title. After all, he had been there the longest of the staff’s core, suffered through the lows — dropping 17 games in 1988 — and the highs — winning 20 in 1991 and ‘92 — and he had been booed a time or two at home in 1995 for being a central figure defending the players’ side of the 1994-95 labor dispute. Recalled Marquis Grissom: “Tommy for some reason, had this attitude that he wanted the game, that he wanted to do it then.” He would become one of nine pitchers in World Series history to throw a one-hitter, and the first since the Red Sox’s Jim Lonborg in 1967, and it was underscored by that quote “just get me one, because they’re not getting any.” Stoic in demeanor, Glavine recalls of that outburst “It was a little bit bravado, a little bit confidence in myself. Look, I’m not going to lie, I was feeling it. I knew I was pitching good and for me it was more about firing the guys up offensively than me really believing that.”

3. One Hall of a class, one Hall of a duo

Glavine appeared on 91.9 percent of ballots in making the Hall of Fame in his first try in 2014. He, of course, wasn’t alone, as Maddux clocked in at 97.2 percent, and with manager Bobby Cox joining them in the class, it marked just the second time that three members of the same team were inducted together. The first was 68 years prior, with the Cubs famed double-play trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance and it was just the ninth time teammates went in at once, the first since the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale and Pee Wee Reese (1984). Considering the trend of pitcher use and the extinction of the 300-game winner, it’s likely we may never see teammates who have reached that milestone ever be enshrined together.

4. A postseason of highs and lows

It was Glavine that had the ball in Game 1 of the 1992 World Series against the Blue Jays and was sensational, tossing a complete game and held Toronto to one run — a Joe Carter homer — on four hits. The Braves wouldn’t win that series, but it remains a testament to Glavine’s ability to bounce back, as the last time out — in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Pirates — he had the worst postseason game of his career, lasting just an inning as he was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) behind homers from Barry Bonds and Jay Bell. “Everybody was saying ‘How can you start Tom Glavine in Game 1 of the World Series against Toronto?’” former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. “Well, guess what, he was a 20-game winner that I recall. What’s wrong with starting a 20-game winner in Game 1 of the World Series?”

5. That history of first-inning woes

There was a truth, often a harsh one for the lefty himself, in Glavine’s game: the first inning could be a rollercoaster. Throughout his career, he had a 4.58 ERA in the opening frame, nearly half a run higher than any other inning. It was at its worst in 1995, when opponents had tagged Glavine for an .886 OPS in the first inning, which was the highest of any of his 20 full seasons in the majors, and a 7.76 ERA in his 29 starts. “My first inning problems are well-chronicled, and I never really knew what was going to happen when I got out there,” Glavine said.

6. Not too shabby at the plate

It wasn’t just the backbone of a shoe ad (more on that later), production at the plate was a point of pride for the Braves’ Big Three. It created a competition among them, and Glavine was the best of the bunch. He earned four Silver Slugger Awards and hit .185/.239/.211 with Atlanta with a 21 OPS+, while Maddux slashed .174/.202/.214 and an OPS+ of eight and John Smoltz was at .161/.228/.209 with a 17 OPS+. Glavine did, however, hit just one home run — off the Reds’ John Smiley in 1999 — to Smoltz’ five and Maddux’s two while they were Braves. “It was always about the hitting,” Glavine said. “I think for us, we had so much respect for each other as pitchers and what we brought to the table that it was never a case of ‘Well, I want to have a better year than you because that’s going to be good for me.’”

7. So who did come up with the line ‘Chicks dig the long ball?’

There’s some irony in the ad now — especially given what we know about Mark McGwire, the object of Heather Locklear’s adoring gaze — but Nike’s “Chicks dig the long ball,” ad remains a tentpole of the 1990s Braves experience as Atlanta had the anthesis to the burgeoning home run numbers in its Cy Young-hoarding rotation. Had it been shot as originally scripted, the ad wouldn’t have been quite so memorable, as Maddux was supposed to say “what can I say, girls love home runs.” But is a bit of a controversy as to where the now iconic tagline came from, with Maddux and Glavine believing it came after Maddux had a talk with the director “(The director) goes, ‘Well, we want you to say something like: Girls really like home runs.’ And we’re like, that’s not how we talk. We wouldn’t say that.” The pitchers would eventually propose “chicks dig the long ball” as an alternative. Meanwhile, Canice Neary of Wieden & Kennedy — the group responsible for the ad — claims it was a riff on Bill Murray’s Stripes line of “chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear and when I do, it’s usually something unusual.” Regardless who is responsible, 23 years later, the ad and the catchphrase have staying power. “I think for both of us, we had an opportunity to do something at a fun time in baseball with the whole home run thing going on,” Glavine said. “Look, Nike asks you to do a commercial? Yeah, I’m in. It was a great opportunity for us.”

8. 300 wins and two rocky departures from Atlanta

Glavine’s career was made in Atlanta, but one of the biggest moments of his ride to Cooperstown would come in a Mets uniform as he joined the 300-win club on Aug. 5, 2007, becoming the 23rd pitcher and just the fifth left-hander in that fraternity. “It wasn’t a dazzling performance in terms of striking people out,” said Glavine, who tossed 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs at age 41. “It was an exercise in hitting my spots and changing speeds and letting the guys behind me do their work.” That the moment didn’t come with the Braves came down to this: the Mets offered him a three-year, $35 million deal in December 2003, and Glavine held out hoping Atlanta would answer. The best general manager John Schuerholz could do was a three-year deal with a third year deferred, giving it a value around $26 million. Said Glavine at the time, “It’s not an easy thing when you’ve been somewhere so long. Everybody took for granted I would finish my career here. The reality is that’s not happening.” Glavine would attempt to amend that statement, rejoining the Braves in 2008 after five years with New York, but lasted just 13 starts before his season ended with elbow surgery. He would be released in June 2009, on the heels of throwing six scoreless innings in a rehab start. “We gave him the option, ‘If you want to retire, you can retire as a Brave,’” then-general manager Frank Wren said. “He asked us to release him.” He wouldn’t officially retire until February 2010.

9. The best baseball player ever picked in the NHL draft?

A center, Glavine had 232 points and 111 goals in his high school hockey career and won the John Carlton Memorial Trophy, given by the Boston Bruins to the top male and female athletes in Eastern Massachusetts. He had a scholarship to the University of Lowell (where he was to study management information systems) and was taken with the 69th pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1984 draft, two rounds before future HOFer Brett Hull was picked by the Flames. Glavine would spurn hockey, though, as two days after the Kings took him, the Braves selected him in the second round. When Glavine won his 300th game, hockey icon Wayne Gretzky remarked “Had you chosen hockey maybe in 1993 the Kings would have won the Stanley Cup. You were the missing link.” Glavine’s still not too bad on skates, as you can see in this conversation with Mike Soroka, another Atlanta arm whose first love was hockey.