It is hard to say that Tom Glavine made the wrong choice when he decided to enter professional baseball instead of professional hockey, but the former star pitcher scheduled to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Sunday was probably just as talented at the other sport.
Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, one of the hotbeds of high school hockey in the United States, Glavine won on-ice championships representing Billerica Memorial High School and was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. Some of Glavine’s friends envisioned him as more likely to skate for the hometown Boston Bruins than throwing a baseball, but just like the hitters he fooled in the majors for 22 years while accumulating 305 victories, Glavine’s misdirection play caught them off guard.
Offered a scholarship to play college hockey at the University of Lowell, as well, Glavine chose pitching over throwing body checks. The closest he came to the NHL after that was a practice skating with the Bruins during the baseball off-season in 1992. Although he never really second-guessed his decision, over the years Glavine indicated that when he attended pro games he did wonder how he would have performed in hockey.
On the other hand, he predicted that the Thrashers would be a big hit in Atlanta and they were last seen transforming into the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, so maybe Glavine’s hockey IQ was not as large as his baseball IQ.
Glavine retired from after the 2008 season. He spent the vast majority of his career with the Atlanta Braves, but he helped the New York Mets along for a little while near the end. The southpaw was a 10-time All-Star and a five-time 20-game winner and won two Cy Young Awards.
For much of his big-league career Glavine threw in the same pitching rotation as Greg Maddux – and they go into the Hall together, too. Also like his frequent golf partner Maddux, Glavine was of relatively small stature compared to other famed athletes. Glavine is 6 feet tall and weighed 175 pounds as a pitcher. He and Maddux were masters at getting batters out without overpowering them. Over the years Glavine said he learned a lot about pitching from talking with Maddux, whose cerebral approach was naturally emulated by Glavine.
Control was Glavine’s forte and he tricked batters into chasing curveballs that broke in ways they didn’t expect more often than he blitzed fastballs past them. The Braves became perennial pennant contenders during Glavine’s stay with the club and he was the 23rd pitcher in history to top 300 victories.
Glavine, now 48, was only the fourth left-hander to compile 300 wins, pretty much the magic number for inclusion into the Hall of Fame. He was a five-time 20-game winner, too. Glavine retired his left arm, but not his voice. For the last few years he has been a member of the Braves’ broadcast team.
He is still having his say about the game.