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Playing and Broadcasting the Game I Love
By Tom Glavine, Nick Cafardo
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Tom Glavine and Nick Cafardo
All rights reserved.
An Atlanta Second
Instead of leaping right out of my skin and charging Mark Wohlers on the mound for the celebration, I hung back and sat on the bench for a second after Marquis Grissom had secured the final out of the 1995 World Series safely in his glove.
This wasn't just any second. This was one of the greatest moments of my life, one I wanted to cherish and stretch out forever. You've heard of a New York minute? This was an Atlanta second.
The 51,875 fans went crazy, rocking the stands of Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, waving and chopping with their red tomahawks, jumping and screaming — some were even crying, they were so happy. I wanted to say, "Go ahead and live it up, you deserve it!"
The tumult crashed over us in the dugout and practically carried everyone out onto the field. My teammates were ecstatic. Some of us had been here from the beginning when the Braves were a National League joke, year after frustrating year, throughout the late eighties, the nineties, and right up to this sweet moment. In the pile of bodies were Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, Johnny Smoltz, Mark Wohlers, David Justice, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker — they more than any of the others understood how incredible this moment was.
I was feeling a range of emotions: excitement, happiness, accomplishment, and, most especially, vindication and validation. No longer would we have to hear about how we were the unfortunate bridesmaids or the Buffalo Bills of baseball. We were now, without question, the best. I think we always knew that. But this victory put a stamp on it.
Our team had gone about it the right way, working hard and sustaining a great level of performance from day one to Game 6 of the World Series. Think about that. That's a long time to maintain consistency.
We had to win our division over a 144-game schedule (curtailed from the normal 162 games because of the strike). We had to win the first round of the playoffs against the best-hitting team in our league in Colorado, at a ballpark whose altitude turns normal fly balls into home runs. We had to beat a much-touted Cincinnati Reds team, which had great team speed, power, and good pitching, to capture the National League pennant. And ultimately, we had to beat the Cleveland Indians, who had gone through their own trials and won 100 games during the regular season.
None of it was easy.
Because I followed Greg Maddux in the pitching rotation, Bobby Cox allowed me to go out there and pitch. And I was fortunate to have pitched the game of my life. When I physically couldn't pitch any longer, I turned to Bobby and my pitching coach and friend, Leo Mazzone, after I came off the field at the end of the top of the eighth, and I said to them, "I've had enough."
I think they were a little surprised. I wasn't asking out. Heck, I would have loved to have been the guy everybody charged after getting the last out. But I didn't want to risk it.
And Leo and Bobby understood.
Bobby said of my decision: "It says a lot for the relationship we have with Tommy, that he would be able to come to us in that spot and tell us the truth. So many other pitchers would have said nothing to their manager. Some of them would have got the job done, and some wouldn't have. And those who weren't true to themselves in a situation like that, how would they be able to stomach it if they'd blown it?"
Let me explain. We had a long bottom of the seventh inning. Marquis got on base with a single and Lemke moved him over with a nice sacrifice bunt. After Chipper Jones' long at-bat, Fred McGriff flied out. David Justice worked a walk. They retired us when Mike Devereaux, who had been the MVP of our playoff series against Cincinnati, popped out.
Meanwhile, the temperature had dropped as the game progressed. Just sitting around on the bench, it was inevitable my back and shoulder would stiffen. When I went out there for the eighth inning and took the usual eight warm-up pitches, I had a hard time getting loose.
I got the outs, but I was getting away with a lot of mistakes. I couldn't spot the ball as well as I had earlier in the game because my mechanics were being thrown off by the stiffness and I was also getting tired. I retired Jim Thome on a fly ball to left-center field after I fell behind the count 2–0. He hit a breaking ball that didn't have good location. A bonehead pitch, he easily could have hit a double or a home run on that. This after I handled Jim pretty well earlier in the game by striking him out twice. But I got lucky and we caught the ball.
I didn't feel right in my battle with Tony Pena or with pitcher Julian Tavarez either. Miraculously, I got both out and retired the side, 1-2-3. But it was obvious by then that my breaking pitch had lost its bite, my change-up lacked some movement (instead of breaking naturally away from a right-handed hitter, it was leaving itself more on the plate than I wanted), and my fastball had slowed. If this were just another game during the regular season, I would have just gone as long as I could. Or if it was the second or third inning I might have worked my way through it gradually.
Nothing about the situation was going to get better. God, this was our chance to win it all. What was I going to do, lie to Bobby or Leo and say "I feel great!" and go out there and blow a game like this? As much as I wanted to finish, it would have been unfair to my teammates, who had worked so hard for so long, to take the risk.
I know a lot of people in the stadium and watching on TV probably thought, "What a crazy move by Cox, taking Glavine out." It wasn't him; it was me.
Leo backed me up: "If a pitcher of Tommy's caliber and experience says he's done, then he's done. I'm not going to talk him out of it, because he knows his body better than anyone. I just wanted him to be the guy out there when we won it all."
Bobby, Leo, and I did discuss whether I should stay in to face Kenny Lofton, who was scheduled to lead off the ninth. I had handled him pretty well primarily because he's a left-handed hitter. But the thinking was, why bother when you have Wohlers who can blow his fastball by anyone?
Mark was warming up in the bullpen, and the way he was throwing I had no reservations handing him the ball. He had been awesome. He's a guy who pitches harder than anyone in baseball. His radar readings are consistently more than 100 mph. For a hitter to go from a guy like me — a lot of off-speed stuff and spot pitching — to a speed demon like Mark, well, that's not an easy adjustment to make suddenly.
You can't put your closer in a tougher spot: 1–0 in the ninth inning and with three outs you can win the championship! But I was confident he would get the job done.
Mark grew up in western Massachusetts, in the city of Holyoke, where winters can be even more severe than those in Billerica, my hometown in the Merrimack Valley. I figured if we could weather those vicious winter storms, we could weather this.
It seemed every season over four years Mark was destined to be our closer, but every year he would lose the job. Until 1995. He approached Greg Maddux, who told him what needed to be done to close a game. Mark listened, learned, and worked hard, eventually becoming the pitcher he did, with command of four pitches and the most wicked fastball in the game. So you understand now why I and the rest of the team weren't too concerned about Mark in this situation.
We all knew that the key to the inning was getting Lofton off the bases. The guy was such a terrific talent and he created such chaos for a pitcher. He had given us trouble earlier in the series and he was a pain for the Seattle Mariners in the American League championship that same year.
That problem was solved when Rafael Belliard, who did a great job filling in for the injured Jeff Blauser in the series, made a great play on Lofton's pop-up into short center field. Once we got that out, there was a feeling on the bench of, Okay, we're going to do this. Mark was throwing in the high nineties, and it was very evident that even when Indians hitters made contact, they really couldn't extend themselves like they wanted. Mark got Omar Vizquel and Carlos Baerga, a couple of tough hitters, on fly balls to center field.
We were the World Champions!
You have to understand how incredible that sounds to a guy from Billerica, Massachusetts, which is about 25 miles northwest of Boston. I grew up in an area that knows all about frustration. Like any other Boston fan, when I was a kid I rooted for the 1975 Red Sox. I was performing the body English right along with Carlton Fisk in the great Game 6 when he stood at home plate and waved his arms so the ball would stay fair and be a home run. I'd heard about the great 1967 "Impossible Dream" season that brought baseball back to Boston and made it forever the most popular sport in the city. But in both '67 and '75, the Red Sox lost in the World Series. And in 1986, I was in the minor leagues following the Red Sox after a long season at Greenville and Richmond, and watched as the ball went through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 against the New York Mets.
Even as a kid playing hockey and baseball in Billerica, it seemed every time we were on the brink of winning a championship, we fell a little short. And I had known failure in the early part of my career. When I came up to the majors in 1987, the Braves were a bad team and remained so until midway through the 1990 season, when I sensed we were turning the corner. Then came the frustration of the 1990s when we were, in my opinion, good enough to win the World Championship every year from '91 on, but for the reasons you'll read about later, we didn't get it done.
So when Marquis squeezed that ball and after I watched while sitting in the dugout with my Braves warm-up jacket on and a towel wrapped around my neck, and soaked in a lifetime of memories, I just let it out. I'm not a real wild person, prone to do real off-the-wall stuff. I think I'm someone who's always in control on the field and off it. But when the crowd let out a deafening roar and my teammates were jumping on each other and hugging, I finally said, "Okay, get out there and celebrate!"
That long second was over.
I have to admit that when I ran onto the field, I was a little cautious. I said to myself, Don't get yourself caught at the bottom of the pile. Watch that left shoulder! I've learned that even the most innocent circumstances can spell disaster for your career if you're not careful. Still, I tried to pat and hug everyone. I wanted my teammates, these guys who had fought alongside me for so long, to know how proud I was and how much I appreciated what they'd done for the Braves and the community.
Done sharing the special moment with the fans, we all ran back into the clubhouse, where I threw on my championship hat and T-shirt. I grabbed a bottle of champagne and sprayed everyone in sight. That was half the fun of winning. In 1991 we watched the Minnesota Twins celebrate. In 1992 we watched the Toronto Blue Jays. This was our turn.
I looked all around for my mom and dad, Fred and Millie Glavine, but there were so many people in the room, I couldn't find them. Cameras flashed, reporters swarmed, and visitors were everywhere, making it tough to get around.
Somewhere in the chaos I was told I'd won the MVP Award for the series for my two wins. I knew coming in that I had a chance if I won the game and pitched well. Usually, the guy who wins two games wins the MVP Award, especially if he pitches the final game. In many ways it meant more to me than winning the Cy Young Award in 1991. While the Cy Young is a prestigious award, it's based more on individual achievement. But winning the MVP of the World Series means you've helped your team gain the biggest prize in baseball.
A lot of the media made a big deal out of the fact that I earned $150,000 for winning the MVP because of a bonus clause in my contract. The money was nice, but it's not something I was thinking about. Heck, they could have garnished my pay and I would've savored it just as much — though I would've had to fire my agent. (Just kidding!)
I was presented with the MVP Award by a Chevrolet executive, and they donated a van to charity. It added to all the good feelings.
When Hannah Storm of NBC asked me to do an interview after the presentation, I was happy to do it. Hannah had taken a lot of garbage from Albert Belle, who hated everybody, during the series. She was the victim of one of his temper tantrums just because she was in the dugout before a game trying to set up an interview with Carlos Baerga. She was a professional trying to do her job, and she didn't deserve to be disrespected.
She noticed that I had a tear in my eye while I was celebrating. I honestly didn't realize that, but the moment overcame me, I suppose. She asked me how it felt to win the award and stop the best-hitting team in baseball and I told her, "I wish I could split this up twenty-five different ways. Everyone deserves a piece of it." Maybe that sounds like a cliche, but I honestly meant that.
Winning the World Championship was the simplest of dreams for me — and the most difficult to fulfill. When I was a kid in the backyard imitating Carl Yastrzemski or Jim Rice or Fred Lynn, or turning my body 180 degrees like Luis Tiant, I fantasized that I was either hitting the home run or striking out the last batter to win the World Series. When you're that young you never think that's really going to be you people are calling a hero.
And I'm not sure, even decades after the fact, that it really happened. I still have to pinch myself, sometimes even double-checking to make sure the championship ring is really mine.
Mom and Dad didn't say anything. They didn't have to because I knew exactly how they felt.
This was the culmination of those 5:30 am drives to the hockey rink and the endless number of times I had to be driven to and picked up at baseball practice. I remembered what Mom always said to me: "Someday, it's going to be your turn." Dad was also excited to see the Braves win a World Championship because he was a longtime Boston Braves fan and never got to see them win before they moved to Milwaukee after the 1952 season.
I stayed around the clubhouse — which was almost vacant early into the next morning. Bobby and I were sitting in the trainers' room, probably the only place to escape the stench of dried champagne.
As I cut the tape from my ankles, I said to him, "This is all great, but the one thing I would change is the fact that after all we went through we didn't get to spend enough time with each other after this game."
Bobby, wrapped in a towel after showering, looked at me and said, "You're right. I wish it were different. But then again, I don't wish that. We got to win the World Championship at home, in front of our friends and family and fans. That's pretty special." Then, as he shuffled off to change, he told me to get out of there, be with my family, and enjoy myself.
I went home and stayed up a couple more hours with Mom and Dad, who were still pretty excited. It was the first time I'd been able to reflect with my family on what had happened, and that was the most fulfilling time, to spend it with the people you love and who love you and talk about a special moment you'd just all experienced together and how far we'd come from the day when I first tried my hand at pitching at age ten.
It was pretty awesome to hear what some people in the media and in baseball had to say about the performance since.
I know that even Joe Brinkman, the home-plate umpire who did a terrific job calling balls and strikes and retired in 2006, thought I was still throwing pretty well when I came out after eight. Being a National Leaguer, I had never crossed paths with Joe, even in spring training when American League and National League teams play each other. He was a professional umpire and I'm sure he spoke to the National League umps in that series on how I threw the ball and where I spotted it because he was right on it the whole game.
Excerpted from Inside Pitch by Tom Glavine, Nick Cafardo. Copyright © 2016 Tom Glavine and Nick Cafardo. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Greg Maddux,
1. An Atlanta Second,
2. Home at Billerica,
3. I Could've Played with Wayne Gretzky,
4. Sweating it Out in the Minors,
5. Welcome to the Show, Tom Glavine,
6. Things Change,
7. Good Things Happen Outside the White Lines,
8. Mr. Potential No More,
9. Finally, a Brave September in Atlanta,
10. The Adrenaline Season,
11. The Importance of the Tenth Man,
12. The Mysterious Rib,
13. A Second Chance,
14. Here Comes Mad Dog,
15. "Twenty-Four Morons and One Mormon",
16. A Stunted Season,
17. Striking Out,
18. Putting the Pieces Back Together,
19. Climbing the Rockies and Seeing Red,
20. None But the Braves,
21. Goodbye, Atlanta,
22. New York, New York,
23. The End,
24. Hall of Fame and Beyond,