Tom Glavine getting the induction phone call from Cooperstown. Source: the Glavine family via twitter,

Atlanta Braves Tom Glavine: The Signature Game

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This is repost/update of an article written in January just before the announcement of the 2014 Hall of Fame class.

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October 28, 1995. By this point, pitching was already dominating this World Series.

In Game 1, Greg Maddux threw a complete game 2-hitter to beat Orel Hershiser and his Cleveland Indians team (it still seems odd to say that, given his Dodger history) 3 to 2. Cleveland actually led this after scratching out a first inning run without the benefit of a hit (it was thanks to Kenny Lofton, of course). An unearned run in the 9th made it close (Fred McGriff erred while trying to throw out Lofton at third), but Maddux closed it out.

Tom Glavine got the win in Game 2, 4-3 – giving up 3 hits and 2 earned over six innings. Greg McMichael, Alejandro Pena, and Mark Wohlers combined to finish it up while Javy Lopez, Chipper Jones, and David Justice provided enough offense.

In Game 3, John Smoltz just didn’t have it – giving up 4 earned in 2.1 innings. Fortunately, Charles Nagy gave up 5 through 7 innings, but the Braves eventually fell in 11 innings, 7-6.

Games 4 and 5 went back and forth: Steve Avery won 5-2 over Ken Hill with future Brave Alan Embree finishing up that game for the Tribe. But the Indians got back at Maddux in the latter contest 5 to 4 – touching him for 4 earned over 7 innings as Hershiser only yielded 2 (1 earned). Closer Jose Mesa got the save despite giving up a homer to Ryan Klesko in an epic mano-a-mano battle in which the outcome didn’t really matter in the game – it was all about “can you hit my best pitch?” Klesko won that round; the Indians won the game.

That set up Game 6.

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The Man

GLAVINE C DCSHe wasn’t a physical specimen (6’0″, 185 lbs).

He wasn’t a flame-thrower (was said to hit 90-91 on the radar gun… from 2002-2006 that was averaging 85).

He wasn’t one to ‘pound the strike zone’ (some wondered if he ever hit it).

He didn’t play baseball exclusively – he was also a hockey player from Massachusetts. But two scouts (Paul Snyder and Tony DeMacio) saw enough to convince the Braves to make him a 2nd round draft pick in 1984. That while he was drafted by the LA Kings of the NHL in Round 4… ahead of guys like Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. The Braves stuck with him after a 1987-88 debut of 9-21 with a combined ERA of 4.76.

But this weekend, Tom Glavine will be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of an incredible three-man Braves contingent.

 

The Philosophy

So how do you get to Cooperstown without looking like a Hall of Famer? How can you excel in your craft without being somehow obviously the best? Maybe this is how:

Hitters have an ego. I will take advantage of their egos.

Tom Glavine, as quoted by Leo Mazzone

Somehow, someway, Tom Glavine managed to pitch a tent and set up a campfire on the Outside Corner. Or perhaps somewhere in the extended neighborhood within sight of the Outside Corner. He rode batter’s egos for 682 games – all starts – over 24 seasons. 305 wins (21st all time), 2607 strikeouts (24th all time). He didn’t care if he walked a batter (1500 walks - 12th all time). He threw his pitches in the same way, in the same place, occasionally “busting” a strikeout fastball to a position that then looked inside to the hitter… but was almost always on the inner half of the plate.

It was a stubborn plan that worked.

Oh, and for those Sabermetrically-inclined, fangraphs lists his career ERA (3.54), FIP (3.95), and xFIP (4.59). I guess you would say that Glavine “out-pitched his peripherals.”

Tom Glavine won 20 games five times… leading the league on 4 of those occasions. He won the National League Cy Young Award twice, was second in the voting twice (to Maddux and Randy Johnson), and third twice (Maddux again) more. He was named an All Star 10 times. Oh, and he has 5 Silver Slugger awards as he exercised the hockey player in him (actually hitting .289 in 1996).

All of that clearly puts him in The Hall. But voters also like to see that signature moment. Glavine has that, too.

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The Series

In looking back, I remember that 1995 World Series as being perhaps a little more “comfortable” for Atlanta than it actually was. Turns out that five of the six games – including the clincher – were decided by a single run. But then, Braves’ fans were kind of used to low scoring affairs being “comfortable” with guys like Glavine/Maddux/Smoltz/Avery being run out there in succession.

1995_World_SeriesPlus, the Cleveland Indians were a juggernaut: 100 wins. Atlanta was closest to that in all of baseball, with only 90 that year. It was their offense leading the way. Fangraphs shows their Offensive WAR component at 116.2. Nobody else in the entirety of baseball was within half of that in 1995. They hit 207 homers (best by 21 if you don’t count the new live-ball-era Rockies [200]). They scored 840 runs (best by 39). Team batting average was .291. But these facts were a bit more hidden in 1995 since ESPN had not yet reached saturation point and the idea of seeing a lot of games outside your home area was still a foreign concept. That was certainly true from my vantage point in Florida that year. Cleveland fans were undoubtedly giddy at getting a chance to bash the Braves – this being their first shot at the series in four decades. Braves fans were just figuring that their Cy guys would at least keep them in the games.

Cleveland was led by a gnat: Kenny Lofton. He was the prototypical, irritating speed burner. .310 that year with a relatively modest .362 OBP… and 54 steals. But he was third on this team in WAR since sluggers Jim Thome and Albert Belle were in this lineup… with a huge supporting case: Manny Ramirez, Eddie Murray, Carlos Baergaall hitting over .300. Three of them were getting on base above 40% of the time. This was a formidable foe, indeed.

Even with that offense, though, Cleveland entered the Summer Classic having struggled a bit with Seattle, winning that series 4 games to 2, though Hershiser won two games and Dennis Martinez shut down the Mariners and Randy Johnson in the 4-0 finale. Run scoring was definitely down for them. Pitching will do that.

But the Braves’ pitching was working for them against Cleveland… with just enough offense to get by (sound familiar?). For the series, the Braves actually out-hit this monster from the AL, 47-35. It wasn’t exactly a scintillating display of fielding, though, with each teams recording six errors. Nonetheless, the pitching was overcoming some of this, the Braves averaging just under 4 runs per game; the Indians just over 3.

But on October 28, 1995, the juggernaut became confused, frustrated, and ultimately defeated.

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The Game

Cleveland’s familiar lineup greeted the Braves that night in Atlanta:

The Braves countered with

There were some other familiar names on the field that night: the umpiring crew, which consisted of HP – Joe Brinkman, 1B – Harry Wendelstedt, 2B – Jim McKean, 3B – Bruce Froemming, LF – John Hirschbeck, RF – Frank Pulli.

For all of this about Tom Glavine’s performance, Dennis Martinez was having a decent game that night, too. Unfortunately for Cleveland, he didn’t last. He was lifted in the 5th inning after giving up a fourth hit along with 5 walks – though no runs allowed. Manager Mike Hargrove was evidently squeamish at all of the base-runners that Atlanta was putting out there… despite the fact that none of them had yet crossed the plate.

 

Meanwhile, Glavine was on fire.

GlavineRingInning 1. Deep fly out to right center. Strikeout (Vizquel was owned during the series). Groundout.

Inning 2. Walk/caught stealing. Strikeout looking. Strikeout swinging.

Inning 3. Strikeout swinging. Groundout. Strikeout swinging.

Inning 4. Groundout. Strikeout swinging. short fly out.

Inning 5. Walk. Short popout in foul ground to the left side. Fielder’s choice groundout. Strikeout swinging.

 

It was somewhere around this point, that Glavine re-entered the dugout after his stint and famously uttered a phrase akin to “Somebody in here better get us some ******* runs, ’cause they aren’t getting any tonight.”

 

The Braves tried again that inning, via a 2-out walk to their own Mr. October – Mark Lemke – and a single by Chipper. At that point that Hargrove lifted Martinez in favor of Jim Poole, who then struck out Fred McGriff (his 2nd in 2 ABs) to end the threat.

Inning 6. The hitTony Pena rapped a solid liner to right center to open the frame. Not to worry. Hargrove opted to leave Poole in to bunt, and he utterly failed – popping out foul between first base and home. Lofton then hit a come-backer to Glavine, who threw out Pena at second – no chance to get Lofton, but they might have been better served in throwing to first instead, as Lofton promptly stole second. However, Vizquel was up – and that meant an easy out: foul popup to first for the third out.

 

But there was another hit made during that inning.

David Justice had his own little drama brewing, thanks to his mouth. Here’s what he said before the game:

“If we get down 1-0 tonight the fans probably will boo us out of the stadium… You have to do something great to get them out of their seats. Shoot, up in Cleveland, they were down three runs in the ninth inning and were still on their feet.” (source)

Even in that non-twitter world, that quote made the rounds in Atlanta in a hurry, despite being uttered only a couple of hours before game time.

But then, one can suppose those comments had the desired effect, as the Atlanta crowd was definitely up for the game that night… and up to letting Justice know about it, too:

“Justice, go to Philadelphia. Go anywhere. We don’t want you here.”

So when you do something like that, you’ve got to know that there’s only one way to play it: you have to step up.

Justice did.

 

He’d already hammered a double this night, stranded on 3rd in the 4th inning, plus an earlier walk. So it was clear that he had come to play. Jim Poole was still out there. But of course he was, since Hargrove had chosen to use him for that failed bunt attempt. The first pitch was wide – but called a strike. Perhaps this was the kind of pitch call that Glavine had also been enjoying, so Justice looked back to make sure, then grimaced, but moved on. The next pitch was even wilder, and was called that way.

Poole threw a fastball for the next one – inner half and up. It was exactly the kind of pitch Glavine liked to throw to right-handed batters as he throws away, away, away, then the inside cheese to catch the hitter unawares. You might think that this pitch would have jammed the LH-hitting Justice, as the stereotype says that lefties like the ball down and in. You might think he’d have bailed, as it was coming from a southpaw hurler. You might think that Justice (hitting .211 at the time for the series) would miss it with too much arm extension.

No… none of that. At least not this time. Bat speed was definitely not an issue. As the ball left the bat, you can see the almost shock on Justice’s face as he realized instantly how far that ball was going. Catcher Pena’s reaction with his mask spoke the same verdict.

All was forgiven. The Braves had their lead. Now it was back to Glavine.

 

Inning 7. Lineout to 3rd. Strikeout swinging. Walk. Fly out to deep left center. The shutdown inning.

Inning 8. Another deep fly – left center. But that was Thome, so the “meat” of the order had been passed by again, without harm. A flyout to short right field, and then a groundout to the right side.

8 innings, no runs, 1 hit, 3 walks, and eight strikeouts… which was actually a really good count for Glavine. Especially given the lineup he faced. Especially because they’d already seen him just a few days before this. His ERA for the series dropped to 1.61. But after 109 pitches in this intense struggle, he was done, later saying that even if he’d had a no-hitter going, he was probably done.

 

GlavineMVPInning 9. Enter Mark Wohlers. A foul out (it was huge to get Lofton out to start the inning and Belliard made an incredible catch to do so), a flyout to deep center by PH Paul Sorrento, and then Carlos Baerga was the last hope. It went something like this as Baerga got under a fastball, hitting it deep the other way. Grissom secured the ball on the run in left center, and Glavine had a one hit shutout performance in a decisive game – with the assist from Wohlers.

More importantly, the Braves had themselves a World Series Championship.

 

The folks that vote on such things managed to recognize what they had just witnessed: Tom Glavine was named as the MVP of the series. That single game still ranks as the most vital game of his career – and he did what the Braves needed: shutting down the best offense in baseball.

 

The Signature

Glavine1995WSMVP

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The Hall

Just 11 members of the Hall of Fame are primarily associated with the various Braves teams throughout the years. They are:

Babe Ruth also wore a Braves uniform for 28 games in 1935, hitting his final six home runs. But of course, he’s remembered for what he did for the other Boston team as well as the Yankees.

We will see something highly unusual this weekend. Three members of the same team will be inducted simultaneously:  Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine (Yes, Maddux has opted for the generic cap in deference to his Cub roots, but he’s a Braves to us).  Their collective styles, determination, and grit made them all into players – and their manager – that well-earned the honors being bestowed upon them. We were clearly spoiled in the 1990’s.

 

Tomahawk Take offers its congratulations to all of these Atlanta champions: the Hall of Fame will be better for your presence.

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