Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony belongs to Braves
The Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony belonged to the Braves. Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox took their place in history Sunday in Cooperstown, putting the dynasty they were the foundation of firmly in the spotlight.
From the left: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox are part of a six-member class that is the Baseball Hall of Fame's largest collection of living inductees since 1971.
USA TODAY Sports
By Cory McCartney
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- "Chicks dig the long ball," Greg Maddux told Tom Glavine before their Bash Brothers forearm bang in the incomparable 1994 Nike ad, as arguably the most accomplished pitching duo of the decade tried -- in jest -- to fit into an era of prodigious home-run hitters.
But Glavine and Maddux's greatness was in how they defied the period in which they played, the mild-mannered backbone of the Braves' dominance.
Sunday, they took their place in history together during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction, along with their Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, slugger Frank Thomas and managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. The class had a predominant Peach State flavor, with Torre a former Braves player and manager, while La Russa also played in Atlanta, and Thomas is from Columbus, Ga.
"It could never fall like this again," Cox said. "Two managers I respected my entire career, two of my own players. How much better could that be? It's like something out of heaven that landed here in Cooperstown."
Or something out of Atlanta.
Glavine and Maddux combined to win 660 games and six Cy Youngs, and are the first pair of living 300-game winners to be enshrined in the same year and the third pair in history.
As much as each was lauded for their cerebral approach, each worked with a style and perspective that were their very much own.
Like French Impressionist masters Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who would often setup their easels side by side, composing paintings of the same scene, Glavine and Maddux did the same in consecutive starts.
Location was their brush. While Glavine lived on the edges of the strike zone, Maddux mixed his control with confounding movement.
"They were the perfect type of pitchers, because they didn't try to blow by you. They outsmarted you," said 1999 inductee George Brett.
Maddux won 355 games, eighth on the all-time list, and had a walk rate of 1.8 per nine innings, fifth lowest in history among pitchers who threw at least 3,000 innings. He's the only pitcher with at least 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks.
He could push his fastball to 90 mph, but wound find the best motion in the 85-87 range, producing a misdirection that left hitters stunned.
"It's like playing Whiffle Ball in the backyard," said HOFer Wade Boggs, who went 1 for 13 (.077) vs. Maddux. "The ball ... it moved all over the place. It started in, and (would) run over the plate; it started in and cut in on your hands. That's exactly what people ask me, 'What was it like?' It was like playing Whiffle Ball in the backyard. ... he wasn't a lot of fun to face."
A four-time Cy Young recipient and 18-time Gold Glove winner in a career that spanned 23 seasons with the Braves (11), Cubs (10), Dodgers (two) and Padres (two), Maddux has the most putouts of any pitcher with 546. Second closest is Kevin Brown at 388.
But it was how he picked up on the littlest tells and signs from hitters, and then adapted how he would attach them that made the biggest impression on Glavine.
"You'd go to the ballpark wondering how efficient he was going to be carving up the opponent," Glavine said. "He did thing so efficiently, so methodically. I learned how to make adjustments to my gameplan watching him and how he paid attention to hitters' reactions and how they took a pitch or how they fouled a pitch off."
Glavine, who won 305 games and two Cy Youngs, was the MVP of the 1995 World Series -- as he pitched the decisive 1-0 win over the Indians, allowing one hit in eight innings -- and wielded a circle change that became his deadliest weapon.
Searching for a grip that he felt comfortable with, Glavine discovered one by accident in spring training -- he held the ball between his middle and ring fingers and formed a circle with his index finger and thumb -- that would allow him to work the outside corner of the plate, with devastating effect.
"Very good, very consistent, very stubborn, wanted to win more than the other pitcher," is how Maddux described him.
Braves president John Schuerholz prefers "Mr. Reliable."
Glavine led the majors in starts six times, five times in wins and was in the top 10 in the NL in innings pitched 12 times. Amazingly, he never landed on the disabled list until 2008 -- when he was 42.
"He kind of taught me that you don't have to feel good to go out there and pitch and win," Maddux said. "I think everybody thinks you have to be 100 percent to go out there and compete. Even if you go out there and something is bothering you, if you've got the ball in your hand, you've got a chance to win the game."
Just two other times has a Hall of Fame class included three inductees who can be identified with the same organization: 1946, when the Cubs' famed double-play combination of Frank Chance, Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker and the Reds' Sparky Anderson, Bid McPhee and Tony Perez in 2000. But these Braves were the first living trio to be enshrined together.
"As great as this experience is, it's that much better to have those guys here too," Glavine said.
And to once again marvel at a run that began with the improbable.
Cox opened 1990 as the Braves general manager -- a role he assumed in his return to the franchise after four seasons as the Blue Jays manager --- but after a 25-50 start he returned to the bench to replace Russ Nixon.
A year later, a dynasty was born behind Worst to First and Sid's Slide.
Cox led the Braves to a stunning National League pennant as they won 94 games. They would beat the favored Pirates in the championship series with Sid Bream sliding under the sweeping tag of Mike LaValliere in Game 7.
Thirteen more division titles, four World Series appearances (1992, '95, '96 and '99) followed, supplying Cox with 1,883 of his 2,504 career wins. It was a remarkable sustained level of success that was missing just one thing: another championship.
Not that the Braves are missing it.
"You're proud to be a world champion. ... But when your organization is represented like this, the excellence that is reflected in these three guys and what they did, their jobs in baseball, to be recognized at one time. Our organization, buttons are popping off our shirts," Schuerholz said. "That's how proud we are."
They're likely not done.
A year from now, John Smoltz -- one of only two pitchers in history with 150-plus wins and at least 150 saves, joining Dennis Eckersley -- is eligible. In 2018, Chipper Jones, one of the greatest switch-hitters in history, will be on the ballot. Then there's Schuerholz, the architect of the Braves dynasty, who will likely be inducted himself in the near future.
"I think we've got three more coming real quick," Cox said. "I can set back and enjoy it and watch them do the sweating."
As each member of the Braves' Hall of Fame took the dais, Commissioner Bud Selig read off the inscription on their plaques that will be placed in the gallery among the game's legends.
"Part scientist, part artist," it said of Maddux ... "Durable, dominant, deceptive," Glavine's read ... "Acclaimed for his passion and presence," Cox's stated.
As the July sun bared down some 975 miles from Turner Field, Atlanta fans chanted and tomahawk chopped. They dominated the crowd, Glavine No. 47s and Maddux No. 31s throughout as the assembled before a collection of 50 Hall of Famers on stage behind the newest class.
The day firmly belonged to the Braves.
"I don't think you can write a script any better than that," said Braves Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.