Tom Glavine, the World Series' Most Valuable Player, acknowledges some of the estimated half-million fans who turned out for the Braves 1995 victory parade. (AJC photo/Renee Hannans)
Photo: RENEE' HANNANS
Photo: RENEE' HANNANS

1995 Braves: Glavine completes journey back to fan favor with Game 6 gem

Editor’s note: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will spend the year looking back at the 25th anniversary of the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves. In a season-long series that will run through October, we will capture all the key moments and hear from the participants as they share their memories. Today’s installment focuses on Tom Glavine, the Hall of Fame pitcher whose interesting ’95 season ended with the masterful Game 6 performance.

The Braves healed all wounds in 1995. And likewise did Tom Glavine do a good bit of rehab that championship season in the eyes of those fans who treated him like a wrestling heel in April and a hero in October. 

You can’t tell the story of the Braves’ most wonderful season without including the journey to antipathy and back of the pitcher who threw the franchise’s most important game at the end of it all. They are forever linked, twin tales of the franchise that finally got it right and the player who overcame the scar tissue of baseball’s incessant labor strife.

As baseball got around to starting that ’95 season – tardy, it turned out, because the strike of 1994 slopped over to the next year – Glavine was something of a flash point with the Braves. As a union player rep, he was a go-to guy for comment on the workers’ point of view. This was a serious man for a serious job, a guy known to even bring a briefcase to the clubhouse like a CEO entering the office.

His approach was to meet reporters’ questions head-on, putting himself out front as a willing spokesman in a conflict that cost baseball the last half of the 1994 season, including the entire postseason. 

Too much out in front Glavine would later say. “I just felt like if I did an interview on the radio or TV, if I had five or 10 minutes, I could make somebody understand what was going on and come to our side. That just wasn’t going to happen.”

His forays into public arena only made him a convenient symbol for fans who wanted to blame the loss of a season on “greedy” and “privileged” players. 

“It was tough (for Glavine),” fellow Braves starter John Smoltz said. “We all knew what Tommy was doing, but sometimes the way it got articulated, I would argue if he had a chance to go back, he would word things a little differently. But when you’re in the heat of the battle, it’s never going to be received on the other side with any kind of understanding. The other side, the fan base, people who don’t understand what’s going on, are going to be really angry.”

It wasn’t until April 27, late because the strike carried over to the next year and would shorten that season to 144 games, that Glavine made his first start of ’95. At home. Versus San Francisco.

There was no discernible home-field advantage that day. 

“Oh, God, yes, I got booed,” he said.

“My first start they were booing me down in the bullpen. They were passing the hat, taking a collection because I was, you know, a greedy ballplayer. I went through a good bit of that the first couple months of the season.”

The Braves, by the way, won that one against the Giants, Glavine going five innings, giving up two runs.

Glavine’s ’95 would not be his best season by any statistical measure. He would win 16 games (the Braves were 21-8 in games he started) and answer to a 3.08 ERA. Consider that he did that much while yoked to all that fan disapproval.

“It affects you,” he said. “As much as ballplayers like to say we don’t read the paper and we don’t pay attention to what people are saying, we’re human beings, right? And you hear things as much as you may try not to. 

“And when people are saying things about you that are negative and personal, it’s a little hard to deal with. I could deal with somebody telling me I sucked if I had a bad game because I’d probably be right there with them saying, yeah, you’re right. But when it gets to a personal level, it’s a little bit harder to deal with. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear a lot of it, but certainly not all of it.”

“Tommy had what it took to handle that,” Smoltz said. “I don’t think anybody thought, including himself, that it would ever get to that point where a lot of people would literally blame him as if he was the one (causing the cancellation of a season).”

Glavine always found sanctuary on the mound. It was a place where he could wrap himself in his hard, competitive shell, where he could just be a ballplayer, not the union mouthpiece. 

To discover where he played so singularly into a championship season, one must travel to the end of the baseball calendar and the World Series against a Cleveland lineup that led the majors in runs scored, home runs and OPS. The Indians were fearsome. The Braves pitching staff – led by Glavine at that point – was not intimidated.

Glavine won his Game 2 start against Cleveland without his best stuff. Through guile and crisis management he gave up a couple of runs in six innings, including an early home run to Eddie Murray. While effective enough to win, Glavine felt a little out of sorts having had 11 days off since his last start (the Braves had swept Cincinnati in the National League Championship Series). He felt almost too strong, too rested, he said, not the preferred state for a change-up specialist.

Tom Glavine, in Game Two, of the 1995 Series. (MARLENE KARAS/AJC STAFF)   
Photo: MARLENE KARAS

Ah, but come six days later, it was time to take all that pressure and fashion a gem.

“The biggest difference was that second game, I was on my normal turn. I had my normal preparation between starts and I was a heck of lot sharper than I was in Game 2,” Glavine said.

Yeah, you could say that. Glavine was brilliant in a game that demanded nothing less, yielding just one hit and no runs over eight innings the night the Braves won the Series.

So confident of his stuff was he that night that Glavine famously yelled, “Come on, boys, get me one (run) because they’re not getting any,” as he came into the dugout in the middle of the fifth inning. At least that’s the PG version of the quote. “I think I had one of our most often used adjectives in society in there,” Glavine said.

“It was a little bit of shock value more than anything else. I was trying to get guys’ attention,” he said. Glavine wasn’t exactly one known to outwardly wear his emotions, although he occasionally may have taken a bat to a dugout tunnel wall after a bad outing, he confessed.

“It’s not the only time I ever said that, but Game 6 of the World Series is a little different than a Sunday afternoon in July,” he said.

Does he think his strident words had any effect?

“All I needed was to have one guy listen to me, and fortunately he did,” Glavine said.

David Justice was that man. The proud individualist in that clubhouse, who himself was feuding with the fans, hit a sixth-inning solo homer that provided all the night’s scoring. The pitcher is asked now if that was the first time Justice ever listened to him?

“It might have been, yeah,” Glavine laughed.

With that one outing, Glavine did all the finish work in nailing down the Braves’ one and only championship. For the series, he went 14 innings and gave up just two runs to a lineup that featured two future Hall of Famers – Eddie Murray and Jim Thome – along with the likes of Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez and Carlos Baerga.

 “I was really glad it was Tom who got the win in Game 6,” Braves broadcaster Joe Simpson said. “It wasn’t like he never got his due, but he was kind of in the shadow of (Greg) Maddux and Smoltz. He was kind of No. 3 of the Big Three. ... Also because of the heat he took during the strike and being a spokesperson.”

For Glavine, he saw a shift in public perception that “went from one end of the spectrum to the other,” he said.

“It depended on whose side you were on during that whole (strike) thing. Obviously for the people against the players the level of animosity was pretty high. By the end of the year, it had largely gone away. And for me personally, I could not have asked for a better end to the season.”

Beyond the personal satisfaction, Glavine particularly embraced the team-wide gratification of finally having a championship to show for so much talent. 

“The bigger thing was the sense of relief. As much as we didn’t want to talk about it and tried to deflect it as much as we could, no question there was a sense of relief there (in winning),” he said.

“Having that parade and seeing all those people and knowing that you’re ultimately celebrating a championship that we needed, there was a big sense of relief.”

And does Glavine recall being met at the victory parade by any of the same kind of noise that greeted him at the season’s start?

“No, they didn’t boo me there, I don’t think,” he said.

 MORE FROM THE SERIES

» About the series
» FURMAN BISHER: Atlanta’s finest moment
» SPRING TRAINING: Starting with replacement players
» MARK BRADLEY: A subdued season, a giddy ending
» BOBBY COX: The best manager we’ll ever see
» BUILDING THE BRAVESHow the championship team was built
» CHIPPER JONES‘No bigger beneficiary of ’94 strike than me’
» GREG MADDUX: Mental master at his best during ‘95 season

» JOHN SMOLTZ: No Game 7, but one heck of a dogpile

» ANNOUNCERS: Championship call years in the making
» DAVE SHOTKOSKI: Remembering pitcher killed in spring training
» MARQUIS GRISSOM: Dream comes true for Atlanta native

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