Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were the first pitchers that manager Bobby Cox turned to for much of the Braves’ 1990s heyday, now Cox will be able to turn and see them on the podium in July when all three are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Maddux and Glavine drew overwhelming support from voting writers and were elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday along with former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, a Columbus native and former Auburn standout. They’re part of a Braves-flavored Class of 2014 that also includes Cox and fellow retired managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, a trio elected by the Veterans Committee in December.
“What an incredible honor, to be able to share it with my teammate Glav,” said Maddux, who was named on 97.2 percent of the 571 ballots submitted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of American, not far off the record 98.84 percent that Tom Seaver drew in 1992.
Glavine got 91.9 percent of the votes, and Thomas, who hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons, was named on 83.7.
“It means an awful lot,” Glavine said during a news conference at Turner Field. “As this day came up and there was speculation whether you were going in or not, what really would have been disappointing was not to have the opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg. If anything would have killed me about not getting that phone call, that would have been it.”
Longtime Astros second baseman Craig Biggio got 74.8 percent and was just two votes shy of the required 75 percent for election.
Maddux and Glavine combined for 660 major league wins including 445 wins as Braves, and became the first Hall of Famers in 40 years to spend most or all of their careers together and be elected by the BBWAA in the same year. The last to do it were the Yankees’ Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, who were elected in 1974.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Sunday, July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Braves have a home game that day against San Diego.
Maddux and Glavine pitched together in the Braves rotation from 1993-2002, winning division titles every year in that stretch and capturing the World Series title in 1995, the first — and still only — major pro-sports title in Atlanta history. In their decade together, the 347 wins were the most by major league teammates in any 10-year stretch since another pair of Braves, Warren Spahn and Lou Burdette, won 363 games from 1954-63 for Milwaukee.
Glavine was a 305-game winner, compiling a 241-147 record and 3.41 ERA in 17 seasons with the Braves, and 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA in five seasons with the Mets.
“The guys I was surrounded with helped make me a better player, there’s no question about that,” he said. “I ran into TP (former Braves third baseman and current first-base coach Terry Pendleton) in the parking lot on the way in here and said to him, you saved my butt more than one time.”
Glavine reached the majors at age 21 in 1987 and had consecutive 20-win seasons in 1991-92 before being joined in the rotation in 1993 by free agent Maddux, then the reigning Cy Young Award winner as a Cub.
Maddux added the next three Cy Young awards to his collection and went on to win 355 games, the eighth-most in history. He had a remarkable 194-88 record and 2.63 ERA in 11 seasons with the Braves, part of his major league-record run of 17 consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins. He also won 10 of his record 18 Gold Gloves as a Brave.
Glavine won two Cy Young Awards and had five 20-win seasons for the Braves between 1991 and 2000.
“It was a situation where you learn from osmosis,” Glavine said of pitching alongside Maddux. “You can’t help but to pick something up when you’re around a guy like Greg Maddux.”
Maddux collected 194 of his 355 career wins and three of four consecutive Cy Young Awards during 11 seasons with the Braves after coming over from the Cubs.
When Cox was elected last month he said it would be “unbelievably great” to go in with Maddux and Glavine, two guys who had played such a huge part in his own success as a manager. Glavine said Wednesday that Cox was the person most influential in his baseball career.
“Cooperstown is just going to be an extravaganza,” said Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, a former Braves third base coach and close friend of Cox’s. “It’s going to be a spectacular deal.”
Maddux, Glavine and Cox could be joined in Cooperstown as soon as 2015 by John Smoltz, the other member of the Braves’ famed “Big Three” starting pitchers.
“Glavine was the most strong-minded individual that I’ve ever coached,” former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. “And Greg Maddux had the greatest control of anyone I ever coached. And when we get to Smoltz, it’ll be the best stuff.
“And it was one person who connected it all. That was Bobby Cox. It wasn’t Leo Mazzone. He made my job easy, because he put pitchers up as first-class citizens. Very few managers do that. They say, ‘Get them off the field so we can get our work in.’ His attitude was, take care of them first, we’ll do the rest later.”
Smoltz is the only pitcher in major league history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He retired a year after Maddux and Glavine and becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot next year. Players are eligible five years after retiring.
“There was not a day that I didn’t really walk into that weight room and one or both of them were on the treadmill, or one or both were watching film, or power shagging in the outfield,” former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “They all pushed each other. And I knew that if Doggie (Maddux) went out and threw a four-hit shutout one night, Glavine went out the next night and wanted to throw a three-hit shutout. And then Smoltz would want to throw a two-hit-shutout.
“Those guys all pushed each other, everywhere. On the field, the golf course, the card table, it did not matter.”
Torre is another ex-Braves player and manager, but he’s identified more with the Yankees as a manager and the Cardinals as a player. Not so with Maddux, Glavine and Cox, who are all iconic Braves figures who had their biggest major league impact while wearing the Atlanta uniform.
Before Wednesday, only two players who’d spent a large part of their career with the Atlanta Braves were elected to the Hall of Fame: the great Hank Aaron, namesake of the street where Turner Field is located, and knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who spent his first 20 seasons with the Braves and was the only electee by the writers in 1997.
Former Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton was elected in 1998 and Nolan Ryan in 1999, and since then the only starting pitcher elected by the writers was Bert Blyleven in 2011.
Maddux and Glavine are the 12th and 13th pitchers elected in their first year on the ballot, and the first such pair elected in the same year since the inaugural 1936 class that included starting pitchers Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.
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