On Monday, Aug. 17, 1987, Tom Glavine made his first of 518 Hall of Fame starts in a Braves uniform.
But this was no Hall of Fame performance. This game featured a Cy Young winner as an opponent, a batter hit in the neck, a benches-emptying non-brawl and a manager barking at a pitcher.
The 21-year-old lefthander was promoted from Triple-A Richmond — where he’d gone 6-12 with a 3.40 ERA — five days earlier when the Braves dealt pitcher Doyle Alexander to the Detroit Tigers for minor league pitcher John Smoltz. (Smoltz would make his major league debut the following summer.)
Glavine got in trouble early against the Astros.
It started in the first. Glavine’s curveball kept missing for strikes and the Astros feasted on his fastballs, which averaged 85 miles per hour and often stayed high and straight.
By the time he left in the fourth, Houston had built a 4-0 lead.
The AJC wrote about Glavine’s debut:
The Atlanta Braves sometimes play better than they did in Monday night’s 11-2 loss to Houston at the Astrodome.
Sometimes. The Braves, who have lost five straight and 22 of 31 since the All-Star break, showed Glavine the seamy side of major-league life. Under disorderly conditions, Glavine allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings in his major-league debut.
“If I worry about what happened, it won’t do me any good,” said Glavine. “I have to take what I did positive and take it out in my next start.
“I got a lot of things behind me. All the nervousness, the fear if there was any, and the awe is gone. I realize they play the game the same here as anywhere else. I feel if I can pitch up to my capabilities, I can be successful.”
Glavine’s debut in Houston was secondary to skirmishes that occurred after he left the game.
Braves reliever Rick Mahler, making his first relief appearance in more than three years, hit the first two batters of the seventh with his first two pitches — the second striking Glenn Davis in the neck.
Davis charged the mound but was blocked by catcher Ozzie Virgil. The benches cleared.
Mahler claimed he hit the batters with a ball scuffed by Astros starter Mike Scott, reigning Cy Young winner.
Things got heated again in the seventh when Scott hit the Braves’ Glenn Hubbard. Braves manager Chuck Tanner shouted at Scott from the dugout, calling him “The million-dollar sandpaper man.”
Glavine finished 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in nine starts that season. He won 305 games, two Cy Young Awards and a World Series during a career that ended with his enshrinement in Cooperstown in 2014.
It was all part of Bobby Cox’s plan.
“We want to keep adding arms and build for the future,” Cox, then Braves general manager said following the trade for Smoltz. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want to win now. Trading Doyle doesn’t affect that.
“Our plan has been to get as many good arms as we can.”