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Hall of Fame adds businesslike Braves

POSTED: July 28, 2014 8:41 a.m.

The Braves pitchers were almost businesslike -- something you might expect from a trio that won so consistently. Managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa remained calm and collected throughout their addresses. Frank Thomas took care of the emotional side, his voice breaking and his eyes moist during a heartfelt speech.

All appeared to please an estimated 48,000 fans who witnessed the inductions of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Torre, La Russa and Thomas into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The players - Glavine, Maddux and Thomas - all were first-ballot selections by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The managers - Cox, Torre and La Russa - were unanimous picks by the Hall of Fame's Expansion Era Committee.

Thomas, who played for the Chicago White Sox during most of his 19-year big league career, said when the bus pulled up to the Clark Sports Center for the ceremony, Ozzie Smith, one of 44 Hall of Famers on hand, said to him: "It's for real. Look at all those fans."

And there were plenty of them, some probably a few hundred yards from the podium.

"You see the crowd and it's just kind of overwhelming," said Glavine, who teamed with fellow pitcher Maddux and manager Cox to help the Braves to a dominating run throughout the 1990s into the 2000s.

Torre, the only man in baseball history to exceed 2,000 hits as a player and 2,000 wins as a manager, spoke last in the ceremony.

"We might as well cut to the chase," he said. "I'm here because of the New York Yankees."

Torre took fans on a guided tour of the Yankees' four World Series titles during his tenure as manager, from 1996-2007. He talked about rallying from two games down to beat the Braves in 1996. The narrative continued to Luis Sojo's clinching hit in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets that gave the Yankees their fourth championship in five years.

Of closer Mariano Rivera, Torre referenced the closer's intro music, "Enter Sandman": "I've always been a Sinatra fan, but after 12 years with Rivera, Metallica sounds pretty good."

Maddux, winner of 355 games and four Cy Young awards, was honored for his pinpoint accuracy as a pitcher. In a video presentation, Glavine said his teammate always wanted to throw a perfect game - not necessarily in the sense of retiring 27 batters in a row but "if (Maddux) threw 100 pitches, how many were exactly where (he) wanted them?"

Maddux started his career with the Cubs in 1986 before moving over to Atlanta in 1993. He became the eighth winningest pitcher in big-league history.

"I never considered it work, because it was so much fun," he said.

Braves fans greeted former manager Cox with a tomahawk chop before his speech started. He then poked fun at himself.

He said during a game Glavine was pitching, he went to the mound to discuss how to handle the next batter, with all the infielders taking part in the conference. Cox asked Glavine if he thought they should walk him. Glavine said it was a great idea, but there was nowhere to put him.

Cox mistakenly thought there were runners at second and third, when in fact, the bases were loaded.

He then told all participating in the conference, "If this gets out to the press, then each one of you will get fined $1,000,"

Glavine's speech included a friendly jab at John Smoltz, another dominant Braves pitcher who is likely to be inducted next year. While thanking Maddux for being a good teammate, Glavine added, "and you made me wealthier with all the money we took from Smoltzie on the golf course."

Glavine threw a one-hitter in a one-run victory in the deciding game of the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. It gave the Braves their lone World Series win during a dominant run in the 1990s.

Glavine, a two-time Cy Young winner, was the series MVP.

Afterward, Cox noted how rare it is for the Hall of Fame to induct three men from the same team in the same class. "The odds are better of winning the lottery than this happening again," he said.

La Russa's career included better than 2,700 victories -- third all-time -- and three World Series titles. He spoke about his good fortune.

He said when he arrived and looked out at the crowd, it was like "the greatest rock concert you've ever been to."

Thomas seemingly tried to thank everyone he'd ever met in baseball, as he wiped away tears throughout a speech that definitely exceeded his 10-minute allotment.

"I thanked everyone who got me to this point," said Thomas, a career .301 hitter, the owner of 521 home runs and the American League MVP in 1993 and 1994.

Ken Harrelson, who broadcasts White Sox games, said during a video presentation before Thomas' speech: "For eight years, he was the best right-handed hitter I've ever seen."

Rob Centorani is a sports writer for The Daily Star in Oneonta, NY.

 

 
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