John Smoltz Gets in Two Rounds of Golf Before His Big Day in Cooperstown
By Neil A. Carousso
Cooperstown, NY — The Saturday of the annual Hall of Fame Weekend is a busy one between press conferences for that year’s Hall of Fame class, an awards presentation, recognizing excellence in baseball writing and broadcasting, and the “Parade of Legends” in which all the Hall of Famers, who made it out to Cooperstown, are driven around Main Street in the back of a pick-up truck, waving to the thousands of fans who marvel at their baseball accomplishments. However, Saturday morning is a chance for Hall of Fame players to relax and enjoy each others company on the Leatherstocking Golf Course at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, where all the Hall of Fame players and managers stay during the weekend.
“It’s a lot calmer for sure,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. “This year…my wife and I show up and and ‘what time are we going to eat dinner?’ and ‘when’s our first cocktail?’ so its been pretty good.”
Glavine was inducted into the Hall last year, along with former Atlanta Braves teammate Greg Maddux and his former manager Bobby Cox. This year, another member of the “big 3,” John Smoltz, will be enshrined.
Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux all pitched for a dominant Braves starting rotation that contributed to a streak of 14 consecutive National League East division titles, from 1991-2005, and one World Series victory against the Cleveland Indians in 1995. Smoltz, earned his 154 career saves during their division title streak, when he converted to the bullpen in 2001, following Tommy John surgery to repair an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury of his right elbow. “Smoltzy,” who replaced reliever John Rocker, broke the NL saves record in 2002 with 55; the previous saves record was 53. Closer Éric Gagné tied Smoltz’s record the next season, winning the NL Cy Young award with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But with all the pressure on Smoltz and the other three players in this 2015 class, the largest class of players to be inducted by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) in 60 years, the starter converted to closer, only to return as a starting pitcher for Atlanta, was able to squeeze in two rounds of golf in Cooperstown.
“I wasn’t surprised in the least when he said he had time to sneak in a round in yesterday, because that’s how John is,” said the lefty Glavine, who notched 305 wins with two NL East teams, the Braves and New York Mets. “Good for him that he’s able to do that and relax to that extent, but I’m sure when he wakes up tomorrow morning, much like I did last year, anyway, I know he’ll wake up with that feeling, almost like you had when you’re getting ready to pitch a big game…I’m sure he’ll have nerves no matter what he does.”
Tomorrow is the induction ceremony outside Cooperstown’s Clark Sports Center. All Hall of Famers tell anecdotes about their speeches, either forgetting someone important to them, or going over the allotted time.
“It’s natural when you get here. You have a lot of things on your mind, particularly your family…and then, you are inevitably are worried that you forgot somebody or somebody’s going to be mad at you, whatever the case may be, but you can’t do anything about it,” said Glavine, adding, “Once your here, all that stuff is pretty much done and there isn’t anything you can do about it other than come here, enjoy it, embrace it.”
Most players even make fun bets about whether an inductee will go over or under the 12 minute bench mark.
“Take the over,” said Glavine, emphatically. “Putting 40 years of your life and 20 odd years of baseball into 12 minutes is really hard to do.”
Smoltz will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon with Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox.