Tom Glavine has won 305 games, two Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP. The native of Billerica, Mass., looks like a lock for the Hall of Fame, but his career could have taken a dramatically different course.
Glavine was a two-sport star who was selected in the second round of the 1984 amateur baseball draft, as well as being a fourth-round pick in the NHL draft that same year.
NESN recently caught up with the 22-year veteran and longtime Braves pitcher to talk about his love for the Red Sox, a potential Hall of Fame hockey career and his similarities in style to Jon Lester.
NESN: Did you grow up as a Red Sox fan? And what were your earliest baseball memories?
Tom Glavine: I did grow up a Sox fan. I guess my most vivid memories as a kid would start with the ’75 World Series. Those guys, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, [Rick] Burleson, [Carlton] Fisk, [Carl] "Yaz" [Yastrzemski] to a certain extent. Those are the guys that I identified with, that I grew up wanting to be like. That was where I really remember my interest in baseball really starting to take off. And I’m still a Red Sox fan today.
NESN: Where do your hockey rooting interests lie?
TG: I don’t know because my dad didn’t play hockey. My dad was a baseball, football, basketball guy, so there wasn’t any hockey influence in my family, so to speak. Somewhere along the line, I got exposed to it. I liked it, and I wanted to learn how to skate, eventually got into hockey and it was a ton of fun.
NESN: Have you ever looked back and said, "What if I chose hockey?"
TG: Oh, of course. I look back and wonder. Thank God I don’t look back and regret or second guess. But yeah, all of us in some aspect of our lives will look back and say, "Well, jeez, if I had made that decision differently, what would have happened?" For me, it happens to be between two sports, which is pretty cool to be able to have that question in your mind.
Yeah, I always wonder what would have happened. There is a curiosity factor there, no question about it. But thank God I don’t have to look back and wish I would have done it, or regret that I didn’t do it or anything like that, because things worked out pretty well [for me] in baseball.
NESN: Do you look at the names that you were drafted over in hockey?
TG: Oh, absolutely. That’s my claim to fame. I mean, I tell people all the time. I got drafted ahead of Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull. Those guys are Hall of Fame hockey players, so clearly, I would have been a Hall of Fame hockey player. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
NESN: How did you choose baseball over hockey?
TG: Really, once I got drafted, it wasn’t that hard. The harder issue for me was the college thing. I went through that whole college selection process, and at that point in time, I just wasn’t ready to give either sport up. I was really trying to find a place where I could play both sports. I was recruited by some big-time baseball schools that didn’t offer hockey. I was recruited by some big-time hockey schools that didn’t have a baseball program. So, I was stressed out about that whole process and really tried to find a school where I could get a good education but continue to play both sports.
Once I got drafted by both sports, it really became an exercise of just sitting down, trying to put the pros and cons of hockey and baseball up against one another and trying to match that up. There were probably a few more positives on the baseball side, most notably health and longevity. But the big tipping point for me was that I was a left-handed pitcher. Being a left-handed pitcher in baseball, that was a huge thing that I had. I didn’t possess anything like that in hockey, so I knew I should probably take advantage of that.
NESN: There was a constant stream of rumors in New England that linked you and the Red Sox in some way, shape or form, whether it was because of a trade or speculation in free agency. Was any of that ever close to happening?
TG: I don’t know if it was ever close, but I know there was some truth to it. I know there was one year when I was rumored to be in a deal with Wade Boggs and somebody else. There was another time when it was Mike Greenwell. There were two winters in a row there when I was on pins and needles.Every time the phone rang, it was like, "Oh, my God, is this going to be the phone call?"
I remember getting a phone call from Bobby Cox, who was the GM at the time. He said, "Look, there are a lot of teams that want you, that are calling about you, so there is some truth to these rumors. But I don’t want to trade you, and I’m not going to trade you." So that was the extent of it. Now, how close anything ever came, I don’t really know. I know there was some validity to some of those rumors because there were teams that wanted to trade for me. But I don’t know if anything ever got close just because I don’t think Bobby ever wanted to do anything.
NESN: It’s not like you needed 300 wins to validate your career, but did reaching that benchmark change anything for you personally?
TG: Not a ton. I think there’s a certain level of regard that goes along with being a 300-game winner. It puts you in a pretty special club, much like when I won my first Cy Young Award. That puts you in pretty select company. The 300-wins thing is the same, only it’s more select company. Anytime you’re being associated with the great players in the history of the game, that’s a pretty neat thing.
I think for me, it’s still a little bit weird for me to hear it. It’s still a little bit hard sometimes for me to put my hands around it, like, "Man, I won 300 games." It’s not like people treat me differently or anything like that. I just think there’s a certain level of regard or respect that goes along with having achieved that.
NESN: You and Greg Maddux are eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014. How much do you hope to be in the same class together?
TG: That would be great. If I don’t get in with Greg — if I’m not a first-ballot guy, which I know he will be — if I’m fortunate to get in, then I don’t care who I get in with. Just to be able to have that experience, obviously, would be something beyond anything I ever imagined. But Greg and I and John [Smoltz], the three of us will forever be linked.
Those 10 years that we all played together were the 10 best years that I know we all had in the game of baseball from the standpoint of the competitiveness that we brought to the field, the competitiveness that our teams had, the fun that we had off the field as teammates as friends. That’s a pretty special thing to be able to be around. To have three guys be together for that long, to get along as well as we did, that enjoyed a lot of the same interests — most notably, golf — off the field, away from the game. That’s a pretty neat thing to be able to be a part of that for 10 years, and oh, by the way, it was pretty fun to go to the park every day and watch those guys pitch every night.
NESN: Are there any pitchers in the game who remind you of yourself? Would Jon Lester be one of those guys?
TG: He does a little bit. He throws harder than I did, although I guess I did throw a little bit harder when I first came into the game. He certainly is a great young pitcher. But Lester and Chris Capuano with the Brewers, before he hurt his elbow.
A lot of these guys you see now, most of these guys who come up to the big leagues now, they’ve got a heck of a lot better of an idea of what they’re doing than I did. Or at least it seems like it. I know it’s always hard to remember exactly what you were like when you first started, especially when what you’re doing now is so vivid in your mind, and it seems like you’ve come light years from where you used to be.
I know when I first came up, I threw a little bit harder. I was more of a curveball, fastball guy. I didn’t really have a changeup, so my game changed a lot over the years. But the guys who come up nowadays have a much better idea of how to use both sides of the plate, how to change speeds better. They seem to be a little bit more polished than I was when I came up. I was still a little bit more of a thrower and a work in progress than these guys seem to be. They seem to have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing.
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