COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Tom Glavine spoke about throwing snowballs at cars from the front porch of his house in Billerica and getting scolded by his mom and dad, Fred and Millie, who put an end to all that.
“Needless to say there was one passerby that was less than pleased with my accuracy,” said Glavine, who had a talk with his dad after the incident and never did it again.
That incident snowballed into a major league baseball career of significant note.
Glavine said he instead put up a painted square on the chimney of his house to improve his accuracy.
Those humble beginnings led to an acceptance speech lasting 17 minutes Sunday at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center before an estimated crowd of 48,000, the third largest in history.
Glavine was enshrined along with Braves teammate Greg Maddux and manager Bobby Cox as well as slugger Frank Thomas and managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.
“I can honestly say as a kid I wanted to be a professional athlete,” said Glavine. “Red Sox or the Bruins. I didn’t care. I loved Bobby Orr, I love Yaz, Pudge, Jim Rice. But my role models were and always have been my parents.
“I had a couple goals in mind each time I put on the uniform. The first was to represent the logo on the front. That meant to play hard, play the game the right way, and give it your all whenever you stepped on the field. As the old saying goes, play hard because you never know who is watching you for the first time.
“The second part was to not embarrass the name on the back. I wanted to represent my parents to the best of my ability. They worked hard to respect our community and I wanted to do everything I could to protect that. I’m so proud whenever I hear somebody say to me, you must have had great parents. When I hear that, I know I’m representing them well.”
You could tell the three Braves were close. Glavine and Maddux enjoyed playing for Cox.
A video tribute to Glavine came from his longtime pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, who said, “I know this, he didn’t look right in that Mets uniform.”
Glavine, who played 17 seasons for the Braves and five for the Mets, in turn said Mazzone taught him how to be his own pitching coach and correct things on the fly so “I didn’t have to see Leo coming to the mound.”
Mazzone always told people that Glavine was the Braves’ Whitey Ford. But Ford once told Mazzone, “I don’t think I was as good as Tom Glavine.”
Cox was especially funny, remembering how he once came out to the mound thinking there was a base open and telling Glavine he thought he should pitch around the batter and walk him. Cox admitted that he soon realized that first base was occupied.
Glavine said he remembered the incident and said, “Even Bobby is deserving of one misstep.”
Glavine, who won 305 games, remembered that after he’d pitch a bad game, Cox always seemed to accentuate the positive.
“I can’t tell you how good he was at pumping you up all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I would pitch a bad game and read the newspaper the next day and read Bobby’s comments, and I would think, what game were you watching, and how did I not win. Bobby, thank you so much for all your guidance, appreciate everything you did for me,” Glavine said.
He quipped that some of the best moments he had were the golf outings with Maddux and John Smoltz, who has a great chance of getting into Cooperstown next year.
“Greg, as a teammate and as a friend, you made me better through our conversations. You made me better by watching you pitch, and you made me wealthier with all the money we took from Smoltzie on the golf course,” Glavine kidded.
Glavine even spoke about his decision as an 18-year-old in 1984 to have to choose between being a second-round pick in baseball and a fourth-round pick of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
“I had a difficult choice to make and as a lefthanded pitcher, I thought that was the thing that would set me apart and make baseball the smartest decision. Of course, I always wonder what would have happened had I taken up hockey and in my mind, of course, since I was drafted ahead of two Hall of Famers, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, that obviously means I would have been a Hall of Famer in hockey, too,” Glavine said.
And he acknowledged the many fans who made the trip from Billerica to root him on.
“Perhaps part of what they saw was that the work ethic that was certainly prevalent in my house and in my hometown of Billerica, Massachusetts,” said Glavine, who is just the 14th player from Massachusetts to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The last one was 10 years earlier, manager Leo Durocher, who was born in West Springfield.
“Actually, I said that wrong. It’s Bill-rica,” said Glavine, who felt he had accentuated too much of the “e” in Billerica. “Sorry. I know there’s a huge crowd here today from Billerica. I want to thank you guys for not only being here today, but I want to thank you guys for your support throughout my career. I know so many of you put your allegiance for our beloved Red Sox on hold during my career, but I promise you, your secret is safe with me, so thank you very much.”
Glavine will now go on with his life. His teenage boys — Peyton and Mason — are hockey players in suburban Atlanta, who also play some baseball. He feels his life is coming full circle. He hopes his kids — he has two other sons and a daughter — will have the same tough decisions to make as he did, but he doesn’t care if they don’t get that far.
He’s just happy to do what Fred and Millie did for him, drive them to practice, watch their games, give them pointers. But most of all, enjoy the sports they play.
After a squirt game when he was 10 or 11, he remembers pouting about a loss and his dad looking at him in the back seat and talking to him about it.
“My dad told me something that I’ve never forgot and, in fact, I’ve used on my kids today and they will attest to it. He said: ‘You’re going to go into that locker room with a smile on your face and you’re going to come out with one, or I’m not taking you anymore.’ ”
Glavine never took that smile off his face.