As Braves fans, during the 90s we were very blessed to watch our Atlanta Braves perform one of the greatest stories in sporting history. It all began in the 1991 season. After finishing last in the National League West, yes back then the Braves were in the NL West, the Braves went from the worst to first. That slogan sign was on my walls growing up next to my other Braves memorabilia.
Having been a Braves fan since birth, I recall watching a game on WTBS in 1990. The Braves were losing as per usual, however there was a news story called down on the farm. This news piece updated the Braves fans on upcoming talent coming up through the Braves farm system. The news on the farm that evening was that a pitcher named John Smoltz had thrown a no hitter. This news caused me to sit up and turn the volume on my remote control to maximum. Who is he and why can’t he pitch now for the Braves I thought? I was only a 17 year old kid, but the thought was appealing.
Later that season, my wish came true as Smoltz was active as a pitcher late in the 1990 season. Tom Glavine was already pitching for the Braves. This could be amazing. Having 2 good pitchers for the 1991 season might be more fun to watch. Then a couple of seasons later, I saw Greg Maddux win the Cy Young for the Chicago Cubs for 1992. Not really understanding the business of baseball then, I was under the impression that all players have to stay with their teams no matter what. Luckily my naive thinking was only ignorance. A couple of years later, I found out that the Braves had signed Maddux as the new starting pitcher! Amazing I thought to myself. Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux. Fantastic rotation, and Steve Avery was a nice to have as a Braves also. After all, I had Avery, Glavine, and Smoltz rookie cards.
The 1991 season was a lot of fun watching. The Braves dominating pitching rotation was a lot of fun to watch. Smoltz was always my favorite pitcher. The memories of watching the news on the farm report back in 1990 made him feel like a close friend. Maddux was great, but not a home raised prodigy like Glavine and Smoltz. Plus Maddux wasn’t a Braves pitcher until 1993. Picking my favorite between the two was made easy when Tom Glavine threw at Dale Murphy while Murp was playing for another team.
Murphy had and will remain my favorite Atlanta Braves player. Smoltz never threw at Murphy. Glavine did and John Smoltz was my new favorite pitcher for the Braves. This may seem like silly reasons, but I’m a silly man. Especially when it comes to my Braves. I’ve had dates postponed because of conflicts with watching the Braves in the postseason. I was not interested in dinner and a movie, just the Braves.
After watching Smoltz pitch for many seasons, the inevitable happened. Smoltz went on the Disabled List. Sure he had been on the DL before, but never for a prolonged period of over 30 days. There was a bit of good news. Smoltz continued his workout regiment and with God on his side, Smoltz returned to the Braves bullpen. This time around he would not be starting games, but he work as a closer. At first this seemed like a far reach. Smoltz a closer, it was like eating chocolate for breakfast. A good idea, but probably not the best or healthiest idea.
Sometimes it is feels good to be wrong. After giving my fair share of opinions on baseball and how I think things should be done, it’s nice to be wrong. It keeps me on my toes. Smoltz blew a couple of saves opportunities at first, but he returned to his role as a great pitcher. This time as a closer. Smoltz would later go on to be the Braves record holder in saves until Craig Kimbrel came along. It doesn’t matter, records are made to be broken. Smoltz would leave in free agency to the Boston Red Soxs, which wasn’t a bad choice. He wasn’t a Braves player, but at least he is in the American League.
When Smoltz had thrown his last pitch as a MLB player, another career was waiting. John Smoltz had always been great during interviews and when he became a broadcaster, he still was a cut above the rest. His knowledge and insight to pitching and pitcher’s mindset is a pleasure to listen to. Smoltz now works for Fox and he is the color man calling games with Joe Buck. Listening to his unbiased calling of the games is a comfortable voice to listen to.
John Smoltz aims to be the best in everything he does. Pitching, closing games, and broadcasting. The only bobble head I own is John Smoltz Hall of Fame one. My son now has the Smoltz rookie card. It might be worth something monetary, but my memories are priceless. Hopefully Stephen cherishes the card like I did since 1991 when I unwrapped a pack of Topps trading cards. Yes that dusty pink piece of gum wasn’t the best, but I got to see the best. A player from down on the farm named John Smoltz.
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