The 2014 class of inductees into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame was really something special. The group was headed by a pair of Atlanta Braves’ pitchers and their manager. It also included Former Braves’ and Yankees’ manager Joe Torre and White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, who played baseball at Auburn. In other words, it was a great day for the south.
Braves’ pitchers Greg Maddux and lefty Tom Glavine were each an amazing example of consistency. Not only were neither of them “power” pitchers, but they got batters out the same way; by killing them with finesse and tremendous control. They helped the Braves win fourteen straight divisional titles from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s, capping it off with a World Series crown in 1995.
Manager Bobby Cox served twice as the head man of the Atlanta Braves, getting fired the first time, then finding great success the second time around. The second stint for Cox came with Glavine and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz later joined by Maddux and in 1995, joined by another future Hall member Chipper Jones. In other words, better talent makes a man manage better.
That is also the case for Joe Torre. Torre knocked around for nineteen seasons as a big league player, before becoming a manager with the Braves in 1982. When I say “knocked around” I mean he played for a lot of teams; mostly bad ones. Torre was always a good player. He was the 1971 NL Most Valuable Player when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was also fired a lot as a manager before he got his biggest break when George Steinbrenner hired him to manage the Yankees in 1995. In making his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in Cooperstown on Sunday, Torre said, “Let’s just cut to the chase. I’m here because of the New York Yankees.” The Yankees under Torre dominated baseball winning three straight World Series titles and four in five years beginning in 1996; ironically Derek Jeter’s rookie year.
Then, there is Frank Thomas; “The Big Hurt.” Thomas had 521 home runs in his great career, mostly with the Chicago White Sox and mostly as a designated hitter. The former Auburn star proved a home run slugger could also hit for average as he wound up a lifetime .301 hitter. Though Thomas turned in great numbers, he never played for a World Series title.
I have always been a huge New York Yankee fan, as I have stated many times, but I always loved the Atlanta Braves. When the Braves became the South’s first professional sports franchise in 1966, my dad would take me to Atlanta a couple of times each summer. I saw Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson among others. The only regret I had was not being able to see American League players play in the days before inter-league scheduling. But, that was the only down-side to watching the Braves play at Fulton County Stadium.
Braves’ fans should feel very proud of Sunday’s ceremony. After all, how many teams have ever had four first-ballot Hall of Famers on their roster along with a Hall of Fame manager at the same time? John Smoltz goes in in 2015, while Chipper Jones will enter Cooperstown in 2019. As a life-long Braves’ fan the only thing missing is an induction for the great Dale Murphy.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have four grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, DellaMae and CoraLee.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org