There is little that excites me about watching people retire. You know, everybody is full of good cheer — some with good reason, some applauding inwardly. Sometimes there’s a gold watch and all is positive. Nothing more depressing than your own retirement, which in my case was little more than switching gears.
This one was different. Tom Glavine had already given up pitching — somewhat unwillingly — but this was more than a retirement. This was almost like a graduation into seniority, though he’s only 44 years old. Time to quit for most pitchers, just warming up for an executive chair in corporate life. But there was a tenuous story behind this one.
After winning 244 games in a Braves uniform, and the decisive game of their only World Series win, contract time had come up for Glavine in 2003. Whatever went on between Glavine and John Schuerholz, then the general manager, now president of the Braves, has never surfaced. But their negotiations stalled, and suddenly one day news broke that Glavine had signed with the New York Mets. Not just some other team, but the HATED Mets.
Braves fans had had occasion to get steamed up with Glavine a few seasons before, when the players union struck, and there was no World Series. The year was 1994, and Glavine just happened to be the Braves’ union rep. Life with no World Series? One of sport’s all-time catastrophes, and who should be blamed? The closest at hand was the Braves’ player rep, and to the rep went the rap — in this case Tom Glavine.
When Glavine became a free agent again in 2008, Schuerholz had moved into the president’s chair and Frank Wren had become general manager. Glavine signed on, but it was a short season for him, reduced by arm trouble. Then came rehab and the following spring he was on trial, any way you care to look at it. He did rehab runs at the Gwinnett farm, then in Rome, then came crisis time.
After a long and tenuous meeting, Wren came out to announce that Glavine would not be re-signed. So it was over, or so it seemed. There was no end to the blame-placing, though calmer heads might have taken a logical turn and realized that here was a pitcher approaching his 44th year, recuperating from arm surgery, and his trial runs hadn’t aroused inspiration.
Naturally the blame was directed at Wren, mainly because that was where the buck stopped.
So this was much more than a mere retirement. This was a peace-making. Not just your everyday announcement of a pitcher checking out. The Braves were inducting him into their team Hall of Fame at a sprawling luncheon downtown. Then the official retirement of his number “47” took place at Turner Field before the game with San Francisco, a full house of fans lapping at the feet of their forgiven hero, winner of 305 games between two teams. Glavine’s next retirement will be into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in about five years, or thereabouts.
So the peacepipe has been smoked. All is well.
And let me tell you this — that Glavine has brought an intellectual touch to the broadcast booth. He has a feeling for his new job, keeps his audience informed, and this is a connection that has lasting implications.
Let there be peace.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures likes Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.