One of the greatest pitchers of his generation, Tom Glavine allowed just one hit against Cleveland in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series as the Braves won 1–0 to clinch Atlanta's first, and only, World Series title. Glavine captured the World Series MVP trophy. The two-time Cy Young Award winner entered the Hall of Fame in 2014. But as he recalls in Inside Pitch, Glavine was also a top hockey prospect. The Los Angeles Kings drafted him in the fourth round -- five rounds before selecting future Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille.
Hockey was as much a part of growing up in Billerica as going to church every Sunday. As with most other kids, as soon as I was old enough my parents bought me skates and brought me to the rink to skate. Or I'd go over to the pond down the street or to Nuttings Lake. I always had a hockey stick in my hand, whether it was for ice hockey or the many street games on the weekends from early morning until darkness.
I went to games at the Hallenborg Rink to watch Billerica High playing Chelmsford, our archrival. Or I'd watch Chelmsford against another pretty hot rival, Austin Prep or Acton–Boxborough. Whenever those games were played, you always saw a little extra fighting, more fans, and more excitement.
That's the first real exposure I had to a rivalry. And by the time I started playing against Chelmsford, it was the game. Everybody would come. Standing-room-only crowds. The play was spirited. Beating Chelmsford usually meant winning the Merrimack Valley Conference and going to face off somewhere down the road in the state hockey tournament. These intense rivalry games were some of the most memorable of my youth.
In a February 20, 1984, game, I got off the quickest goal I ever scored. It was early in the game and the faceoff was in the Chelmsford end. I played center and I was facing off against Jon Morris, who was always battling me for the top-scorer spot. As soon as the ref dropped the puck, I snared the puck and shot it in one motion and it flew past their goalie. We took a 1–0 lead and went on to win 4–0.
I remember their coach, Jack Fletcher, saying afterward, "He's unbelievably quick. I've never seen anyone do that to Jon. He's the class of the league."
Everyone always made a lot of my rivalry with Jon Morris, but I never felt it was me against him. I got to know him during our time together at Hockey Night at the Boston Garden, which was a summer program for the top high school players. We got along very well and I admired him and we were supposed to go to the University of Lowell together. He was a great player, and I enjoy playing against players who challenge me and elevate my game. I felt that way in baseball whenever I faced a great hitter like Barry Bonds or Tony Gwynn.
I mentioned before that hockey was my first love. The game is exciting, in constant movement. As soon as I stepped onto the ice for my shift there was instant activity. As a young kid playing center field I remember Mom yelling out, "Keep your head in the game!" after she spotted me picking daisies between pitches. I think I ultimately became a pitcher because I had the ball and could control the tempo of the game.
Even though I was a pretty good center iceman with a nice shot, I always wanted to be a goalie, but when I first started skating, the team I was trying out for already had one. So I became a forward. The rage then was Phil Esposito, who wore number 7. So I wore number 7. I was definitely more of a hockey fan than a baseball fan. More Bruins than Red Sox. The Bruins had Bobby Orr, the greatest hockey player of all time, Espo, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, and all those colorful players. I wouldn't say I tried to emulate them, but they inspired me to improve my game.
We had a long schedule in Billerica Youth Hockey -- probably close to 100 games a year. Obviously, my hockey skills were able to develop pretty quickly. I became a decent player, good enough to be a Boston Globe All-Scholastic a couple of years in high school, and I also won the second annual John Carlton Memorial Award, which the Boston Bruins give to the high school senior who combines exceptional hockey skills with academics. I was 58th out of 538 students in my senior class at Billerica High. The award was a thrill because it was presented during a game at the old Boston Garden with all the Celtics and Bruins banners hanging high in the rafters.
I led Eastern Massachusetts in scoring as a senior, with 44 goals and 41 assists. My hockey career was punctuated by a few six-goal games. As Dad would say, "Not the flashiest kid on the ice, but at the end of the game you'd look at the stat sheet and he'd done most of the scoring."
I was named the Merrimack Valley Conference Most Valuable Player. I remember after receiving the award, my coach, Roger Richard, said to the Boston Globe, "Tom is consistently being watched by opponents, yet he has not taken a penalty this year and has only four penalties in his career. He is the most unselfish player I ever coached."
That was a nice thing for the coach to say. I loved my hockey experience in high school and Coach Richard was a big reason why. We lost in the semifinals of the Division I state hockey tournament two years in a row, but that wasn't important. I got to play with extraordinarily talented hockey players and participated two years in what we called the Super Series against the best high school players from Minnesota.
The first year of the series was played in Billerica. The Minnesota team was a huge favorite, but we beat them 14–3 in the first game, outshooting them 72–23. We won the second and third games 6–2 and 8–0. Tom Barrasso, who played at Acton-Boxborough and went on to become one of the best goalies in the NHL, came up big for us. Barrasso and Dave Jensen, who was a wing on our team, were No. 1 picks in the NHL. The second year we played in Bloomington, Minnesota, and it was the first time I'd ever flown on an airplane and the first time I'd ever been gone from home for any length of time. We were sluggish in the first couple of games but we won the series. I scored 22 points in three games and played on a line with Ken Hodge Jr., who went on to play in the NHL, and Mike Kelfer, drafted by the New Jersey Devils.
When I look back on all of the great players I played against who went on to the NHL -- guys like Barrasso, Kevin Stevens, Steve Heinze, Steve Leach, Ken Hodge, and Don Sweeney -- I wonder how far I would have gone.
I thought about it even more around the time that Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. I thought, I could have played with the Great One if I had chosen hockey. It was a thrill for me to meet the Great One after the 1992 World Series. He had come to watch Game 6, and meeting him was a small consolation for losing the World Series.
Once a Toronto newspaper printed a scouting report on me by some unnamed scout, and it was later reprinted in Sports Illustrated. On the third page, the following opinions about my talents appeared: "Good skating ability ... long stride with good balance ... good acceleration ... excellent scorer, smart around the net ... has several moves and can finish off ... excellent slap and wrist shots with a quick release ... tough and durable, will not be intimidated ... excellent competitor." The scout ranked me No. 56 out of 240 draft-age hockey players. Not bad.
I may well have never met this scout because when I was playing hockey in high school, I didn't notice or talk to the scouts like I did in baseball. They usually hid in the rink somewhere, so I had no idea they were around. Later, I found out they did talk to my parents a lot, trying to get them to reveal what sport I was going to play. I knew in order to make it in the NHL, I would have had to gain some weight and strength. Who knows?
One of the most thrilling moments for me was coming home after I'd won the Cy Young Award in 1991. My agent at the time, the late Bob Woolf, set up a skate with the Bruins during practice.
That whole offseason was so hectic. It was grueling, traveling a lot doing banquets and talk shows and making personal appearances at charity events. Bob decided I needed a little relief and set up a little practice session for me. Well, I was pretty excited, but I hadn't put on equipment and skated in years. I was out there with the Bruins, while Dad watched from the stands getting a big kick out of it. It was fun gripping that stick again and taking a few shots, though it was strange to put on all the equipment, some that I never knew existed and had been invented since the time I played hockey. My legs didn't feel that great, but I figured that would happen, not having been on the ice for a long time. Nonetheless, it was a blast. I never put on the skates again, though every now and then I get the urge.
I was at baseball practice on June 9, 1984, when Rogie Vachon, the general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, who was at the National Hockey League draft at the Montreal Forum, called my house and told my mom they had drafted me in the fourth round. I was the 69th player taken, 68 slots behind Mario Lemieux.
I guess some of the luster of being drafted by a professional hockey team had gone. If I'd been taken in the first or second round, or if the Boston Bruins had drafted me, I guess I might have been a little more excited. Don't get me wrong; being drafted by an NHL team is a great honor.
But by this time I'd become a pretty good high school baseball pitcher. I was left-handed, which scouts preferred. Five days earlier, I'd been taken in the second round by the Atlanta Braves, and before that I'd signed a letter of intent to the University of Lowell. It was close to home and they were pretty good about letting me play both baseball and hockey at a Division I program.
At this point, though, the state high school baseball tournament occupied nearly all of my time and attention. What a bad time to focus on my future!
I'd been recruited heavily to play hockey at several schools in the Northeast, with scholarship offers from RPI, an excellent school and hockey program; the University of New Hampshire; Boston College; and Boston University. I was trying hard to get my SAT scores up because I really wanted to attend Harvard. In a strange sort of way I'm glad it didn't work out, because who knows how my life would have changed if I had gone that route? I might have been a president of a company right now rather than playing for the Atlanta Braves, which I guess wouldn't be so bad. But I'll take what I have now, thank you.
The Kings thought I was going to school, so they didn't bother making an offer. They told Mom that if I changed my mind, they'd be waiting for me. Meanwhile, they were going to keep their eye on me and watch my progress.
The Kings actually called me back the same day I was signed by the Braves in late June of that year. They were disappointed. Mr. Vachon was actually a little annoyed that we hadn't told him I was playing baseball, telling my mother, "We're going to keep an eye on him. In a few years he'll be playing for us."
He probably thought I would change my mind and go back to hockey after I tried pro ball, and maybe there were times along the way I felt that way, but never seriously.
Yet my hockey career is a big part of who I am today. As a sport, it's totally different from baseball, but it gave me the mental and physical toughness and concentration I apply to baseball. The same mindset it took when I was digging for the puck in the corner while trying to hold off an opponent from getting it is basically what it takes when I'm up against a hitter. Early in my baseball career, and even now occasionally, I'd be facing a tough hitter and I'd think, I wish I could just slam this guy into the boards!
-- Excerpted by permission from Inside Pitch by Tom Glavine with Nick Cafardo. Copyright (c) 2016. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Tom Glavine on Twitter @Tom_Glavine. Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter @nickcafardo.
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