ATLANTA — Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were the pitchers that manager Bobby Cox turned to first during much of the Braves’ 1990s heyday. Come July, Cox will be able to turn to them on the podium when all three are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Maddux and Glavine, two players who came to embody the franchise during its historic run through the 1990s and early 2000s, drew overwhelming support from voters and were elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday along with ex-White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, a Columbus, Ga., native and former Auburn standout.
All three were elected in their first year on the ballot. They join a Braves-flavored Class of 2014 that includes Cox, Joe Torre (a former Braves player and manager) and Tony La Russa, retired managers elected by the Veterans Committee in December.
“What an incredible honor, to be able to share it with my teammate Glav,” said Maddux, named on 97.2 percent of 571 ballots submitted by Baseball Writers’ Association of America members, not far off Tom Seaver’s record 98.8 percent in 1992. Maddux was left off 16 ballots.
Glavine was named on 91.9 percent of the ballots. Thomas, a two-time American League MVP who hit .301 with 521 homers in 19 seasons, was on 83.7 percent of the ballots.
It was the third time in the past 30 years that more than two players were elected by the baseball writers.
“It means an awful lot,” Glavine said at a Turner Field press conference. “As this day came up and there was speculation whether you were going in or not, what really would have been disappointing was not to have the opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg. If anything would have killed me about not getting that phone call, that would have been it.”
Maddux and Glavine combined for 660 major league wins, including 445 as Braves. They are the first Hall of Famers in four decades to spend most or all of their careers together and be elected by the writers in the same year. The last duo do it were the Yankees’ Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle in 1974.
Maddux and Glavine are the 12th and 13th pitchers elected in their first year on the ballot and the first such pair elected in the same year since the inaugural 1936 class that included starting pitchers Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. Of the 113 players voted into the hall, only 42 percent (47) were elected in their first year on the ballot.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Braves are scheduled a home game that day against San Diego.
During the period when baseball was revitalized in Atlanta, Maddux and Glavine were Braves teammates from 1993-2002, winning division titles every year in that stretch and capturing the World Series title in 1995, the only major professional title in Atlanta history. Their 347 wins as teammates were the most in the majors for any 10-year stretch since Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette won 363 from 1954-63 for the Milwaukee Braves.
Glavine was a 305-game winner with the Braves and Mets, with a 241-147 record and 3.41 ERA in 17 seasons with Atlanta.
“The guys I was surrounded with helped make me a better player, no question about that,” he said. “I ran into (former Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton) in the parking lot on the way in here and said, ‘You saved my butt more than one time.’”
Maddux had 355 wins, eighth-most in history, and won four consecutive Cy Young Awards, including his first three seasons with the Braves. He had a 194-88 record and 2.63 ERA in 11 seasons for Atlanta, part of a record run of 17 consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins. Also adept defensively, he won 10 of his record 18 Gold Gloves as a Brave.
“It was a situation where you learn from osmosis,” said Glavine, who won two Cy Young Awards. “You can’t help but to pick something up when you’re around a guy like Greg Maddux.”
When Cox was elected last month he said it would be “unbelievably great” to go in with Maddux and Glavine. They could also be joined in Cooperstown as soon as next year by John Smoltz, the other of the Braves’ famed “Big Three” starting pitchers.
Smoltz, who retired a year after Maddux and Glavine, is the only pitcher in major league history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He will go on the Hall of Fame ballot next year. Players become eligible five years after retiring.
“Glavine was the most strong-minded individual that I’ve ever coached,” former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. “And Greg Maddux had the greatest control of anyone I ever coached. And when we get to Smoltz, it’ll be the best ‘stuff.’”