Smoltz calls No. 29 retirement coolest moment of his life – updated

Braves fans have seen John Smoltz glare with intensity, pump his fist in excitement, and even grit his teeth in pain, but the most emotional of the Braves “Big Three” pitchers sat in silence as his No. 29 was unveiled Friday night at Turner Field.

About the most Smoltz offered when his moment came and during the minute-long ovation that followed was licking of the lips and swallowing as he turned back from looking at his jersey number on the left field façade to the home plate area.

“I wanted that to be the cool moment,” Smoltz said shortly after becoming only the ninth Brave to have his jersey retired. “I didn’t want that to be anything other than that’s the coolest thing that’s happened to me. When I saw the jersey (number) it just made me realize that everything had come full circle.”

Smoltz had done nothing during his 20 years with the Braves, if not finish the job.

He pitched a complete game to clinch the division in 1991 and hoist catcher Greg Olson in his arms, celebrating their worst-to-first run. He took the mound in Game 7s in the 1991 World Series against Jack Morris and the 1992 National League Championship Series the night Sid Bream slid.

He spent three years as a closer to fill out a Hall-of-Fame worthy resume, becoming the only pitcher in history to win 200 or more games and save 150.

But until Friday Smoltz hadn’t had closure with the Braves, leaving after the 2008 season for Boston and eventually St. Louis, as a 42-year-old pitcher coming off shoulder surgery. He never announced his retirement at the end of the 2009 season.

Smoltz got his moment Friday, though, when the Braves inducted him into their Hall of Fame and retired No. 29, just to the left of Greg Maddux’s No. 31, Tom Glavine’s No. 47 and manager Bobby Cox’s No. 6.

“The way it ended is all in the rearview mirror now,” Smoltz said after being inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame at a luncheon at the Omni Hotel, later calling the end of his career “a mulligan.” “I’m an Atlanta Brave. I bleed the uniform.”

He first wore a Richmond Braves uniform in 1987, after the Braves traded for the 20-year-old “wild buck” fresh out of Double-A with the Tigers for Doyle Alexander.

The Braves knew they had something special, long before their fans had any clue. Cox, who traded for Smoltz as the general manager and then managed him for 20 years, told the story at Friday’s luncheon of a conversation he had with Braves scout John Hagemann the night Smoltz made his last Double-A start for the Tigers in Glens Falls, NY.

“He said, ‘Bobby there’s no way they’re going to trade this kid,’” Cox recalled. “I said ‘Why not? We’re giving them a good guy.’ He said, ‘No. 1 he’s going to be an All-Star player. No. 2 he’s going to be a 20-game winner and No. 3 he’s going to win a Cy Young.’ I said ‘Boy we’ve got our work cut out, don’t we.’”

As a Brave, Smoltz went to the All-Star game eight times, went 24-8 in 1996 and won a Cy Young award that same year. He joined Maddux and Glavine to make the Braves “Big Three” of the 1990s one of the greatest rotations in the game’s history.

Where Maddux used guile and Glavine the outside corner, Smoltz thrived on the mid-90s fastball, the devastating slider and the “stuff” to keep even those two teammates on the edge of their dugout seats.

“Every time he went to the mound there was always a chance for a no-hitter,” Maddux said. “You didn’t know if he was going to strike out 15, maybe throw a no-hitter, or just give up two runs and win. You never knew how he was going to do it, but you knew he was going to pitch good.”

Smoltz was also the most outwardly emotional of the three and the one who seemed to connect most to the fans. One longtime Braves fan who became Smoltz’s close friend – comedian Jeff Foxworthy – called Smoltz the “heartbeat” of those 1990s teams, at Friday’s luncheon.

“He was part goofy kid and part warrior, but he always wanted the ball,” Foxworthy said. “And we wanted him to have the ball when it was on the line. And he’d sit there and glare at the batter like the batter had just peed in his mother’s purse.”

Cox knew that glare too, whenever he would come for the ball.

“Not many people know John Smoltz was the most stubborn pitcher I ever managed,” Cox said. “He never ever wanted to come out of a ballgame. He would have 137 pitches in the eighth inning, and I would come up to him to shake his hand, and he would say, ‘Bobby I’m pitching the ninth.’ I said ‘John that’s a lot of pitches. He said, tell ‘(Pitching coach) Leo (Mazzone) to stop counting the dang pitches.’”

By the time Smoltz finished his career, he had thrown 52,465 pitches. And that’s not including the 3,250 he threw in the postseason.

Smoltz doesn’t need a count now either to know what he accomplished.

“My shoulder went as far as it could go,” he said Friday to the 930 fans and Braves players and staff at the luncheon.

Smoltz had one last pitch in him Friday night, a four-seam fastball to Brian McCann for the ceremonial first pitch. Vintage Smoltz, just getting out there on the mound got the adrenaline flowing, so he told McCann not to go down in a crouch.

“I told Brian, ‘Please stand up,’” Smoltz said. “’I don’t want to be tempted to pull a Nolan Ryan in the World Series and throw 85 (mph) cheese down the middle.”

86 comments Add your comment

Kirk

June 8th, 2012
2:31 pm

Thanks Carroll.

Gustopher

June 8th, 2012
2:39 pm

Wish I could have gone

Land O Lakes Brave

June 8th, 2012
2:46 pm

Thanks Smoltzie for all the pitching through pain and all the big game wins. I was there Oct. 5, 1991 when we clinched the worst to first. Thanks for the memories.

SEAN

June 8th, 2012
2:58 pm

… Getting ‘induced’ into the Hall of Fame is surely an honor….I think! I hope it doesn’t hurt Smoltzie to bad!

scott

June 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

Were Smoltzie’s wife and kids there?

ricardus

June 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

John Smoltz is one of the reasons I am a Braves fan. Lots and lots of class in the organization.

Henry D.

June 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

Smolizie, You da Man!

Tami

June 8th, 2012
3:10 pm

I wish I could be there tonight since Smoltzie’s one of my all-time favorite Braves, and I’ve always vowed to be in attendance for every honor bestowed on those “special Braves” when their time came to be honored. However, after a lengthy unemployment period and just getting back to work this week, just don’t have the funds. But! I’ll be watching tonight on TV. Congrats to Smoltzie!! What a special Brave he was. Still beloved in Braves’ Country! Now…present Braves: GO get those Blue Jays tonight and cap off the night!

Alex

June 8th, 2012
3:10 pm

I still remember the 7th game of the World Series in 1991 vs the Twins. Great game between Smoltz and Jack Morris! It was too bad that someone had to lose that game. When a game had to be won for the Braves I would take him any day over Maddux and Glavine.

Kendell Jones

June 8th, 2012
3:22 pm

A very unique and great guy. John Smoltz will always be remembered for being able to go from being a full time pitcher to one of the greatest closers of all time. Congratulations John. You deserve all the accolades coming your way this day. I know that is is a special day for you, but it is also a very special day for some of the greatest fans in tghe world. We will always remember all you did for the Braves and the paying fans.

Fly on the Wall

June 8th, 2012
3:34 pm

Love ya man!

Chris Vivlamore

June 8th, 2012
3:42 pm

Braves lineup: Bourn 8, Prado 5, McCann 2, Uggla 4, Heyward 9, Hinske 3, Simmons 6, Beachy 1, Constanza 7

Scrappy

June 8th, 2012
3:59 pm

My replica jersey I wear to any games, home and away, is Smoltz’s no. 29. One of my favorite Braves ever, and always will be.

REAGAN2012

June 8th, 2012
4:00 pm

SMOTLZ A TRUE HEROE TO ARE ATLANTA SPORTS GAMES

Brave New World

June 8th, 2012
4:05 pm

Congratulations Smoltzie!

alanfalcon

June 8th, 2012
4:19 pm

Always enjoyed watching Smoltz pitch, in his on right he was a bulldog who took the ball and went about his business, congradulations John, you make me proud to be a Braves fan !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ken

June 8th, 2012
4:19 pm

Thank you for giving us a reason to cheer and a reason for tears. Thank you for staying in the community and making a positive difference.

anonymous

June 8th, 2012
4:23 pm

these celebration days always end with the team losing the night’s ballgame.
hope it doesn’t happen this time!

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
4:23 pm

Is #10 next.

Dustin

June 8th, 2012
4:24 pm

I too hated to see Smoltzie in another uniform, however, he will live forever in the hearts of EVERY Braves fan that had the honor of watching this man pitch for our beloved Braves. Couldn’t happen to a classier guy. Love ya John!!!!!

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
4:29 pm

I remeber Smaltz bein injrued all the time and the last straw was win he palyed 4 the Mets. I dont undrestand why the Braves honer him. Hes a trader 2 the city and team.

Confused

June 8th, 2012
4:30 pm

Dave O,

Why is there a womans photo where your name is?

Dawgdad (The Original)

June 8th, 2012
4:32 pm

Still waiting for Mark Bradley’s tribute to his old nemesis, John Smoltz.

29 you done us proud!

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
4:33 pm

I aslo remeber Smalts needing to see a shrink cuz he was crazy when he was young.

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
4:40 pm

@Confused DOB did not write article Doofus. Cant you read? Are you that Dumb.

jim

June 8th, 2012
4:43 pm

Last place by the BRAKE,

If you’re determined to be a jerk, It might help if you at least got your facts right, and learned how to spell BREAK!! Smoltz never played for the Mets. His last year was spent with the Red Sox and Cardinals.

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
4:47 pm

@jim Is that guy for real or doeshe just act that way. He needs a doctor bad.

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
4:58 pm

Wow way 2 be a calssy Braves fan by insluting oters. U have a good wekend 2!

Rod

June 8th, 2012
4:59 pm

I see Whiskey’s still posting while drunk. Obviously Carroll wrote the article, but what does that have to do with “Confused”s question? He was talking about a picture. Are you that dumb?

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:00 pm

Mr O Brain can U pleeze band those who do not tlak baseball and only pix on oters?

Thanx

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
5:01 pm

You should not be allowed to call yourself a Braves fan. You have no class at all. Go back to school JERK.

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:03 pm

Who U taling 2 Whiksey?

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
5:04 pm

@ROD I answered that last nite. Obviously you do not like me. That is your problem.

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:06 pm

U need 2 stix 2 the subject on hand insead of insluting ever 1 else. You dont want 2 mess me.

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

June 8th, 2012
5:08 pm

I see thigs R still the same hear. 2 many peeple more intrested in name calling and not e nuff about baseball.

Whiskey River

June 8th, 2012
5:09 pm

I am not afraid of you Jerk. You really do not know who you are messing with. You jerks are not even worth my time. On my way to ballpark. See Ya

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:10 pm

U thteatin me?

AVERAGE JOE

June 8th, 2012
5:20 pm

I think Whiskey and Brake are the same person. That is pathetic. John Smoltz is a class act on and off the field. If you don’t know enough to post something of interest at least Google him or check out his wikipedia. Whatever you do, please stop living out your neurosis online. You are not even entertaining.

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:25 pm

And now Im band 4 stating my opinon? I never caled N E 1 names. That other guy did. This is not fare. This paper sux worst thatn the Braves and that is a lot!

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:28 pm

What every hapend 2 free speach? I only speek the truth 2 bad U cant handel the truth!

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
5:29 pm

Im gonna call a lawer. Just U see.

Tom Sawyer

June 8th, 2012
5:31 pm

Having dealt with Smoltz on numerous occasions I can say, without any doubt, that he is an Class A Jerk. He is the most spoiled rotten, stuck up man I have ever met and I have met and dealt with many well known people. Glad he is no longer playing.

Tumbledown

June 8th, 2012
5:39 pm

What is a “lawer”?

Tumbledown

June 8th, 2012
5:40 pm

I guess there are some people not thrilled to see Smoltz get honored by the Braves.

AtlantaNative62

June 8th, 2012
5:44 pm

AJC, are you kidding me? The ONLY picture you can muster is one that makes it look like Smoltz is giving the “Hiel Hitler” salute? Fix it you bums.

Andy

June 8th, 2012
5:49 pm

What is the matter with you people? Congratulations to one of the best pitchers ever.

Andrew

June 8th, 2012
5:58 pm

I hope Smoltz goes firt ballot for the big hall of fame!!

Tgram

June 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

I have a clear memory of the 1987 trade the Braves made with Detroit. Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz? Are you kidding me? I remember reading the small print summary under the “Transactions” section of the sports pages in my hometown paper. Smotlz was in Double A, and I remember shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Atlanta’s not going anywhere this year.Alexander’s old. Maybe this guy will turn out OK.” Boy, did he ever!

BravesFanForever

June 8th, 2012
6:15 pm

Shouldn’t the headline say “Smoltz Inducted To Braves Hall of Fame”? Typical sensationalism from this newspaper. Anyone who has a baseball brain would know the selection for 2013 hasn’t occurred yet and Smoltz isn’t eligible until 2015, but it still makes you think, “Are these people crazy? What do they mean ‘Hall of Fame’?” Then you click on the link and it says “Braves Hall of Fame”. That’s deceiving.

Congrats to John Smoltz! I hardly think Mr. Smoltz needs any sensationalism going his way. He clearly deserves to be in the Braves Hall of Fame and in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a first ballot inductee.

Idiot editors!

John Delaney

June 8th, 2012
6:24 pm

@Braves in last palce by the all star brake – You can spout off all you want because it’s crystal clear that you are either dyslexic, an idiot, or both. Your inability to conjure up a complete and correctly spelled sentence shows that you lack the intelligence and credibility to participate in this discussion like a grown up. You’re also a coward hiding behind a nickname. I have nothing else to say to you and I hope the rest follow suit and ignore your idiocy!!

ToccoaBrave

June 8th, 2012
6:51 pm

Congrats Smoltzie, you deserve it.

eddie willers

June 8th, 2012
6:59 pm

The scariest Braves reliever I ever saw was Al Hrabosky after he had some type injury and they used tape to keep one eye open.

He’d go into his Mad Hungarian routine and when he turned back toward the hitter, that already scarey face looked like it had gone a few rounds with the Frankenstein Monster.

Let's Be Real

June 8th, 2012
7:18 pm

It’s kind of weird that adults are referring to a grown man as “Smoltzie.”

wreckmaniac

June 8th, 2012
7:35 pm

There is so much more to be said here but nothing more meaningful to me than the fact that Smoltz turned down Steinbrenner’s money to remain a Brave. Who else has done that ?
What other guy would have gone to the bullpen, as an Ace starter, to help his team and stay there ?
Who else did more for the psychiatric industry than Smoltz ?
He is the only Brave whose photo I have in my office.
Don’t get me started. I could go on about this guy all night. Just bring the beer.

MIBravesFan

June 8th, 2012
7:39 pm

Good play by Martin!

MIBravesFan

June 8th, 2012
7:41 pm

Oops, wrong blog.

Vesaversa

June 8th, 2012
7:51 pm

Dam has it been that long ,It’s as if the years just flew by .I really enjoyed watching the Braves play when we had the big three at the helm. Smoltz should be in Baseball Hall of Fame .

SandyStorm

June 8th, 2012
7:54 pm

Thanks, John, for all the great Braves memories. Style, class, ability, humility. What a winning combo.

wreckmaniac

June 8th, 2012
8:10 pm

Braves…Last…allstar brake: You sir are no scholar. Brake ? How about break . If they are in last place at the break, it will be by 2 or 3 games at the most. Calm down. Its all about who is there in Sept.

Fats

June 8th, 2012
8:55 pm

Class act all the way in the way Smoltz played and conducted himself

Hiway61

June 8th, 2012
8:55 pm

Couldn’t make the game tonight but I had my Smoltz jersey on all day at work..My #1 favorite pitcher . Thanks Carroll great job..Go Braves!

Braves in last palce by the all star brake

June 8th, 2012
9:02 pm

N E team in last at the brake will be in last in Spet. U should no beter. U R no scollar either.

Desides this blog is about that trader Smalts. He got mad at the braves and went and played 4 the Mets and now the dummy Braves honer him. How messd up is that?

Chop Chop

June 8th, 2012
9:24 pm

Wish he was in the booth. Congratulations to a fantastic player and man. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He always knew how to conduct himself. My how we miss that.

Bones

June 8th, 2012
9:44 pm

John Smoltz was one of the real Braves! Thank you John!

Ken Stallings

June 8th, 2012
9:49 pm

It’s hard to put it in perspective how good the trio was. But, succinctly, they were the best three-man rotation in baseball history!

BravesfaninAL

June 8th, 2012
10:40 pm

Hey O’Brien: Where was Glavine at tonight’s ceremony? I didn’t seen him on the TV part.

Sid

June 8th, 2012
10:47 pm

Congrats Twenty-Nine!

C.J. Williams

June 8th, 2012
11:47 pm

Closure finally for the Big Three. Now we wait for Chipper and we get closure for the 4 players who had so much to do with those great Braves’ teams. Smoltz always kept me on the edge of my seat, especially when he was the closer and came in with the heat in the 9th! Such a classy player and leader who provided so much leadership in the dugout!

ZACK

June 9th, 2012
12:37 am

CONGRATS SMOLTZIE!!!! THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES! THIS HONOR IS TRULY WELL DESERVED!

Mitchell

June 9th, 2012
12:50 am

ricardus

June 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

John Smoltz is one of the reasons I am a Braves fan. Lots and lots of class in the organization.

That is true.

World Series championships on the other hand? Not so much.

But I kid.

Wasn’t his fault though.

MIBravesFan

June 9th, 2012
1:32 am

I wish I could come up with something original or memorable to say for this, but I’m at a loss. The only thing I can say about Smoltzie’s career is thanks for all the great memories, thanks for always giving it everything you had, and for the years of closing when you didn’t really want to but did it so well and helped the team by doing it, and thanks for 1996 – it was a bad year for me that was made easier by watching you pitch that season. And the Tigers were fools to trade you! :) But it all turned out for the best! Well done, Smoltzie, very well done!

Buster brave

June 9th, 2012
2:22 am

WELL DESERVED HONOR,AND HE EXEMPLIFIED THE GREATNESS OF OUR DECADE,PLUS RUN OF THE BEST BASEBALL WE EVER SAW AROUND THESE PARTS,AND PROBABLY EVER WILL,AS A BRAVES FAN SINCE 1966 JOHN SMOLTZ THANK YOU………….

Rob

June 9th, 2012
5:03 am

Come on people! You all really aren’t that dense, right? Have not one of you responding to the moron ever heard of a troll? Is it your first week on the internet? Don’t feed the troll!

allhans

June 9th, 2012
5:31 am

Where was Glavine during the ceremony

Producer

June 9th, 2012
7:00 am

Thanks for everything, Smoltzie! You are a class guy and a first ballot HOFer. There never has been nor will there ever be again a Big Three rotation like you were a part of.

MONK ATL

June 9th, 2012
7:28 am

Congrats Smoltzeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! #29. BRAVES H.O.F. Next Stop, Cooperstown.

MONK ATL

June 9th, 2012
7:29 am

Jermaine

June 9th, 2012
8:14 am

Next in line………Chipper Jones!!!

D man

June 9th, 2012
8:20 am

Thanks John, your the best…

Smoltz fan

June 9th, 2012
8:58 am

Thanks Smoltzie for all of the great memories and hopefully more to come. You are a class act and the best of the best.

Russell

June 9th, 2012
9:14 am

I guess all that bitterness and resentment he had toward the Braves Management when they let him go was retired as well…I listened to him on the radio talk show a few years after he was let go really blasting the Management…good for him to heal the wounds…which is a bigger accomplishment than what he did on the diamond…

PAPA JONES

June 9th, 2012
11:33 am

chippee wasn’t there for smoltz night..chippee is for chippee, always has been…

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution: Smoltz calls no. 29 retirement coolest moment of his life Share [...]

cliff

June 9th, 2012
3:21 pm

Maddox was the only one of the three who retired with grace.

Quagmire

June 9th, 2012
7:20 pm

One bummer about Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz is that none of them finished his career with the Braves. Maddux and Glavine won their 300th games with other teams, but at least Smoltzie got his 3,000th strikeout with the Braves. But if would have been wonderful to see all three of them finish their careers in a Braves uniform.

A friend

July 6th, 2012
12:47 am

Smoltz’s kids and wife were there. @Tom, Smoltz is a great man. Making claims with nothing to back you up is just plain ugly. You should know someone before calling them such things. John has done many things in the community and is a kind hearted man. But let’s not give such comments to much attention. John deserved this and I’m sad that I could not make it.

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