Smoltz forges Braves trio reunion in Cooperstown

Tue Jan 6, 2015 6:57pm EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - John Smoltz booked a permanent place for the Atlanta Braves' golden pitching trio with his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday that reunited him with former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

The Hall of Fame trio formed a remarkable partnership during one of Major League Baseball's greatest runs -- 14 successive division titles won by Atlanta from 1991.

"I was given an opportunity to go (to the playoffs) for 14 straight years," Smoltz, who went 15-4 in the postseason with four saves, told reporters on a conference call. "I don't think anyone else will ever be able to do that."

Yet that stretch of unmatched dominance was tempered by a frustrating inability to pile up championships as those Braves teams reached the World Series five times but only won the Fall Classic in 1995.

"We had our opportunities and just didn't get it done," said Smoltz, a first-ballot Hall of Famer whose former manager Bobby Cox was enshrined in Cooperstown last year along with Maddux and Glavine.

"Yeah, there's a little part of you that sits there and goes 'My gosh, we could've won a few more and how didn't we get it done?'

"But when I look back ... it was the greatest run in sports."

Smoltz began his career as a starting pitcher and formed a Big Three in the rotation with Maddux and Glavine before volunteering for the bullpen and becoming a top-notch closer after undergoing elbow surgery and missing the 2000 season.   Continued...

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz addresses the crowd, during a ceremony in which his jersey was retired, before the Braves' MLB Inter-League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia June 8, 2012.   REUTERS/Tami Chappell