Mets' Glavine Reaches Milestone After A Week Of Anxious Moments

By Ben Shpigel, NY Times
Original article HERE.

CHICAGO, -- The likeness on Tom Glavine’s Hall of Fame plaque will reflect how history perceives him. He will wear the cap of the Braves, for Atlanta is where he won his two Cy Young awards, compiled his five 20-victory seasons, captured his World Series title.

His greatest glories might have come with the Mets’ biggest rival, but his personal crowning moment came Sunday night for the team he once tormented.

Glavine won his 300th game on his second try, departing in the seventh inning of the Mets’ 8-3 victory against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night. He became the first pitcher to record one of baseball’s hallowed achievements wearing a Mets uniform and the 23rd over all. The bullpen recorded the final eight outs, saving him from a restless night’s sleep.

“The feeling right now is probably relief,” Glavine said. “Leading up to this, there are a lot of emotions going into it, but now that it’s over, there’s a sense of relief.”

On a sultry night, Glavine shut out the Cubs until Aramis Ramírez doubled home a run with two outs in the sixth. He pitched six and a third innings, allowing two runs, six hits and one walk. Five relievers combined to finish off Glavine’s milestone victory, with Billy Wagner ending it by retiring Mike Fontenot on a grounder.

As Glavine joined his teammates in piling onto the field, they embraced him with one hug after another. Wagner gave his friend the game ball. The Wrigley Field scoreboard flashed “Tom Glavine: 300 Game Winner.” The crowd teeming behind the dugout chanted his name.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Wagner said. “Seeing how happy and overjoyed he was was enough.”

Paul Lo Duca, who spent 30 minutes before the game convincing Willie Randolph to play him after a six-game absence, ran over to congratulate Glavine’s family and parents. Glavine’s wife, Chris, welled up with tears.

“He worked so hard, and he’s such a good guy,” Chris said. “I always feel like I’m being his cheerleader, but he deserves it.”

With Barry Bonds’s home run chase dominating the sporting landscape and Alex Rodriguez’s pursuit of 500 home runs monopolizing the New York sports scene, Glavine’s quest at joining one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities has attracted relatively modest attention. Part of that is because Glavine, unlike the others, does not play every day, creating a greater lag time between moments of excitement. But it does not make his accomplishment any less remarkable.

In becoming the fifth left-hander to record 300 career victories, an accomplishment deemed the definitive indicator of sustained pitching excellence, Glavine joined the club nearly three years since it admitted its last member (Aug. 7, 2004), his former Braves teammate Greg Maddux. It may not reach two dozen for a while. The next closest pitcher, 43-year-old Randy Johnson, has 284 victories but faces an uncertain future because of chronic back problems. By contrast, Glavine, 41, has not spent a day of his 21 major league seasons on the disabled list.

In its storied 93-year history, the venerable Wrigley Field has played host to several of baseball’s most memorable moments, but Glavine gave it its first 300-game winner. For someone who grew up attending games at Fenway Park, another of baseball’s august ballparks, he said there was a special feeling to do it here. He received congratulatory phone calls from Commissioner Bud Selig and the Mets’ principal owner, Fred Wilpon, and thanked his teammates, some wearing blue T-shirts reading “Glavine 300,” with a Champagne toast.

During the game, a few Cubs fans held up signs reading “It’s Gonna Happen,” the adopted slogan for the home team’s inspired push toward the postseason, but it soon became clear that the motto was referring to Glavine’s milestone. He knocked in the game’s first run with a two-out single. Alfonso Soriano, the dynamic left fielder, was thrown out at third after pulling up with a strained right quadriceps and may be out for a month. Carlos Delgado, not known for his agility, made a leaping grab of Fontenot’s liner in the sixth.

For Mets fans, there is likely a certain complexity to Glavine’s accomplishing the feat wearing orange and blue. For all those years, he played for the enemy, the team that stomped all over the Mets on its annual march to the division title. But he has handled his four and a half seasons as a Met with aplomb, overcoming early struggles against his former team and mediocre results before reinventing himself.

On Wednesday afternoon, the day after the bullpen blew Glavine’s first chance at No. 300 with five outs to go in Milwaukee, he acknowledged his fleeting disappointment, but in his next breath he talked about how pleased he was that his parents, Fred and Millie, could finally watch a game at Wrigley.

Glavine said he woke up Sunday morning feeling nervous. Two of his sons are sick, so he did not sleep well. And he sheepishly mentioned how having everyone follow him around from city to city had placed a little pressure on him.

“If I didn’t do it tonight, I’d have one more start before the kids went back to school,” he said, “and that opened a whole new can of worms.”

As her husband prepared to leave their hotel room, Chris told him, “God is with you, and you have that on your side.”

Putting on his uniform calmed him immediately, Glavine said, and his 30-member traveling party sitting behind the Mets’ dugout cheered him on with unrestrained enthusiasm. When his single up the middle scored Lastings Milledge to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the second, the folks in the Glavine section stood up and high-fived.

In the fifth inning, as run-scoring doubles by Delgado and Shawn Green sailed into right field and extended the Mets’ lead to 3-0, they rose again. Meanwhile, TV cameras panned into the dugout and caught Glavine sitting on the bench staring straight ahead, his face devoid of emotion.

On a stiflingly hot night, Glavine stayed cool by drinking Pedialyte and covering his head with an ammonia-soaked towel. Mets second baseman Luis Castillo was not able to handle the conditions as well and had to be removed because of heat exhaustion before the bottom of the eighth.

Glavine plowed through the Cubs in the fifth on 12 pitches. He needed 23 to retire them in the sixth, and the crowd showered him with a warm ovation after he struck out Cliff Floyd on a changeup to end the inning. As Glavine walked toward the dugout, dozens of flashbulbs popped within the sellout crowd of 41,599. Sensing history, did fans want to immortalize perhaps the last time they saw him? No, they were snapping photos of Kerry Wood trotting in from the bullpen for his first major league appearance in 14 months.

Glavine would get his due later. He stayed in the dugout until the bitter end, and with two outs, he allowed himself a little smile. The two Cy Young awards, he celebrated by himself. But this — winning his 300th game, on national television, for a first-place team that reveres him — is about as good as it gets.

“Everything happens in life for a reason,” Glavine said. “I’m a firm believer in that.”