John Smoltz

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John Andrew Smoltz

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2015

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher John Smoltz was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft. He was signed by scouts Bill Schudlich and Ken Madeja on September 22, 1985 and made his pro debut the next summer.

In 1987, Smoltz was traded by the Tigers to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. This trade set the short-term course for the Tigers and the long-term course for the Braves. Alexander went 9-0 for the Tigers over the remainder of the 1987 season to lead them to the ALCS. The young Smoltz did not make his first major league appearance until the middle of the 1988 season, but became a dominant pitcher starting in 1989, racking up an impressive 15-4 record in postseason games, among other feats.

He pitched opposite forkballer Jack Morris in what was considered by some to be the greatest World Series pitching duel of the modern era. In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, the two pitchers shut out their opponent for nine innings. Morris pitched a scoreless 10th inning as well and when a Gene Larkin pinch hit off reliever Alejandro Pena drove in Dan Gladden, the Twins won the game and the Series.

For a few seasons, Smoltz became the new Dennis Eckersley, as a formerly dominant starting pitcher who became an ace closer. This move was the result of an arm injury in late 1999 that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in early 2000 and resulted in his missing all of that season. When he returned in 2001, the Braves moved him to the closer role to lessen the strain on his arm. He was very successful as a closer but after four seasons in the bullpen, he returned to the starting rotation in 2005 and seemingly picked up where he had left off, compiling seasons of 14, 16 and 14 wins from 2005 to 2007. He had been the 1996 National League Cy Young Award winner as a starter, and then the 2002 Rolaids Relief Award winner as a fireman. Lifetime, he compiled over 200 victories and 150 saves, along with more than 3,000 strikeouts. He was the last member of the Big Three to pitch for the Braves.

In 2007, Smoltz was the recipient of the Branch Rickey Award, which is given to the major league personality who best demonstrates exemplary community service.

Smoltz became the Braves' all-time leader in strikeouts on August 19, 2007. He began the day needing 5 strikeouts to pass Phil Niekro's mark of 2,912. He whiffed Mark Reynolds in the 1st inning, Justin Upton and Yusmeiro Petit in the 2nd, Conor Jackson in the 3rd and then Reynolds in the 3rd to set the record. On the day, he set 12 down on strikes as part of a 6-2 victory.

On April 22, 2008, Smoltz whiffed Felipe Lopez for his 3,000th career strikeout. He was the 16th pitcher to reach that milestone. Only Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens reached the figure in fewer innings.

Smoltz signed with the Boston Red Sox for 2009. After getting back to strength in the season's first months, he was activated on June 25th but struggled in his brief time with the team and was released in early August after going 2-5, 8.33 in 8 starts. He was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals and finished the season with the Redbirds, going 1-3, 4.26 in 7 starts. He made his last pitching appearance in the NLDS, giving up a run in two innings of relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Finding no takers for his services after the season, he opted to retire.

After retirement, Smoltz decided to take up his other passion - golf - in a serious way. He failed to qualify for a couple of PGA events in Georgia in 2010, but received an invitation to enter the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta, GA from April 28-May 1, 2011. He found out that professional golf is harder than it looks, however: he opened with an 84 on the first day, then shot 15 over par in the tournament's second round and failed to make the cut by a whopping 27 strokes, 9 worse than any other golfer left in the event. In 2018, he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, played at The Broadmoor hotel and country club in Colorado Springs, CO. However, things did not go the way he would have liked, as his first round was marred by six bogeys and a triple bogey. In 2019, he joined the PGA Champions Tour and after managing to play just one over par in his first tour event, the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, AZ, he commented that "It's much easier closing baseball games than it's been closing out the golf tournament." That was in reference to a couple of holes he double-bogeyed after playing generally pretty well most days.

In 2012, the Braves retired Smoltz's uniform number 29 at a ceremony before their game of June 8th. In 2014, Smoltz joined the FOX Network as an analyst paired with announcer Matt Vasgersian on Major League Baseball telecasts. In 2016, he was promoted to the main baseball announcing team, partnering play-by-play man Joe Buck as FOX returned to a two-man crew after two years of going with three announcers (Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci had worked alongside Buck during that period).

On January 6, 2015, he was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try, receiving 82.9% of the vote. The election came one year after his long-time Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine had both also been elected on their first try. He was part of one of the largest classes to be elected by the BBWAA, as two other contemporary dominant pitchers, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, made it on their first try too, with 2B Craig Biggio also joining the group. He was incidentally the first pitcher to make the Hall to have undergone Tommy John surgery. In 2021, it was noted that a future, current or past teammate of Smoltz had played in every World Series since 1982, when Ted Simmons played for the Milwaukee Brewers; Charlie Morton had continued the streak over the last three Series.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 8-time NL All-Star (1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2005 & 2007)
  • 1992 NLCS MVP
  • NL Cy Young Award Winner (1996)
  • NL Reliever of the Year Award Winner (2002)
  • NL Rolaids Relief Award Winner (2002)
  • NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1997)
  • 2-time NL Wins Leader (1996 & 2006)
  • 2-time NL Winning Percentage Leader (1996 & 1998)
  • NL Saves Leader (2002)
  • 2-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1996 & 1997)
  • 2-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1992 & 1996)
  • 15 Win Seasons: 6 (1992, 1993, 1996-1998 & 2006)
  • 20 Win Seasons: 1 (1996)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1989-1993, 1996, 1997 & 2005-2007)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 5 (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 & 2006)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 3 (2002, 2003 & 2004)
  • 40 Saves Seasons: 3 (2002, 2003 & 2004)
  • 50 Saves Seasons: 1 (2002)
  • Won a World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 1995
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2015

NL Cy Young Award
1995 1996 1997
Greg Maddux John Smoltz Pedro Martinez

Further Reading[edit]

  • Dwight Allen: "John Smoltz Plays his Game with Confidence", in A Second Look at Sports: Behind the Scenes Interviews with Top American Athletes, Power Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 2007, pp. 53-62. ISBN 978-0978726805
  • Mark Bowman: "Coming Up Big in The End: Braves' Closer John Smoltz Dominant in his New Role", Baseball Digest, Volume 61, Number 12, December 2002, pp. 56-58.
  • M Ezzell-Nelson: "The 16 Million Dollar Man: John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves", Today's Chiropractic, May-June 1993, pp. 61-65.
  • Paul Johnson: "John Smoltz: The Hard-Throwing Braves Pitcher Has at last Reached his Prime", Sport, Volume 87, Number 11, November 1, 1996, pp. 74-77.
  • Josh Lewin: "John Smoltz", in You Never Forget Your First: Ballplayers Recall Their Big League Debuts, Potomac Books Inc., Washington, DC, 2005, pp. 199-201. ISBN 978-1574889611
  • John McCullough, ed.: "John Smoltz", in My Greatest Day in Baseball, 1946-1997: Baseball's Legends Recount Their Epic Moments, Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1998. ISBN 978-0878339891
  • Matt Monagan: "Every WS since '82 has a Smoltz teammate: It's good to be a teammate of John Smoltz",, October 28, 2021. [1]
  • Kevin Neary, with Leigh A. Tobin: "John Smoltz", in Closer: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game, Running Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2013, pp. 269-273. ISBN 978-0762446797
  • Bob Nightengale: "John Smoltz worries he may be last Tommy John pitcher in Hall of Fame", USA Today Sports, July 8, 2015. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Hall of Famer John Smoltz says MLB needs an overhaul and proposes drastic changes", USA Today, September 20, 2018. [3]
  • Marty Noble: "No wait: Smoltz joins old mates in Hall of Fame: Righty to be roasted by Maddux, Glavine after induction in Cooperstown",, January 6, 2015. [4]
  • Jeff Pearlman: "John Smoltz in the Bullpen: A Spell of Relief in Atlanta", Sports Illustrated, Volume 95, Number 7, August 20, 2001, pp. 62-. [5]
  • A.J. Perez: "Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz says U.S. Senior Open 'coolest thing I've done'", USA Today Sports, June 27, 2018. [6]
  • Ken Rosenthal: "Smoltz Believes he Has Plenty of Innings Left in his Arm", Sporting News, Volume 229, Number 11, March 18, 2005, pp. 62-.
  • John Smoltz: "John Smoltz", in Tim McCarver, ed.: Tim McCarver's Diamond Gems, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2008, pp. 207-211. ISBN 978-0071545945
  • John Smoltz and Don Yaeger: Starting and Closing: Perseverance, Faith, and One More Year, William Morrow, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-0062120540
  • "John Smoltz: An Easy Choice as '96 Pitcher of the Year", Baseball Digest, Volume 56, Number 1, January 1997, pp. 34-.
  • Joe Strauss: "Revival of John Smoltz: He's Got Winning on his Mind: 7-2 Record since the All-Star Break", The Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 24, 1991, pp. D1.
  • Tom Verducci: "Eye Opener: Atlanta's John Smoltz Is Off to a Blazing Start and Has his Sights Set on a Cy Young Award", Sports Illustrated, Volume 84, Number 23, June 10, 1996. [7]
  • Tom Verducci: "With Atlanta's Mr. October Back on the Mound, Who Needs Free Agents?", Sports Illustrated, Volume 94, Number 13, March 26, 2001. [8]
  • Paul White: "Hall of Fame case: John Smoltz should squeak on in", USA Today, December 30, 2014. [9]
  • Larry Whiteside: "Braves' John Smoltz Makes a Pitch for Cy Young Award", Baseball Digest, Volume 55, Issue 10, October 1996, pp. 22-.
  • Dan Zachofsky: "John Smoltz: Braves Top Gun Turned Closer", in October Baseball: Ballplayers Discuss Postseason Play, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC, 2005, pp. 132-140. ISBN 978-0786421817

Related Sites[edit]