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TOP NEWS
ATLANTA BRAVES RETIRE JOHN SMOLTZ’S NUMBER
Wed, 18 Apr 2012 05:32 PM EDT

The team announced that No. 29 will be removed and Smoltz will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame at Turner Field. The honors will occur during ceremonies on June 8, before the Braves begin a weekend series vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. Football scores

“I always wished to be clutch,” related Smoltz, who won numerous major games over his 20-plus years with the Braves.

He is the sole pitcher with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz spent nearly his complete career with the Braves before a bitter breakup led to him dividing his last season between Boston and St. Louis in 2009. But he’s made amends with the Atlanta organization, claims the city will be his lifetime home. Baseball scores

The right-hander will be the 9th Braves player to have his number withdrawn by the team, joining 2 other pitchers who helped Atlanta win a history 14 straight division titles in the 1990s and 2000s — Greg Maddux (31) and Tom Glavine (47).

“We had such an incredible run and relationship,” Smoltz said. “Those fellows I played with are surefire Hall of Famers. They knew how to win baseball games. I learned a complete heck of a lot from them and just had a superb time playing with them. I can’t think of what life would have been like without those two.”

At the start, Smoltz had to triumph over some major setbacks.

The Michigan native was drafted by his top team, the Detroit Tigers, just to be traded to the Braves in 1987 while he was still a minor leaguer. The offer, which sent veteran Doyle Alexander to Detroit, helped the Tigers seal an American League East title.

Then, in 1991, he had a bitter contract dispute with the Braves, actually walking out of spring training for a day or two, and got off to a 2-11 start that threatened his place in the rotation. But Smoltz bounced back going 12-2 the remainder of the way, along with a complete game that got the National League West championship and capped an unlikely worst-to-first season for the Braves.

The ‘91 season marked the beginning of Atlanta’s unparalleled run of division titles, which was highlighted by a lone World Series title in 1995. While the Braves became known for their playoff flops, Smoltz went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 4 saves in 41 postseason games.

His greatest season was 1996, when he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and won the National League Cy Young Award. But he is remembered more for his conversion from starter to closer in 2001, a progress that was designed to alleviate the stress on his elbow coming off big surgery. He wound up becoming one of the top relievers in the game, with a franchise-record 55 saves in his 1st full season handling the role.

Smoltz finished a vocation record of 213-155, 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA, numbers that might be sufficiently good to land him a bigger honor — induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.


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