For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we are focusing on one of Atlanta’s sports heroes: John Smoltz. As Smoltz was just voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this Tuesday, it was only fitting that we take a look back at his legendary career.
Smoltz Starts as a Brave
John Smoltz began his major league baseball career in 1988 with the Atlanta Braves, and made the All-Star team in 1989. In 1991 he helped the Braves advance to the National League Championship and then the World Series.
In 1992 Smoltz was named the National League Championship Series MVP. This was the same year the Braves signed pitcher hall of famer Greg Maddux.
With Smoltz, Maddux, and Tom Glavine on the team, the Braves were on point. Many have argued that the “Braves Big 3” pitchers were the best pitching lineup in the history of baseball. With Smoltz joining Glavine and Maddux, the argument becomes even stronger.
A Successful Career
In 1996 Smoltz won the National League Cy Young Award. He earned the Silver Slugger award in 1997. The next few years were unfortunately tough on Smoltzie as injuries sidelined him for a bit. In 2000 he missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. Unable to perform as a starter, Smoltz returned as one of the most dominating closing pitchers in MLB.
2005 showed a return to the starting lineup for John Smoltz; his career was definitely not over.
On April 22, 2008, John Smoltz reached a career milestone: 3,000 strikeouts. Braves tickets to this game were sold out. His 3,000th strikeout would come against the Washington Nationals, one of the Atlanta Braves’ rival teams. The 40-year old pitcher struck out second baseman Felipe Lopez in the third inning, effectively making John Smoltz the 16th pitcher to ever reach that mark.
Smoltz was again placed on the disabled list in June of 2008, and required season ending shoulder surgery. With his contract expiring, Smoltz left the Braves and became a free agent after 21 seasons in Atlanta. He would go on to play just one more season of baseball, playing for the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
Always a Brave
While Smoltz did play his last season of baseball for another team, he will always be a Brave! Number 29 was retired in Smoltz’s honor in 2012. Fans will always fondly remember Smoltz as one of the greatest pitchers Atlanta has ever seen.