John Smoltz: More Than Just a Brave

John Smoltz is one of only two major league baseball players ever to have a season with 20 wins and a season with 50 saves (The other was Hall of Fame player Dennis Eckersley.) He is also only won of two players ever to have 150 wins for a career and 150 saves (The other was Eckersley.). His success might not be surprising, because his four-seam fastball has been clocked as high as 98 MPH, and his slider is considered one of the best in the major leagues. He uses a 90 MPH split-finger fastball as a strikeout pitch. He sometimes also uses a curveball and a change-up, and in 1999, he began to use a knuckleball and a three-quarters delivery, although he rarely does either in a game today.

John Smoltz was an All-State baseball player at Waverly High School in Lansing, Michigan before he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Detroit Tigers in the 1985 amateur draft. He might well have been drafted higher, but some were concerned he would attend Michigan State University and play basketball.

Smoltz played in the Detroit farm system for awhile. On August 12, 1987, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. He was traded for proven pitcher Doyle Alexander, as Detroit and the New York Yankees were chasing the Toronto Blue Jays for the division lead. Alexander went 9-0 down the stretch with a 1.53 ERA average. Detroit did win the division, although the team lost in the playoffs to the Minnesota Twins, and has not had much success after that season until this season. The team has had the best record in the major leagues so far in the 2006 season. On the other hand, Smoltz will likely be in the Hall of Fame, as he played on a team that won its division 14 times and won one World Series championship.

John Smoltz showed his promise in 1989, as he had a record of 12-11, with a 2.94 ERA, in 208 innings.

In 1991 he pitched in the playoffs for the first time and pitched a complete game shutout to send the Braves to the team’s first World Series. In the seventh game of the World Series, he pitched against Jack Morris, a former Detroit Tiger, who was pitching for the Minnesota Twins. Smoltz pitched seven innings, before being taken out with no runs allowed. Morris pitched 10 innings, without giving up a run, in helping the Twins win the World Series.

In 1992 John Smoltz was the MVP of the National League Championship series, as he won two games, and kept the Braves in game seven, which the team eventually won.

During his postseason career, Smoltz has a 12-4 record, with a 2.72 record as a starter, and a 14-4 record overall. He has more postseason wins than any other player ever. Ironically, the year the Braves did win the team’s one World Series, in 1995, John Smoltz had his worst postseason ever and was not much help.

In 1993 the Atlanta Braves signed control pitcher Greg Maddux, and that team had three starters who may one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame: Maddux, Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. From 1991 to 1998 Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux won seven National League Cy Young Awards.

In John Smoltz’s best season, in 1996, he was 24-8, with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts. He also won the National League Cy Young Award.

After several seasons of fatigue and fewer innings pitched and a surgery, John Smoltz became a relief pitcher for the Braves in 2001. In 2002 he broke the National League saves record and had 55 saves. (Eric Gagne equaled the new record the next season.) In 2003 Smoltz had injures and had 45 saves, with an impressive 1.12 ERA.

While he recovered, John Smoltz dedicated himself to the development of a parochial school in Atlanta. Smoltz has three children himself.

In 2005 Smoltz again became a starter. He was 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA. Smoltz did pitch the only game the Braves would win in the playoffs, 7-1, against the Houston Astros, who eventually played in and lost the World Series.

Career totals for John Smoltz include a 188-134 record, including an 11-6 record so far in 2006, a 3.27 ERA, 154 saves, 2736 strikeouts, and 922 walks.

John Smoltz is an outspoken Christian and is not ashamed of his faith. On “Faith Day,” July 27, 2006, at Atlanta’s Turner Field, Smoltz was scheduled to share publicly after the game that day how his personal Christian faith had affected his life. Half the Atlanta team professes a Christian faith, so Smoltz may fit in well with the Braves. Fans had to buy separate tickets for the event and to leave the stadium and then reenter.

John Smoltz said in an interview published in the website, www.atlantachristianweb.com, that he cannot possibly live as well as people expect him to as a Christian, without help from God.

“Knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine growing up in this world without having faith in Jesus Christ,” Smoltz said. “The pressures in this world are just incredible.”

Smoltz said that Christ has given him the greatest peace of mind anyone can know.

John Smoltz has also been involved in serving people in various ways, including conducting baseball camps every year.

In 2005 Smoltz received the Roberto Clemente Award (Named after the player who died in 1972 in a plane crash, while traveling to assist earthquake victims in Nicaragua.),
which is presented to the player who “combines outstanding play on the field with devoted work in the community.”

Smoltz and his wife started a foundation in 1997 to support their numerous philanthropic efforts. His two annual “Strike Out Hunger” food drives have brought in more than 70,000 pounds of food and $300,000 since 1997. Smoltz personally donates $100 for every strikeout he records. He was also one of four Atlanta Braves players who donated $75,000 apiece to the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at the Villages of Carver YMCA.

John Smoltz has been a winner as a pitcher and has played on a winning World Series team. Some might also say the way he lives his life has made him a winner at the game of life too.

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