Braves give Smoltz team's highest honor
Inducted into club's Hall of Fame, has No. 29 retired in ceremony
ATLANTA -- Dedicated, determined and dominant are just a few of the appropriate adjectives used to describe John Smoltz's historic and memorable career. His loyalty and success fueled the most successful era in the long and storied history of the Braves' franchise.
Appropriately, the Braves have rewarded him by immortalizing him alongside the likes of Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy and Bobby Cox.
Smoltz was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame during a Friday afternoon luncheon at Atlanta's downtown Omni Hotel. His No. 29 jersey was retired during an on-field ceremony before Friday night's game against Blue Jays at Turner Field.
"I did everything I ever wanted to do," Smoltz said. "I accomplished all that I ever wanted to accomplish. I have no regrets. That's the one thing when a day like today comes, it's so humbling because you're reminded of the battles and all that led up to it."
The Braves presented Smoltz with a painting and a framed jersey before unveiling his No. 29 jersey high above the left-field corner. It sits alongside the retired numbers of Cox, Greg Maddux, Murphy, Hank Aaron, Tom Glavine, Phil Niekro, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn.
"Words can't describe what I'm feeling to be part of something you never dream of as a kid," Smoltz said during the ceremony. "I always dreamed to play Major League Baseball, but not to be in this elite company."
Cox, Maddux, Brian McCann and even Smoltz's close friend, comedian Jeff Foxworthy, took time during the luncheon to celebrate Smoltz's accomplishments and contributions.
"John, I just want to tell you it was an honor to be your manager and you gave your all to the game of baseball and also you gave your all to the community and the city of Atlanta," said Cox, who acquired Smoltz from the Tigers while serving as the Braves' general manager in 1987 and then served as the accomplished pitcher's manager in Atlanta from 1990-2008.
Maddux provided some of the humbling jabs with a few "bald" jokes and Foxworthy roasted his close friend during a comical 10-minute delivery.
"I love the competitiveness in him," Foxworthy said. "I always thought John was a great pitcher and then he went into broadcasting. After seeing him in the broadcasting booth, I thought, 'Well, John always was a great pitcher.'"
Since his right shoulder forced him to retire after the 2009 season, Smoltz has spent time serving as an television analyst for MLB Network and TBS. He also took time to write a book "Starting and Closing: Perseverance, Faith and One More Year" that was recently released.
"John Smoltz wrote a book," Foxworthy said. "Let's check the scoreboard. Books Written 1, Books Read 0."
When reminiscing about the 14 consecutive division titles the Braves won under Cox's guidance, it is impossible to ignore the impact made by Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine. They combined for five National League Cy Young Awards during their first six years together, and seven of the first nine awarded during the 1990s.
Smoltz proudly owns the distinction of being the only player who was with the Braves for each of the division titles they won from 1991-2005. Now -- like Maddux, Glavine and Cox -- he'll have the honor of being one of just nine men in franchise history to have his number retired.
Maddux's No. 31 was retired in 2009 and Glavine's 47 the following summer. Cox, who wore No. 6, had his turn last year. Now, Smoltz finds himself in position to savor this honor.
One of the most competitive and talented athletes to don a Braves uniform, Smoltz went 210-147 with a 3.26 ERA during the 20 seasons he pitched with Atlanta. He notched a franchise-record 154 saves during the 3 1/2 seasons he served as a closer after returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2001.
Smoltz stands as the only pitcher in Major League history with 200 wins and 150 saves. He went 15-4 with four saves and a 2.67 ERA in 41 postseason appearances, 27 of them starts.
"When I wore the Atlanta Braves uniform, I wore it as hard and with as much pride as anybody who could ever wear the uniform," Smoltz said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.