One of the greatest Atlanta Braves of all time was forever immortalized on Friday night. John Smoltz was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame and had his number retired in a ceremony prior to the Braves' series opener with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Smoltz was not only one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, but he is also regarded as one of the best "big game" pitchers of all time. He is the only pitcher in history to record 200 wins and 150 saves, and he holds the National League record for postseason victories.
"Words can't describe what I'm feeling to be part of something you never dream of as a kid," Smoltz said during the pre-game ceremony. "I always dreamed to play Major League Baseball, but not to be in this elite company."
Only nine men in franchise history have had the honor of having their numbers retired. Smoltz joins the likes of Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Bobby Cox who have previously had their numbers retired.
"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."
Smoltz ended his career with 213 wins, 154 saves, and 3084 strikeouts to go along with a 3.33 earned run average. His numbers alone will likely make him a future first ballot Hall-of-Famer, but it is the way he pitched with such heart and tenacity that endeared him to fans and teammates.
"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.
The Braves presented Smoltz with a painting and a framed jersey in the pre-game ceremony. In addition to Smoltz, Cox, Pete Van Wieren, and Matt Diaz spoke at the ceremony.
Smoltz holds the distinction of being the only player who donned a Braves uniform for all 14 of their division titles from 1991 to 2005. He was a true Brave, as he was always able to combine professionalism with a competitive fire that allowed him to go 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in the playoffs.
"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," Cox said.
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