Three decades later, Hall of Famer John Smoltz revisits numb feeling of trade to Braves

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Saturday marks anniversary of Waverly graduate being traded from Detroit to Atlanta.

John Smoltz always had the dream of making it to the majors with the Detroit Tigers.

And the Lansing Waverly graduate, who was drafted by the Tigers in 1985, was in the process of trying to turn that dream into a reality when a curve was thrown his way.

Saturday marks the 30-year anniversary of the 1987 trade that changed Smoltz’s path. The Tigers traded the then 20-year old Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves to acquire veteran pitcher Doyle Alexander to aid their playoff chase.

Smoltz remembered the numb feeling he felt that day while revisiting the trade during a recent appearance on the Mad Dog Show on WVFN 730-AM in Lansing.

“I was having not so good a year,” said Smoltz, who was pitching for the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Glens Falls, New York, at the time. “We were 30 games out of first place, I was struggling and we didn’t have a pitching coach. I was trying to figure it out and I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Lo and behold, I got these two notes that were slipped to me in the dugout. The first note said call home immediately. The second note was call the Detroit front office.”

Smoltz first learned he was traded when he called home and was told by his father, who saw the news on TV, that he was headed to the Braves. He received the confirmation after getting in contact with the Tigers.

And for the next several hours, Smoltz remembers not have too much to say.

““I was just numb and I was in shock at that point,” Smoltz said. “I didn’t think I was wanted by the Tigers because I was having such a bad, bad year. I viewed the trade as a negative instead of what an incredible positive it was for me and getting an opportunity to pitch for a team that needed pitching very soon. That’s what happened.”

Things turned out well for Smoltz, who first reached the majors the following season and went on to put together a standout career with the Braves that led to him being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame two years ago. He was part of a strong trio of starting pitchers that made Atlanta a perennial World Series contender in the 1990s.

Alexander ended up helping the Tigers in their playoff push in 1987, but was out of baseball two years later. Detroit struggled most of the next decade while Smoltz was starring for the Braves.

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.
 

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Article Three decades later, Hall of Famer John Smoltz revisits numb feeling of trade to Braves compiled by www.freep.com