Allegany Communications Sports
Leo Mazzone and his place in history are going home for good this weekend, yet home is where his heart will be as the former Bruce High School star will become the first coach to enter the Braves Hall of Fame Saturday in Atlanta.
Mazzone will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame Saturday at Truist Park prior to the Braves’ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with former Braves slugger Joe Adcock and former Braves catcher and manager Joe Torre.
The Atlanta Braves will host their annual Alumni Weekend, July 29-31 and will welcome Braves legends to Truist Park for a weekend full of activities, including the Braves Hall of Fame and an Alumni Softball Home Run Derby.
Mazzone, the Braves’ legendary pitching coach, talked about his big weekend in Atlanta on Tuesday just moments after coming off the golf course.
“It’s definitely going to put the icing on the cake,” he said. “I won’t have much time to talk up there, but there are so many people to thank. It takes you back to Westernport, Keyser, Rawlings and Cumberland. Obviously, something like this, you think about your career, but you really do think all the way back. I learned to play baseball when I was 7 and there are so many people to thank. Then, of course, all the stops along the way, going all the way to Mexico …
“And then you think about all we accomplished in Atlanta. Bobby Cox’s wife called and said she hopes they put my plaque next to his. I’ll be the only coach in the history of the franchise in there because Johnny Sain was put in as a pitcher. Wow. Just wow …”
Mazzone served as pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves from 1990-2005, playing a key role in their winning 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005), five National League pennants (1991-92, 1995-96, ’99), and the 1995 World Series championship. During his tenure in Atlanta, he coached five Cy Young Award winners and 10 different All-Star pitchers.
Mazzone earned the reputation as being one of the best pitching coaches in the modern era, with Baseball Hall of Famers Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux having had their best seasons under Mazzone, who developed and coached some of the best starting pitching rotations in baseball history.
In 2005, ESPN ranked the 1998 and 1993 Braves pitching staffs No. 1 and No. 4 respectively on the list of Top 10 rotations of all time, as the dominant pitching anchored the remarkable Braves run, the likes of which we will not see again.
Between 1991 and 1998, three of Mazzone’s pitchers won a total of six Cy Young Awards, and ESPN.com rated Mazzone No. 1 on the list of “Top 10 Assistant Coaches of All Time.”
Alumni Weekend festivities will lead off with a Braves alumni parade through The Battery Atlanta on Friday. Fans are invited to line up along Battery Avenue to see the legends, who will then be introduced on-field before the game. A special tribute will recognize the 1982 team that set a Major League Baseball record with a 13-0 start in what would be an 89-73 overall record and the Braves’ first N.L. West division title since 1969.
That team was managed by Torre.
On Saturday, alumni will compete in a Softball Home Run Derby, with two teams captained by former Braves Jeff Francoeur and Brian Jordan.
Following the Alumni Softball Home Run Derby, the Braves will host a pregame ceremony to induct Adcock (posthumously), Mazzone and Torre, who will join 35 other former Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves in the club’s Hall of Fame.
During Adcock’s 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, the first baseman and right-handed slugger ranked second among MLB first basemen in homers (239) and, in 1954, became the seventh player in baseball history to hit four home runs in one game.
Torre spent nine seasons with the Braves franchise, from 1960-1968, earning five National League All-Star appearances. Following his playing days, Torre managed the Braves from 1982-1984.
“I’m very pleased by this,” Mazzone said. “Overwhelmed, actually.
“There aren’t that many inductees in the Braves Hall of Fame. There are a couple managers (Torre and Cox) and all of the great players beginning with Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn … I mean … What am I doing here? But, we were pretty good …”
When asked if the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown – the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which many writers and broadcasters have strongly suggested Mazzone should receive consideration for – might be next, Mazzone said, “Why not pitching coaches? There are broadcasters and writers in there, and there should be. And (former Braves and WTBS SuperStation owner) Ted Turner should be in. We definitely were America’s Team, and that’s because of Ted Turner.
“But if this is as far as it goes with me, that’s fine with me. It’s a tremendous honor … All the way back six decades.
“And through every decade and every day, I had love and support from my family and friends.”
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT