June 3, 2001: Tom Glavine injures thumb as Braves use big third inning to beat Pirates

This article was written by Madison McEntire

GlavineTomOn May 30, 2001, after closing a six-game homestand with a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Expos, the Atlanta Braves found themselves in an unfamiliar spot. After nine consecutive division titles—the first three in the National League West Division and six more after their move to the NL East—they were just 26-26 and in second place, 7½ games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Braves headed out for a 12-game road trip that began on June 1 in Pittsburgh with a three-game series against the Pirates, who had won just five of their last 22 games. Pittsburgh, playing its first season in PNC Park, was 17-34 and already 14 games back of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division.

Behind seven strong innings from Pittsburgh-area native John Burkett, Atlanta took Friday night’s first game of the series, 5-1, but was now eight games behind the Phillies, who had won 13 of their last 15.1 The second game was postponed by rain, prompting a Sunday afternoon doubleheader on June 3.

Tom Glavine (5-3, 4.30 ERA) drew the start for Atlanta in the opener of the doubleheader. Hampered by a sore shoulder through the first seven weeks of the season,2 the 35-year-old lefty had won his last four starts in April, but in five May starts was 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA.

While the Braves staff featured future Hall of Famers Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux, the Pirates pitching was a disaster. With starters Kris Benson and Francisco Córdova lost for the season and Jason Schmidt sidelined until mid-May,3 Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued starting rotation had a record of 9-26—the lowest win total in the major leagues—and the team ERA was 5.23, the worst in the National League.4

First-year Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon chose 36-year-old right-hander Omar Olivares, who was 2-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 10 starts in what would be the final season of his 12-year major-league career.5

In the first inning, Olivares started strong. After a one-out bunt single by Rafael Furcal, he struck out Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones swinging. In the second inning Olivares added strikeouts of Rico Brogna and Quilvio Veras—but only after Brian Jordan and Dave Martinez had opened the frame with consecutive singles, and an RBI groundout by Javy López had put Atlanta up 1-0.

After Glavine worked around a leadoff single by Kevin Young in the bottom of the second, Atlanta blew the game open. Olivares hit Andrew Jones and allowed a single to Chipper Jones to put runners at the corners with one out.

Jordan lined an RBI single to left-center to score Andruw Jones, and Martinez singled to center to bring home Chipper Jones. Brian Giles’s throwing error put Martinez on second. López, who missed Friday’s game with a bug,6 laced a two-run single to left, making the score 5-0 and chasing Olivares.

McClendon brought in left-hander Terry Mulholland, who had signed as a free agent after pitching for Atlanta in 1999 and 2000. Mulholland, like Burkett a native of Western Pennsylvania, gave up a single to Brogna and an RBI double to Glavine to close the book on Olivares; in just 2⅓ innings, he had four strikeouts but allowed eight hits and six earned runs.

Veras doubled against Mulholland—for Atlanta’s seventh consecutive hit—to score Brogna and Glavine. Furcal grounded to second—his second out of the inning—and Andruw Jones flied to deep center to end the inning with the Braves on top 8-0.

The outburst was Atlanta’s biggest inning since April 18, 1999, when the Braves scored 10 runs in the ninth inning of their 20-5 win at Colorado.7

The Pirates plated a run in the bottom of the fourth. Young led off with a double. Pat Meares’ grounder back up the middle missed Glavine’s glove8 and ricocheted off his pitching hand, bending his thumb back;9 Pittsburgh had runners on first and third after the single. Keith Osik pinch-hit for Mulholland and lofted a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Young.

Atlanta got the run back in its next at-bat against Pirates reliever Bronson Arroyo when Brogna doubled with one out and scored on Veras’s two-out grounder up the middle.

Despite the thumb injury, Glavine pitched a scoreless fifth while allowing singles to Abraham Nuñez and John Vander Wal.

Andruw Jones homered against Arroyo to lead off the sixth inning and put Atlanta up 10-1.

After allowing just four hits and one walk in five innings before the injury, Glavine could not make it through the sixth. Meares lined a single to center on the first pitch of the inning; one out later, Emil Brown singled him to third. A walk to Jason Kendall loaded the bases.

Nuñez grounded out to Glavine for the second out, with Meares scoring on the play. Giles ripped a double down the line in left to plate Brown and Kendall.

Braves manager Bobby Cox replaced Glavine, who exited having allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and three walks. Reliever Jason Marquis retired Aramis Ramírez to end the inning with Atlanta up 10-4.

“It was hard for me to hold on to the ball because I didn’t have a whole lot of strength in it,” Glavine said later. “Your thumb obviously plays a big part in guiding where the ball is going to go.”10

“I went out there and pitched the fifth and did it primarily with fastballs because it didn’t hurt as much,” he admitted. “My changeup, I had a hard time holding on to it, and honestly, I should have come out after the fifth. But I thought, well, doubleheader, the fifth went OK, try to get one more inning in and set things up a little better for the second game.”11

X-rays of Glavine’s thumb were negative, and he avoided going on the disabled list—something he had never done in his 15-year career.12

Despite the upcoming second game of the doubleheader, by the seventh inning thousands of the crowd of 36,924 had headed for the exits and were crossing the Clemente Bridge beyond the center-field stands.13

“The fans are mad,” said Vander Wal. “Everyone is mad. We’re mad. I don’t blame them for leaving. Why should they stay with the way we played?”14

“I don’t blame the fans one bit for being ticked,” Vander Wal continued. “We want to win too. We’re going to do everything possible to turn it around. We are going to put out the effort.”15

The fans who stayed saw catcher López match his career high of four RBIs in a game16 when he singled with two outs in the eighth against rookie Joe Beimel; Chipper Jones, who had walked and taken second on Jordan’s single to center, scored to make the score 11-4. Lopez’s second hit of the game was the 18th and final hit of the game for the Braves—their highest output of the season.

Pittsburgh made it closer with three unearned runs in the eighth against Marquis. Kendall singled with one out and went to second on a walk to Giles. Ramírez grounded to Chipper Jones, whose throwing error allowed Kendall to score and advanced Giles to third and Ramírez to second.

Vander Wal ripped a line drive down the left-field line that Martinez lost in the sun. Two runs scored on what was originally ruled an error but was changed to a double after the game.17

The Pirates would get no closer as Mike Remlinger set them down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

The Braves won the second game of the day behind a strong outing from John Smoltz to give them their first three-game winning streak of the season. The streak reached six games and cut Philadelphia’s lead to four games on June 7.

On June 27 Atlanta caught the Phillies and pulled ahead by a half-game. The two teams battled all the way to the end of the season.

Glavine finished 16-7 with a 3.57 ERA and was instrumental in helping the Braves hold off the Phillies down the stretch. He was 5-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his final seven starts.

On October 3, with Atlanta clinging to a one-game lead, Glavine allowed two earned runs in six innings as the Braves beat the Phillies, 8-3, and took a two-game lead. With just four games left, Philadelphia would get no closer.

The Braves finished 88-74, two games ahead of the Phillies. During their run of 14 consecutive division titles18 from 1991 to 2005, this was the only season in which Atlanta failed to win at least 90 games.

Atlanta swept the Houston Astros in the Division Series but was eliminated in the League Championship Series by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who would beat the New York Yankees in a memorable seven-game World Series.

Pittsburgh finished 62-100 for the year. It was the ninth straight losing season of a streak that reached 20 consecutive seasons before they finished 94-68 in 2013.


Author’s Note 

The author was in town for a conference starting the following day. He attended this game and the second game of the doubleheader. The previous night during the rainstorm before the Braves-Pirates game, he sat in the dry and watched the replay of Pittsburgh’s Game Seven win over the Baltimore Orioles in the 1971 World Series on the PNC Park scoreboard. Shortly after the conclusion of the broadcast, the scheduled game was officially canceled, setting up the June 3 doubleheader.

June 3, 2001 game ticket (Madison McEntire)



 This article was fact-checked by Mike Huber and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the references cited in the Notes, the author consulted data from Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet:





1 It was the furthest from first place the Braves had been since August 13, 1993, when they trailed the San Francisco Giants by 8½ games in the NL West race; Atlanta’s deficit had been 10 games on July 22. From July 23 onward, the Braves won 49 of their final 65 games and clinched the division title on the final day of the season.

2 Thomas Stinson, “Bruised Thumb Hampers Glavine,” Atlanta Constitution, June 4, 2001: D5.

3 Robert Dvorchak, “Season in the Gutter,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2001: D3.

4 Robert Dvorchak, “Breaking Point,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 4, 2001: B1.

5 Olivares had been acquired from the Oakland A’s on March 28, 2001, for future considerations. The Pirates were his eighth major-league team.

6 Bill Zack, “Three at Last: Braves Sweep Twinbill to Extend Win Streak,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph: 5C.

7 Stinson.

8 “Braves Notebook,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph: 5C.

9 Stinson.

10 Stinson.

11 Stinson.

12 Glavine would not appear on the disabled list until April 18, 2008, in his 22nd and final season. David O’Brien, “Glavine’s DL Luck Runs out; ‘I Hate It,’” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 19, 2008: D8  

13 Dvorchak.

14 Associated Press, “Braves, Smoltz in Sweep of Bucs,” Latrobe (Pennsylvania) Bulletin, June 4, 2001: 6.

15 Dvorchak.

16 “Pirates Notebook,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 4, 2001: B3.

17 Stinson.

18 Atlanta was 68-46 and six games behind the Montreal Expos in the NL East on August 11, 1994, when the season was halted by the players strike which eventually resulted in the cancellation of the remainder of the season as well as the World Series. Since championships were not awarded in 1994, Atlanta is credited with 14 consecutive division titles.

Additional Stats

Atlanta Braves 11
Pittsburgh Pirates 7
Game 1, DH

PNC Park
Pittsburgh, PA


Box Score + PBP:

Corrections? Additions?

If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.


2000s ·