FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2004, file photo, Atlanta Braves' John Smoltz reacts as Houston Astros' Lance Berkman, background, walks off the field during after the final out of their National League Division Series Game 4, to even the series at 2 games apiec
Eric Gay, File
January 06, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) John Smoltz completed a unique path to baseball's Hall of Fame.

The right-hander, who flourished as a starter and closer for the Atlanta Braves, was elected in his first appearance on the ballot Tuesday. Smoltz joins former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were inducted in the Hall last summer along with their Atlanta manager, Bobby Cox.

Smoltz spent 12 seasons as a starter, winning the 1996 NL Cy Young Award, before 3 1/2 years as the Braves' closer. He returned to the rotation, becoming the only pitcher with 200 or more wins and 150 saves, finishing 213-155 with 154 saves.

It was a potentially difficult career for Hall of Fame voters to judge.

''I would argue there's nobody like me to compare,'' Smoltz said.

He was picked on 455 ballots (82.9 percent). He will be joined at the July 26 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio.

Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine led Atlanta to 14 straight postseason appearances from 1991-2005, but only one World Series title in 1995.

''I was given an opportunity to go 14 straight years,'' Smoltz said. ''I don't think anyone else will have the opportunity to do that. Yeah, there was a little part of me that sits there and goes `My gosh, we could have won a few more' and `Why couldn't we get it done?'

''But when I look back, and I started out with three consecutive 100-loss seasons, it was the greatest run in sports. I know the end result is what we get known for ... winning rings, but at least we got one. No doubt we should have had a few more.''

Maddux is eighth on the career list with 355 wins and Glavine 21st with 305.

''The three of us share such a unique bond that I don't think anyone feels any different than the other person,'' Smoltz said. ''Though I can tell you, I'm not in their class when you talk about the numbers they put up. I'm probably not in anyone's class because of the strangeness of my career and the uniqueness of what I did. It kind of sets me apart a little bit.''

Smoltz attended last year's ceremony and said he resisted the temptation to ask Glavine and Maddux about the process.

''I didn't want to say anything until this day came, and it has come,'' he said.

Smoltz thrived in the postseason, posting a 15-4 record and 2.67 ERA. He missed the 2000 season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, one of five arm operations, and suggested the shift to the bullpen in 2001. He had 11 saves that year before adding 55 in 2002.

''In kind of a cruel way, one year of 55 saves kind of undid 14 pretty good years of starting,'' he said. ''People started saying, `Well, this is what he's always meant to be. This is great. This is going to get him in the Hall of Fame.' I was quite perplexed, to say: How can 14 years disappear in one year?''

Smoltz moved back to the rotation in 2005 for his first of three straight seasons with at least 14 wins. He was 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA in his Cy Young season but said his return to a starting role set the stage for ''probably my most gratifying years.''

During a pair of news conferences, he struggled to grasp his accomplishment.

''I can't even at this point put myself in anyone's category, let alone the Hall of Fame,'' Smoltz said. ''I think it'll hit me when I get there. I'm not comfortable with titles, but I'm relishing this one and I will for the rest of my life.''

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