Tim Hudson got the call from A’s general manager Billy Beane. He was being traded.
“But I think you’ll like where we’re sending you,” Hudson recalled Beane telling him in December 2004.
Rather than express disappointment, Hudson felt compelled to contain his excitement. He was heading home to pitch for the Braves. The Phenix City, Alabama, native and Auburn product would go on to spend nine years in Atlanta (2005-13) and become a fan favorite.
On Saturday night, the Braves put Hudson into their team Hall of Fame. During a dinner at the Roxy, former teammates John Smoltz and Brian McCann, as well as manager Bobby Cox, shared their favorite Hudson stories.
In Hudson’s speech, he called Cox “the best manager to ever put on a baseball uniform.”
Former Braves catcher David Ross first played with Hudson in 1997 on an Auburn team that made it to the College World Series. He gave an emotional speech about their friendship.
Hudson was also greeted by several Braves icons, including Andruw Jones, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Much of today’s roster was also in attendance, including first baseman Freddie Freeman, Hudson’s teammate from 2010-13.
“Gosh, so many great players have put on a Braves uniform over the years,” Hudson said. “You look at the list with all the Hall of Famers for this organization and it’s a who’s who of Major League Baseball. It’s sometimes like, man, it’s really awesome. You’ve got to pinch yourself once and a while.
“I was back there in the green room and Glav and Smoltz came in, Andruw and Dale; Dale’s a guy that I watched as a kid growing up and through high school. So it’s just legends in the game, legends for this organization and this city. To be considered one of them is truly an honor.”
Hudson was inducted alongside longtime Braves announcer Joe Simpson.
“Tim Hudson has always been one of my favorites because he embodies, and there are not that many guys, he embodies that rare player who can have fun, be a jokester and play pranks on his teammates, laugh and be popular in the clubhouse,” Simpson said. “But when it was his turn to pitch, his day on the mound, there was nobody who was a tougher competitor. He knew how to get that going and get it right every time. I admired that about him.”
The competitor in Hudson would be rewarded. He returned to the Bay Area for two seasons with the Giants to end his career and in 2014 won a World Series ring.
Hudson finished his career with a 222-133 record, 3.49 ERA, 2,080 strikeouts and four All-Star appearances. He pitched 17 years for the A’s, Braves and Giants.
But the nine in the south will always mean the most.
“I felt like my nine years here were nine of the best years of my career, both on the field and personally,” he said. “My family grew up here in Atlanta. My kids grew up here in Atlanta. Some memories that I’ll always cherish.”
In the end, Hudson was proved right to be so ecstatic during Beane’s phone call. It put him where he belonged.
“Just for the fact this organization thinks enough of me to come in and to put me along the likes of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones,” Hudson said. “It’s just very surreal. At the same time, I’m very grateful just for one, to come here and for the opportunity to put this uniform on. But to be able to do it for nine years, the prime years of my career, was something that was very special.
“To look back and see that they thought enough of my time here to put me in their Hall of Fame is really special.”