Glavine: Losing front teeth 'heartbreaking'

NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine got into the taxi, called his wife
on his cell phone as the cab pulled away from LaGuardia Airport and
then he heard the driver shout.

He slammed face-first into the partition between the front and
back seats as the taxi collided with an SUV, and the next thing he
knew, he had one tooth in his hand and blood was streaming from his

"I was pretty sure I wasn't going to pitch on Wednesday, but at
least I knew, I felt good enough that nothing else was out of
whack, and it wasn't going to be a career- or a life-threatening
thing," he said.

Two days after the accident, Glavine talked about the crash
Thursday following New York's 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. He
estimated he wouldn't return to the mound for the Mets until Aug.
21 at San Francisco.

Glavine said his right shoulder, collarbone and ribcage were a
little sore along with both knees. His cut lips were swollen, and
some of the 40-45 stitches he took were visible on his chin.

The 38-year-old left-hander, a high-school hockey all-star who
was a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1984 NHL
draft, had survived that violent sport with his teeth intact. He
called losing them this way "heartbreaking."

"I think that was the most devastating part of it for me," he

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and MVP of Atlanta's 1995
World Series win had spent Monday's off day at home in Alpharetta,
Ga., and flew to New York on Tuesday to rejoin the Mets, one day
ahead of his scheduled start against the Astros.

He got into the back seat of the taxi, on the passenger side,
like so many people at LaGuardia do every day, and the cab drove
onto an overpass of the Grand Central Parkway.

"I got my phone out to call my wife, tell her I landed and I
was on my way to the ballpark, was kind of mentally starting to go
through the process of putting on my seat belt," Glavine recalled.

"I heard the cab driver say something. I don't know what he said,
but I knew by the tone of his voice it wasn't good. And when I
looked up, I saw the truck cutting in front of us, and I felt him
hitting the brakes, and I kind of felt myself starting to go. I
tried to put up my hands as quick as a could, but didn't get them
up quick enough.

"I guess it's a hard lesson to learn. I know probably every one
of us are guilty at some point of time of getting in a cab in
particular and not putting on a seat belt, but I will say I'm
always diligent about it when I'm driving my own car, or in my own
car, but probably neglectful like everybody else when I get in a

The driver of the taxi, George Kovalonoks, 54, of Brooklyn, and
the other vehicle, John Struble, 40, of West Milford, N.J., were
both uninjured, police said.

Glavine's wife called him back immediately after the crash, and
he called the Mets to tell them what happened. He was taken by
ambulance to NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. He hopes to be fitted
for temporary front teeth Friday and have the stitches removed
Monday or Tuesday. It will be at least eight months before his
mouth heals enough for him to get permanent replacement teeth.

"I actually kept the one that had fallen in my hand," he said.
"The other one was halfway back in my mouth, I left it in there
until I got to the hospital. They looked at it, tried to assess
whether or not I could keep them. All the bone and whatnot I guess
up there was battered and broken, so that's why they didn't keep
the teeth."

Glavine, 8-10 with a 2.92 ERA this season and 259-167 in his
career, has never been on the disabled list in his major league
career, which began in 1987.

"In hindsight, things could have been a lot worse," he said.
"In talking to the doctors, they were pretty surprised I didn't
break my nose or break my jaw."

He can't talk the way he wants to and he's not feeling
photogenic right now, but his teammates keep trying to get him to
flash what's left of his teeth.

"Obviously, it's not the prettiest of sights when you smile,"
he said. "A couple of these guys in here have been getting me to
laugh the last couple of days. The more I do it, the more I realize
it hurts when I do."