Chipper Jones was just voted to the MLB Hall of Fame this week with 97.2 percent of the vote. Atlanta Braves fans had him there a long time ago.
You can almost hear those chants in New York now. L-a-r-ry. L-a-r-r-y. Of course, most of the time, those derisive chants hurled at Chipper Jones were usually met with some sort of hit, and possibly an RBI. That picture is symbolic of what Chipper meant to Atlanta Braves fans. And while all of us are proud he made it, Braves fans didn’t need that acknowledgement to validate his worth to our city.
Everybody has their favorite Brave of all time. For most of us, that means a player from those vaunted 1990s teams. Yes, Aaron and Murph get their due. Andrew Jones gets some love. You might even get a Horner or Hudson thrown in. But because the 90s produced what it did, and featured who it featured, that’s where the “member berries” usually take us.
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Smoltzy, Mad Dog, Tommy, they all have a place in our hearts. You can make an argument for each that he was the best Brave of that era. But Chipper Jones was the Braves. In many ways, he personified what southern baseball is about.
A prodigy from a young age, Jones walked, talked, chewed, and took infield like a ball player from the moment he showed up on the scene. He stalked the field with a casual fierceness that the best position players exhibit. Some took it as arrogance.
Maybe it was. But it wasn’t the kind of arrogance that was off-putting to his teammates, that we could tell, anyway. It’s hard to be seen as a prim-a-donna when your jersey gets dirty for 19 years, with much of that time out there while you’re hurt and still producing.
Number 10 has a ridiculous stat line. I’m not going to go into it here, but dude is the inarguable 2nd best switch-hitter of all time in Major League Baseball, who hit for power and average, and the only Brave who can compare to him for long-term clutch hitting is the great Henry Aaron. Dude won the batting title at 36 years old.
But Chipper meant more than just his production to our beloved Atlanta Braves. For anyone who grew up in the south playing this game, his southern swag, his way of going about playing each game, reminded us of what the best looked like. We all had that kid on our team who had pop and could field and pitch. They had that swagger. They just didn’t have the preternatural 6-4 frame and acumen to do it at that level. But Chipper reminded us of that feeling.
We also grew old with Chipper. As he went from being the young talent that Cox, Smoltz, Glavine, Pendleton, McGriff and Maddux had to marshal and teach, to the club-house leader when those vested veterans, and HOFers, left the team, we matured with Jones. The grey hairs came in. He couldn’t run as fast. He was hurt more. But he never quit. If the team needed him, he was out there, if he physically could be. And when he was out there, he helped them. He was never a liability. Old, broken, hobbled, bruised, it didn’t matter. He was that good.
There are thousands upon thousands of words that Atlanta Braves fans could write about Chipper Jones. Some may attempt it. But I will leave it here: Chipper Jones is one of the greatest Major League Baseball players of all time. He is one of the greatest Atlanta Braves of all time. And I still miss watching him play his game.
Congrats, Chipper. And, thank you.