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Column: This weekend belongs to the great Chipper Jones

The views of the author are not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.


This is a big weekend in Braves Country.

First off, the Atlanta Braves are matched against their old National League West rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a four-game series at SunTrust Park.

This series, which pits two teams battling for pennants in their respective divisions – the Dodgers lead the West while the Braves who now play in the East trail only Philadelphia in their division – got off to a tough start last night for the Braves who were shelled 8-2 by the Dodgers.

All the Braves can do is put that one behind them and focus on the three remaining games this weekend. If they can come away with a series split, I would deem it a successful series especially if they can gain any ground in the process on the Phillies who are up by 2 1/2 games against the Braves in division standings.

Google – Atlanta Braves’ great Chipper Jones is going into Cooperstown on Sunday.

Regardless of what happens on the field the next three days, though, this weekend will always be known as Chipper Jones Weekend.

If you are even a half-serious Braves fan, you know the iconic former Atlanta third baseman is going into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown.

Jones – and I will call him Chipper several times before all is said and done here – is certainly one of the best Braves of all-time and his numbers are unquestionably Hall of Fame worthy.

For me, and so many others who were playing little-league baseball in the 1980s, Dale Murphy, Bob Horner and Chris Chambliss were our childhood heroes.

For those who grew up playing ball in the 1990s, Chipper was their man.

I have a friend who named his golden retriever Chipper, even though he was well into an all-star men’s softball career by then.

Another guy just a few years back tried to place Jones among the top five players of all-time in baseball in a debate with another friend about the game’s greats on the way back home from a high-school football game late one Friday night.

I chuckled as they went back and forth, with my one buddy saying, “You mean he’s as good as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Ted Williams?”

That, Chipper was not. But clearly, he was great and he did some things swinging a wooden bat that only a few in the history of baseball have done.

You’ll hear it all this weekend most likely, if you pay close enough attention to the lead-up to Sunday’s early-afternoon induction ceremony.

For starters, Jones, who was a rookie in 1995 when the Braves won the World Series and retired after the 2012 season, was an eight-time All-Star, won the NL MVP award in 1999, won the NL Silver Slugger Award for a third baseman back-to-back in 1999 and 2000 and was baseball’s batting champion in 2008 when he hit a whopping .364.

Chipper ended his career with a .303 career batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI.

He has the most career RBI for a third baseman, holds the Braves’ record for career on-base percentage (.402) and ranks third all-time on the team’s home run list.

Here’s what I think is most impressive, though. Among all switch hitters, Chipper ranks second all-time behind Eddie Murray for career RBI and he is the only switch hitter in the history of baseball to finish with a career batting average of at least .300 while also hitting 400 or more homers.

Also, he was just the 18th player to have 5,000 at-bats and finish with at least a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. And, he is the only switch hitter to do all those things.

You think Chipper could handle the bat?

There are so many other cool statistics and quick facts related to Jones that would take too much time to go through here. But, I will mention a few that caught my eye:

* He had the last official at-bat at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and then had the first hit in Turner Field history.

* In 1999, when he won MVP, he was the first-ever player to hit over .300 – he hit .319 -0 while hitting 40 or more homers – he hit 45 – and doubles – he had 41 – drawing 100 or more walks – he drew 126 – and recording 100 or more RBI – he finished with 110 – runs scored – he scored 116 – and stealing 20 or more bases – he swiped 25. Ironically, he was noted selected to the NL All-Star team that season.

* He had a broken-bat single for an infield base hit in the final at-bat of his career.

* His .364 average for the 2008 season was just one point shy of the all-time best mark by a switch hitter, that set by the great Mickey Mantle.

* For his career, Jones hit .429 (21-for-49) with five home runs when playing on his birthday, April 24.

Chipper had his number retired by the Braves in 2013 and was inducted into the team’s hall of fame that same year, just a year after he called it quits.

And then in January, he became a first-ballot inductee into the baseball hall of fame, and his career will of course be celebrated Sunday, along with that of fellow inductees Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.

The most serious baseball fan might remember that Jones and Thome -also a first-ballot guy- were involved in a bench-clearing brawl that also including Manny Ramirez when they were in the minor leagues.

It should be noted that Jones and Thome eventually became good friends, so don’t expect another altercation between these heavy-hitters on the induction platform this weekend.

Of course, Thome, a big first baseman, switched teams several times during his big-league career, playing for six different franchises from 1991 through 2012.

Chipper, of course, played only for the Braves during his career.

That might have been his biggest feat of all.

You might also know that Chipper named his fourth son Shea, in honor of his success against the NL East rival New York Mets in their very own Shea Stadium in the Big Apple.

And now, a sixth son, is actually due on Monday, the day after Chipper’s induction ceremony.

Fittingly, it appears his name will be Cooper.

Atta boy, Chipper!

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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