COMMENTARY | Of all the awards and accolades Chipper Jones has received over the course of his 19-year major league career, he probably never thought he would one day have his jersey number hanging next to…Kevin Costner's?
That's right. The Durham Bulls -- minor league team who infamously retired the No. 8 of Kevin Costner's character, Crash Davis, from the movie "Bull Durham" -- will now bestow the same honor unto Chipper on Aug. 20. This of course means I am now on a mission to stuff as many movie references as I can possibly fit into one article. Meat (That's one).
There is so much reconfiguring of minor league affiliations nowadays that it may be hard for some to remember that the Durham Bulls were once the Class-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Jones played 70 games with the Bulls in 1992 where he hit .277 with four home runs and 31 RBIs by remembering to "play it one game at a time." Chipper moved on to Class-AA Greenville the following season before being able to confirm just how many of his 73 hits for Durham were a direct result of wearing women's underwear to the ballpark.
Despite being remembered as a great third baseman in the majors, Chipper played shortstop for Durham where he tallied a .956 fielding percentage with zero of his overthrows putting the bull mascot in the hospital -- officially. It was also Durham where Chipper learned lesson number one for how to succeed in baseball: "Don't think, it can only hurt the ball club."
Even though Chipper retired from the Braves after the 2012 season, this year's club could certainly use his .303 career average hitting in the middle of the order. Currently, six of the Braves eight everyday starters are hitting below .245. Not to be crass, but Susan Sarandon's character, Annie Savory, did say she'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250 -- reason enough to put in a little more time in the cage to get those averages up boys.
Chipper will join Joe Morgan and Bill Evers as the only other non-fictitious players to get the honor of having their numbers taken out of Durham circulation. In addition to retiring No. 10, the Bulls will also be giving away a Chipper Jones bobblehead doll to fans that purchase the "Chipper Bobble Bundle" three-game ticket pack.
Left fielder Brandon Guyer currently wears No. 10 for the Bulls, so he will be forced to "announce his presence with authority" in a new number once Chipper's old one gets put in mothballs.
Not to be overshadowed, the Atlanta Braves will beat Durham to the punch as they too are set to retire Chipper's No. 10 high atop Turner Field on June 28. There will be a pre-game banquet and ceremony honoring Jones before Atlanta's home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. As with most teams he faced, Chipper got the better of the D-Backs in his career with a .389 average and .522 on-base percentage.
Sorry, I just had to get one last reference in under the wire. That makes eight in total if anyone was counting.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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