On August 16, I took my 5-year old son to Turner Field for an event we looked forward to all year: "Chipper Jones Bobblehead Doll Night."
After running the bases and playing the kiddie games, we watched in awe as Chipper Jones hit two monster home runs to help the Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres 6-0 (here's an amateur video of both homers). The loudspeakers blared the theme from the baseball movie "The Natural" for Jones as he rounded the bases for his 2,669th and 2,700th hits, the 10th greatest "moment" in Chipper Jones' storied career that will end this year.
Here are the other nine greatest moments in Chipper Jones' career:
9) The First Hit(s): For any baseball player, Braves announcers say, "You always remember your first hit." For Jones, they probably said, "He'll always remember his first hits." That's because Jones broke into the league with a bang, wasting little time having his first multi-hit game.
8) The 2006 Extra-Base Tear: With the team having made the playoffs every year without a baseball strike since 1991, Jones almost single-handedly extended the streak by going half-a-month with an extra-base hit in each game, tying an MLB record set by Paul Warner in 1927.
7) The 2001 NLDS Against the Astros: Having just moved to Georgia from Washington, D.C., my wife and I watched from the stands at Turner Field as Jones crushed a two-run homer, ensuring yet another playoff sweep and capping off a great series that featured his game-winning homer in the series opener.
6) The 2008 Batting Title: A players usually doesn't hit .364 and 100 points higher for an on-base percentage when he's 36 or his team doesn't make the postseason unless he is named Chipper Jones.
5) The Last All-Star Game: Imagine Robert Redford as "the Natural" in one last at-bat in an All-Star game. Only Hollywood would realistic give him a hit in that sequence. Perhaps a younger Redford could play Chipper, who did just that at his last AB in Kansas City this year.
4) Game 4, 2003 NLDS Series: With America rooting for the Chicago Cubs, Jones' Game 4 hitting kept the Braves going against that awesome Cubs pitching. His line that night: 3 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 4 RBIs. The Braves won 6-4, making the Cubs sweat for one more night.
3) Clinching the 2012 Playoffs: The iconic image will be that of Freddie Freeman diving into a crowd of Atlanta Braves at home plate with a walkoff win. But in that playoff-clinching win, Jones scored two runs, including the tying run in Freeman's homer, and had two hits (one being a double) and a sacrifice fly that plated a run. It was like watching the torch pass from Jones to Freeman in a minute.
2) The 1999 Wars With the New York Mets: With injuries to the team, and a reputation for coming up short in playoffs, Jones put the team on his back and carried them to the World Series, sweeping the Mets to make the postseason, and then dragging his teammates past the Mets in a hard-fought NLCS. No wonder he was named the MVP. And no wonder he named his son Shea after the Mets' stadium.
1) The 1995 World Series: Other moments may have been more spectacular, but Chipper Jones would probably be the first to cite this moment as his favorite because it was a team accomplishment beating the Cleveland Indians -- and he's a team player. Oh, and he also hit over .350 that postseason, his first full year.
As 40,000 fans screamed for Jones to come back out and take another bow, chanting "one more year" on that magic night last month, my son clutched his bobblehead doll and said, "Daddy, I hope we never leave." That's the effect Chipper Jones can have on a team, a city, and a child who loves baseball.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga, just an hour's drive from Atlanta's Turner Field, where my 8-year old daughter will be on the field with the Girl Scouts for Chipper Jones' last regular season game.
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