By Nick Nunn
Last Friday night, Chipper Jones, former third baseman for the Atlanta Braves – in the unlikely event that you didn’t know – headed out onto the field again after almost one year of retirement from professional sports.
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne played Chipper’s way to the plate, as it had for almost 20 years, but he wore a gray suit instead of the signature jersey bearing the number “10.”
“10” had a busy night on its own, being laid to rest with the likes of 3, 6, 21, 29, 31, 35, 41, 44, and 47: each representing Braves greats who have come and gone before.
Even the quickest look at the accolades that Chipper earned, beginning long before he ever placed a foot on a major league field, justify his place in the Braves Hall of Fame.
Chipper was the first overall draft pick in 1990, a NL All-Star eight times, the NL MVP in 1999, the NL Batting Champion in 2008, and he earned two Silver Slugger awards; the first in 1999 and the second in 2000.
All of these titles, however, don’t even begin to stack up against the countless memories that he helped to create in the minds of Braves fans for almost two decades, many of those years during the Braves’ fantastic run during the 1990s and early 2000s.
I wasn’t quite six years old when Jones made his debut as a Brave on Sept. 11, 1993, and there is a lot that went on during those first years of the Braves’ prominence that I can’t remember.
However, there are a couple of things that stand out acutely in my mind about my interest in the Braves during those early, formative years.
Jones was not my favorite Brave in the early ‘90s; not even my favorite third baseman.
My favorite was Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton. I still remember a Pendleton poster that hung inside the closet of my first room on Fairplay Street in Bostwick.
David Justice, however, was the first Braves player that I really latched onto as a fan.
Justice’s being traded after the 1996 season was the first time I remember feeling betrayed by a major league sporting organization. I mean, how can you send away a player that helped you win a World Series not two years before to the team that you beat in that World Series?!?
I didn’t even like Jones during his first seasons, but, admittedly, that had little to do with his performance on the field…
If you must know, the reason I didn’t like Chipper was because all of the female classmates that I had crushes on during second and third grade were head-over-heels in love with Jones, and that was just enough to make me hate his guts. Truth be told, I don’t think I ever let that one slide completely.
Yeah, one day I hope to be a real adult who can let things from my childhood go, but, for now, I guess I’ll just have to do what I can and congratulate Chipper half-heartedly on this latest achievement.