Recent retiree and certain first ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is the Atlanta Braves all time leader in on base percentage (.402) and third in home runs. In his 19 year career from 1994-2012, all with the Braves, the switch hitting third baseman (except for 2002-2003 when he played left field) hit .303 (over .300 from each side of the plate) with 468 home runs and 1623 RBIs (the most in history for a third baseman and the second most in history by a switch hitter behind Eddie Murray). Chipper joins Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Stan Musial as the only players with at least 2500 hits, 1500 walks, 500 doubles, 450 HRs, 1500 RBIs, a .300 batting average, a .400 on base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. Pretty impressive company. Chipper is a World Champion (1995 in his first full year against the Cleveland Indians), an MVP (1999), a batting champion (2008), a two time Silver Slugger award winner (1999 and 2000) and an 8 time N.L. All-Star (1996-1998, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2011 and 2012). He also hit 20 or more home runs for 14 consecutive years and led the Braves to an astounding 11 straight playoff appearances from 1995-2005. His best year arguably was his MVP year of 1999 where he led the Braves to the N.L. Pennant over the New York Mets and forever incurred the wrath of the Met fans thereafter by saying “Now, all of the Met fans can go home and put on their Yankees’ stuff.” For the purpose of completeness, Chipper and the Braves were then swept in the 1999 World Series by those very same Yankees, although Chipper did hit the Braves only World Series home run off of El Duque. Chipper closed out his brilliant career with a hit in his last at bat in the 2012 N.L. Wild Card playoff game (his Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals). Here is his very humble Opening Day memory.
My first Opening Day was in 1995. We had just returned from the strike, and were playing the Giants in Atlanta. Greg Maddux was pitching. It was my first start at third base ever, and I was facing the pitcher that I faced the night I blew out my knee the year before—Terry Mulholland. The first hitter in the first inning popped the ball up down the first base line and, trying to be aggressive, I come flying like a bat out of you know what looking up at the baseball, and the next thing I know, I’m laying flat on my back looking up at the sun with my flip-down glasses down around my nose. I look over and see Greg Maddux laying on his back in obvious pain, and I thought to myself, ‘What a way to break into the big leagues. You’ve just killed the most valuable player in baseball at that point and managed to hurt and embarrass yourself at the same time.’ Luckily, all Greg got out of that was a nice little charley horse in the calf where I kicked him when I was coming across, but it’s one of my more embarrassing moments. Things got a little better after that.
They sure did. See you in two. Richie