As a life long Boston Red Sox fan and baseball fan, I have come to admire and enjoy Chipper Jones. I moved to Atlanta in Chipper’s Rookie Year of 1995 and I have watched his entire career as a casual fan of the Atlanta Braves.
One of the basic credos of the Red Sox Nation has always been that you are a fan of the Red Sox and whoever happens to be playing the Yankees. I have amended the rule and allowed myself to be a casual fan of the Braves in my adopted home city of Atlanta. By casual I mean I am not driven to extreme emotion by the Braves in the way I have allowed the Red Sox to get me to “go there” over the years.
A striking memory from my childhood as a young Red Sox fan was punching the doorframe when Bucky Dent of the Yankees hit a 1978 home run off of Mike Torrez. I broke my pinky finger and distinctly remember my Mother both scolding and comforting me at the same time by telling me “don’t do that again, they will break your heart almost every year.” She was right of course. In my Freshman year in College I spent a cold October Rhode Island evening watching in agony as the ball went through Buckner’s legs in Vin Scully’s famous call.
Perhaps you are not a fan of baseball and I certainly understand. I know many wise people who don’t like what I have always seen and enjoyed as “chess on grass”. Sometimes these friends will tell me that baseball was invented by people who thought having fun should be illegal. The British originally invented baseball (“rounders” is the other name for it) for inactive children in England who needed some mild exercise. So historically, it is a game that was intended for inactive children and is very popular as a girl’s game, with organized nationwide Leagues in the UK.
Don’t tell Chipper Jones any of this when you salute his upcoming retirement from the game he has loved and practiced as his craft his entire life. His Dad was his first hitting coach, he stayed with one organization his whole career and he weathered PR storms that would have sunk most any other athlete. He is someone who has been cheered on by other organizations and their fans on his “retirement tour”. This is amazing in the face of the lack of trust attributed to baseball due to the “steroid era”.
Chipper has been an exemplary player before, during and after the heyday of the “juiced” era and somehow came out unscathed and pretty universally honored across the game. Sure Mets fans might cheer “Larry” when he steps up to the plate, but they know he might be the last baseball player who can claim many of the attributes previously noted here. He even named one of his children Shea in honor of the New York Mets Stadium where he enjoyed a ton of success over years.
The ability to play the game at high level over the course of an 18 year career with one organization , face adversity whether from personal choices or injury with honesty and facility is something to admire and enjoy along with that sweet switch hitting stroke. Here’s to you Chipper. Pretty sure you are the last of a kind.