Tonight marks the last regular season game for one of the best third baseman the game has ever seen. At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Chipper Jones will throw on the Atlanta Braves uniform for the last time after a Hall of Fame career.
At the beginning of the season Chipper announced that this was going to be his last season playing, no matter what. He stated that it was time for him to move on and do something else and that although the mind was still sharp and that he still had a passion for the game the same could not be said about the body. For anyone who does not know Chipper has had to fight through numerous injuries throughout the years most being related to his legs and knee. In 1994 he missed the entire season after tearing up his knee resulting in surgery. As he got older the injuries became more frequent. When in the lineup he almost always produced (as seen by his notorious assault on the New York Mets over the years and his 1999 NL MVP award).
As the year went on his numbers, when in the lineup were stellar and it seemed that when he was in the game they won more often then not. Obviously people would ask are you sure you are done after this year, you are having a great year? Every time that was asked the answer was the same, I'm sure. He said from the beginning that he has already made spring break plans and summer vacation plans with his kids and that was not going to change. To his credit he has stuck to that and in a strictly selfish way I wish this time he would have been lying to fans and that he could give is one more season. He clearly still has the passion and the skill but I guess when the body is ready to tap out there isn't much you can do about it. 162 game seasons is a grind for any player, especially one over the age of 40.
The one benefit Chipper had about announcing his retirement was that he gave, not only himself but the fans in all the cities a heads up that this was it and that he was about to embark on what I suppose could be considered the Chipper Jones Farewell Tour. Not since Cal Ripkin Jr.'s final season has baseball seen a player been so widely acknowledged by every team in every city that he has gone to. Being a Brave was all Chipper has been and now all other ball clubs have had pregame ceremonies to congratulate his on his career and most have given his some sort of "gold watch retirement gift". That is saying a lot when teams that you have never played for, only fought against on the field show you that much respect for your body of work. Here is a partial list of Items that teams have given Chipper on his last tour into their cities:
Stan Musial Jersey (Cardinals)
Third Base (Reds, Yankees, Pirates)
Bat, Base & Photo (Nationals)
Fishing Gear (Marlins)
The #10 (Red Sox)
Pool Table & Hawaiian Vacation (Braves)
Cowboy Hat (Astros)
Hunting Bow Camera (Todd Helton)
Year's Supply of Sausages (Brewers)
The Braves made the playoffs as the first Wild Card team so that extends Jones' career by at least 1 game and ensures that he will be going out an a somewhat high note and getting back to a place that he and the Braves are so familiar with - Post Season Baseball.
I am sure to have another blog after the Braves are eliminated (or are victorious) to give a final salute to Chipper and his outstanding career.