Originally written on BravesWire  |  Last updated 11/15/14

27 Feb 1998: Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves signs autographs for the fans during a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals at the Disney Wide World of Sports Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The Royals defeated the Braves 3-2. Mandatory

By Bud L. Ellis

Chipper Jones debuted in the big leagues as a shortstop in1993

ATLANTA — In the spring of 1994, a 21-year-old converted shortstop found himself trying to make a major-league roster. At the same time, a 21-year-old college student found himself trying to make his mark as sports editor of his college newspaper.

And on the airwaves that spring, a song worked its way toward the top spot on the charts.

Whenever a radio station dials up one of those “90s Weekends,” it’s only a matter of time before the sounds of Counting Crows filters through the speakers, singing of “Mr. Jones and me …”

That former shortstop, one Larry Wayne Jones Jr., would not make the Atlanta Braves’ opening-day roster, a knee injury suffered in March scuttling a season that would be shelved by a player’s strike five months later. A few blocks up Capitol Avenue from old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, this correspondent tried to wrap his arms around covering more than a dozen Division I sports for the weekly fishwrapper at Georgia State University.

And whenever I heard “Mr. Jones and me,” I thought about the player Atlanta had made the top overall pick in the June 1990 draft (one year before I graduated from high school), and I thought of myself (one with far less ability to hit a curveball), and I wondered where this long, meandering road called life would lead.

Fast forward to today, on a sun-splashed spring day in 2012. Chipper Jones sat at a table in the press box in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and confirmed what many of us have speculated, pondered and debated for the better part of the past three years:

Chipper’s hanging up his spikes at the end of the upcoming season.

I hung up my newspaper press pass a few years earlier, moving on to another chapter of my life. Whether I was a young scribe trying to elbow my way through the press scrum in the old crowded locker room at the old stadium, or writing stories in the Turner Field press box, or chatting it up in the dugout at spring training, I was blessed to cover some of the best players this generation has witnessed.

But Chipper stands a step above them all.

 

In 2000, I sat in the overflow press seating at Turner Field, covering the All-Star Game. Three weeks earlier, on assignment covering a weekend series, I had talked to Chipper and several other Braves about the upcoming Midsummer’s Classic, and how cool it would be to play the game in your home park. Chipper spoke that Sunday morning with the same enthusiasm I see today from my two Little League-playing sons on gameday.

Three weeks later, Chipper went 3-for-3 with a home run in the All-Star Game. The picture of him following the flight of his home run adorned the front page of our special game section the next morning, my game story sitting next to it. That front page hangs in my office to this day.

The previous year, Chipper rose to new heights, carrying an injury-depleted Braves team to its fifth pennant of the decade. Jones hit .319 with 45 homers, winning NL MVP honors. More personally to me, Chipper helped push the Braves into the World Series, giving me a chance to cover my first and only Fall Classic.

In 1995, I found myself sitting in the upper reaches of the old stadium for the World Series, as a fan. And here was Jones, 19 months removed from ripping apart that knee in spring training, starting at third base and batting third for a powerhouse team that won Atlanta its first major professional sports world championship.

Thirteen years after Chipper rode amid the ticker tape down Peachtree Street, he had morphed into the only viable reason to watch the Braves. Atlanta struggled mightily in 2008, losing 90 games for the first time in 18 seasons. I know. I watched and blogged about every game for a website, and for the final six weeks, Chipper’s pursuit of a batting crown was the only compelling reason to watch.

Jones got there, winning the title with a .364 average. It was yet another notch on a belt full of accomplishments, a list that makes Chipper a slam-dunk, no-questions-asked first-ballot Hall of Famer. These eyes have seen a lot of ball in the past 30-plus years, but Chipper stands at the head of the class.

He didn’t take steroids. He didn’t dog it on the field. He gave everything he had, remaining loyal to the organization that made him the top pick so very long ago. He restructured his contract. He changed positions. He did everything you would want a leader to do, and he did it with a part-swagger, part-grin that drove opponents crazy, and made you feel blessed he was wearing your team’s uni.

Like so many times whenever I heard that old Counting Crows song during my college years, I don’t know where the road will take me. But I know where I will be on Sept. 30: standing in Turner Field with my two sons, at the final home game of the 2012 season, to say thank you to the greatest Atlanta Brave to ever don the tomahawk.

Like the song says, “We all want to be big stars, but we don’t know why and we don’t know how.” Chipper Jones figured out how, and the end result is a career that those of us fortunate enough to see it unfold will never forget.

–30—

Also, before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

Follow Bud L. Ellis on Twitter @bud006

 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cavs beat Hawks without Kyrie Irving, take 2-0 lead

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Minor League team cancels 'A-Rod Juice Box Night'

Dolphins teammate on Dion Jordan: It’s a bad situation

Texans reportedly the favorite to be featured on ‘Hard Knocks’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Goodell will not recuse himself from Brady appeal

Will Smith suspended eight games for 'foreign substance'

Report: Kobe Bryant likely to retire following next season

Don Shula named in painkiller lawsuit from former NFL players

Kyrie Irving questionable for Game 2 versus Atlanta

Michael Sam signs with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes

The Los Angeles Angels are finally finding their groove

Re-evaluating all 30 MLB teams at the quarter mark

Is virtual reality training the next leap forward for football?

Warriors a very shaky 2-0 against the Rockets

NFL icon Bud Grant zings Pats with Deflategate joke on Twitter

RG3 announces birth daughter's birth on social media

Don't listen to Nick Saban, the bowl system is just fine

MLB scores partial victory in minor league wage lawsuits

Ranking the NBA Playoffs' most significant injuries

WATCH: Will Smith ejected for foreign substance on arm

Guy behind NFL's social media trolling of Pats is a Jets fan?

In defense of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ten players who could benefit due to PAT rule change

Five QBs set for breakout campaigns

Report: Lakers will pursue Thibodeau

MLS leaders struggling with attendance

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.