Plenty of memories as Chipper makes final trip to New York

By Steve Hummer
steve@ajc.com

The relationship began on May 9, 1995 when a kid from the one-caution-light town of Pierson, Fla. — “Fern Capital of the World” — announced his intentions to cast his shadow over the great metropolis of New York.

The first of Chipper Jones’ thus-far 468 major league home runs came that day at Shea, an eighth-inning shot off Josias Manzanillo that took down the Mets 3-2. Hmmm, could it be that something special was afoot?

More than 17 years and a few thousand jeers later, this weekend will mark the end of one of baseball’s most personal rivalries when Jones makes his final pass through Flushing Meadows, Queens.

Of all the road stops along this season’s Farewell Chipper Tour, the three-day series that begins tonight at Citi Field figures to be the most emotionally confusing.

Before departing, Jones didn’t know quite what to expect from a crowd grown used to derisively chanting his given name – “LAR-reee, LAR-reee, LAR-reee” – while watching him dismantle the home team.

“Trust me, if I was a New York fan I don’t know how I’d feel,” he said. “There would be a certain part of me that would appreciate the realm of the career. But man, that’s a lot of heartache (through the years).”

It was Jones vs. the 8 million souls of New York, and often, they were overmatched. Jones hit for a higher career average against six other National League teams than he did against the Mets (.314). He has as many career home runs vs. Philadelphia (49) as against the Mets. And more RBIs (165 to 158) against the Florida Marlins than the Mets. Still, Jones is forever identified as the No. 1 Mets killer of this generation.

John Rocker absorbed some of the New Yorkers’ bile after his infamous rant against that city and all who lived there, but that was only temporary. Even as Jones aged and the damage he did lessened – his batting average at the four-year-old Citi Field is 100 points lower than at Shea – giving Jones the Bronx cheer in Queens has been something of a sacred tradition.

It all crystallized in 1999, Jones’ MVP season, when during one September sweep (in Atlanta), he hit four home runs, each one giving the Braves the lead at the time. After the Braves beat the Mets in a late-season game in New York, Jones issued the smirking suggestion that it was about time for all those fans to go home and change into their Yankees stuff. By the time the two teams met in the National League Championship Series that season, Mets fans had converted the No. 10 on Jones’ back into a bulls-eye.

Late Braves broadcaster Skip Caray, noting how the New York tabloids were exploiting the friction, fretted at the time: “If anything untoward happens to Jones, I would point the finger at the media up there more than anyone else.”

Yet, Jones did so love the vibe there that he named one of his four sons Shea. The tenor of the name just pleased his ear.

“A great name,” he said. “Hey, my dad named me Larry. C’mon, give a kid something to work with.”

Ah, yes, the Jones birth name. It was also in 1999 that Mets fans picked up on the clue that Chipper didn’t like to be called by his given handle. The Larry chants – accompanied by various posters depicting a Stooge by the same name – began in full-throated earnest then.

Today, when asked about his memories of playing the Mets in New York, Jones does not invoke any of the ugliness. In fact, he’ll even acknowledge and appreciate some of the times the Mets got him. As when Robin Ventura hit a grand slam single to beat the Braves in a ’99 NLCS game (mobbed during the 15th-inning, bases-loaded walkoff homer, Ventura never made it past first base). And, most vividly, when Mike Piazza’s home run beat the Braves in the first game back in New York after the 9-11 attacks.

On that day, Jones picked up a few of the shells that littered the field after the pregame 21-gun salute by a Marine Corps honor guard. He still has those keepsakes, along with the memory of being sternly questioned by airport security as to why he had spent ammo in his bag.

There is reason to suspect New Yorkers will be kind to Jones as they wish him goodbye, giving him at least a grudging respect, along with an as-yet unknown parting gift. Jones has sensed an easing in relations.

“For the first 10 years I was in the league, I never left my hotel room in New York,” he said. “I went from the room to the bus to the park to the bus and back.

“Now, I can walk down the street and everybody’s great. Those who recognize me, they’re great. I get messages on Twitter from Mets fans all over saying: ‘I admire what you’ve done;’ ‘You’ve been a great player for a long time;’ ‘You killed my Mets and I hate you for it, but I respect the player and the person that you’ve become.’ That for me is an ultimate compliment.”

It is with olive branch in hand that Jones makes his final appearance at the Mets home park.

He practically broke into a Sinatra song as he left for the Big Apple.

“There’s something about playing on that stage that appeals to me. I think if you can walk onto that stage and be able to tune out what you have to tune out on a nightly basis, playing those teams that were so good whether – whether the Mets or the Yankees – and be successful, you can be successful on any stage,” he said.

“I always held New York to a higher standard than anyplace else. I was usually pretty jacked up to play when I got there. That was a special, special place to play.”

Once he made it there, Jones was certain he could make it anywhere.

- Steve Hummer

51 comments Add your comment

Chris Vivlamore

September 6th, 2012
3:51 pm

FYI folks: This story was written by Steve Hummer.

SeATLite

September 6th, 2012
4:08 pm

Which explains why it has “by David O’Brien” and “by Chris Vivlamore” on it before Hummer’s name ever shows up. Good of you to reiterate the point, though. Might want to have a word with the web designer.

chipontheroad

September 6th, 2012
4:15 pm

Hummer good G a-mighty blast from the past

Ghost of Gil Garrido

September 6th, 2012
4:18 pm

Great story. As an ex-NY’er (but lifelong Braves fan), I too have a feeling that the infamous hardened hearts of NY baseball fans have softened considerably toward Chipper. He’s a special player – - a sure-fire HOFer, and carries himself like a true professional, doing and saying the right things. Any good baseball fan recognizes that. New Yorkers are far from immune to sentimental gestures and their grudging respect should be obvious at a farewell ceremony. (In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, at some point during the weekend, the entire stadium breaks out in a standing O and “LARR-EE” chant. Simultaneously.)

You Crazy Diamond

September 6th, 2012
4:28 pm

NY Fans wil recognize Chipper in a good way on this trip. They know a great player when they see one and only wish they had something that could measure up. Someday they will. Until then, a few LARR-EE chants and lots of appreciation will be at Citi Field.

coastalbrave

September 6th, 2012
4:30 pm

Great story! I hope the Mets fans cheer Chipper when he hits his last HR there.

Quack Quack

September 6th, 2012
5:10 pm

Nice article Steve.

I hope Chipper can find a comfortable bed!! ;-)

GO BRAVES!!!

Make them pay….

Dawg Haus

September 6th, 2012
5:11 pm

Good stuff! Now let’s see Chipper do it to them one last time, for the road.

Mets R Best

September 6th, 2012
6:31 pm

Speaking for Mets fans everywhere, we look forward to Chipper’s retirement.

bruce

September 6th, 2012
6:32 pm

I always love yelling “LARRY” after Chipper hits a home run and the park is quiet…

LaBrenda Chenile Watson

September 6th, 2012
7:41 pm

He should be rested for New York. He sat out home games in front of loyal Braves fans.

Clay

September 6th, 2012
7:47 pm

When they introduce him in his final game, the announcer should call him Larry.

NorCal Brave

September 6th, 2012
8:17 pm

Nice piece of writing. Will be a sentimental weekend.

phil

September 6th, 2012
8:53 pm

Who cares if we don’t win….

Michael

September 6th, 2012
9:33 pm

This is the better part of the baseball. Chipper said the first game in New York after 9/11 was the one he did not mind losing. Me either. In fact, that day when during the game TV showed a Mets fan holding a sign “God bless America, including Atlanta”, my family had some reliefing laughs that disappeared since 9/11. I started to like Mets fan…….

Ken Stallings

September 6th, 2012
10:53 pm

Nice column, Steve Hummer! Well written!

This is going to be a special series. Somehow, one just expects that at least once Chipper will rise to an occasion and do something special and memorable.

We are starting to wind down the regular season and each new stop will be the final stop in his career. The situation has been special all season, but now it becomes more so. A pennant chase increases the appeal.

I distinctly remember that game after 9-11 because it very shortly prefaced my own deployment to fight in the war and for the next five months I was completely removed from all civilization where watching baseball games simply was not part of the agenda. And I knew full well this was going to happen very soon. So, that game stood out for many reasons, and frankly the final score was fitting.

It was a case where I was honored that it was my Braves who shared that national stage and helped America understand some things endured.

BusterBrave

September 7th, 2012
2:10 am

Great piece Steve Hummer,ya’ hit it out of the park……….

YoungerThan ThatNow

September 7th, 2012
4:17 am

Great article! I fully expect the Mets fans to show that they are appreciative of great play, even if it’s not one of their own… and even if that great player has done significant damage to them. The know and appreciate a great player in New York, and it’s going to be interesting and hopefully very nice to see. The gifts and whatever the teams are doing for Chipper has been tremendous and memorable, but the unplanned and spontaneous ovations by the hometeam fans… such as the one in San Francisco recently… has been not only a testament to the great career of Chipper Jones, but also a tremendous testament to the fans in these cities. Their knowledge and appreciation of the game and of their opponent’s play has been thrilling to see!

GO BRAVES!

ncgary

September 7th, 2012
7:49 am

sing sing a song make it chipper to last the weekend long
who worrys whether he hits 5 or 10 homeruns
as long as chipper helps to sweep the mutts one last time

Capt."sweet" Mudd

September 7th, 2012
8:10 am

As the days march on, I am sure there will be a few more tribute oriented offerings for Mr. Jones—and perhaps, this piece by Mr. Hummer will serve as a starting point for the “retropectively inclined.”

The fans in New York have many things to be proud of thru the years; with Chipper Jones—well, Steve Hummer said it all….they’re not real proud of the way their Mets have defended “Larry.”

Tellingly, it is with that same vengeange that, this time thru, they’ll refrain from their vilification tendencies and many will welcome Chipper with open arms tonight.

He has proven [over the course of many years] to be as tough as they are–New Yorkers respect that.
And Chipper? He has always possessed a special energy towards NY.

tp

September 7th, 2012
8:18 am

Another great article by Steve Hummer – one of the best in the business.

joekill

September 7th, 2012
8:21 am

GO BRAVES chipper is going to have a huge series against the mets i can feel it chipper is having a superhuman type year i always thought of chipper as some sort of super hero when i was little and thats how i feel today as for the rest of the braves hopefully we can get simmons back Saturday i think he will be a huge boost offensively and defensively cant wait for this weekend GO BRAVES AND GO CHIPPER !

Fats Johnson

September 7th, 2012
8:23 am

A great article on “Bones” Jones……..Bet bones will haave a blast in NY

McKee

September 7th, 2012
9:19 am

Offensive struggles or not, I’m feeling good about the Braves chances because last year, they would have been on the opposite sides of the last 2 games. Nothing went right for them last year when this year, winning 2 games without scoring an earned run and Chippers’ dramatic walk off, maybe things have turned for the better and destiny is on our side for once.

Tami

September 7th, 2012
9:29 am

{{tears in eyes, but not crying….yet}} Nice article. I think the New Yorkers just plain LOVE baseball. If a team is going to go to their house and beat their teams, it better be a hard-earned dog fight. I think in their own kind of New Yorker way, they love that they all respect Chipper. They’ll never really LOVE him, of course. I think he’ll get a REALLY nice parting gift. And whenever his last at-bat ever comes up, they’ll give him a standing boo. Wow….it’s sobering to know that there are only 24 regular season games left, and Chipper’s last-ever at bat is quickly coming. This season has sure gone by fast.

MIKE IN/ATL

September 7th, 2012
9:31 am

We should all remember all the great times CHIPPER had with the BRAVES. He is to me the MICKEY MANTLE of my era. Great article. LETS GO CHIPPER AND LETS GO BRAVES!!!!

MitchC

September 7th, 2012
9:37 am

I live in the NY area, but have been a Braves fan for 30 years. Simply put, I’ve always despised the Mets. I remember many of Chipper’s big moments against them.

I might be at one of the games this weekend, depending on weather, and circumstance. It will be great if I can be there, to say goodbye fo Number 10. Hopefully he can do good things againsrt the Mets this weekend.

Congrats Chipper

September 7th, 2012
9:47 am

Have a great series Chipper. Thank you for choosing to stay in Atlanta all these years. You have been our A-Rod, our Griffey Jr – a dominant, take over the game talent; but you stayed with your original team and that is what makes you so cool. Lesser characters would have chased the $$$ elsewhere, but you did not. Thanks from the bottom of this Braves fan’s heart.

Congrats Chipper

September 7th, 2012
10:00 am

Texiera would have been smart to follow the Chipper playbook, but too late for that. I am guessing that he won’t get the warm send-off that Chipper is receiving when his career is done. Boras needs to get a clue. Nobody loves a mercenary. Bourne, please stick around. Don’t listen to your serpent of an agent.

Chip's mousse

September 7th, 2012
11:07 am

Alexnatlanta

September 7th, 2012
11:20 am

Maybe a “Chipper” chant

bgvt

September 7th, 2012
11:36 am

Largo

September 7th, 2012
11:49 am

I enjoyed the article. Thanks.

D man

September 7th, 2012
12:37 pm

Go out with a bang in NY Chipper.

Brave1

September 7th, 2012
1:05 pm

Superb article sir.

Chipper is a treasure

bravesgrl4life

September 7th, 2012
1:24 pm

thanks for this tribute, Steve Hummer. Brought tears to my eyes.

I think I’m going to have to buy Kleenex(r) stock for the final home series. I’ve got tickets to all three games – by myself that Sunday. Maybe shoulda had someone with me to drive that day as it’s going to be a long drive home knowing I’ve just watched Chipper Jones in his last regular season home game. Of course, I’ll still be hoping I’ll get to see him in a home playoff. I’ve sworn that if the Braves get to the Series this year, I’m getting a ticket. I won’t care if it’s in the nosebleed seats, for a change. I just want to be there for that.

Sam Miller

September 7th, 2012
1:24 pm

Who is Steve Hummer?

Rick

September 7th, 2012
1:28 pm

Here I go again sneaking at work to post a blog becasue DOB wont kill that FILTER that blocks everything from my smart phone……….sad! Lets go Chipper, leave a lasting memory this weekend in Flushing so that they can talk about you for the next 10 years!

ATLcracker

September 7th, 2012
2:10 pm

In 1999, Jones won the National League MVP award after becoming the first player to hit over .300 (.319) while slugging 40 or more home runs (45; 3rd in the NL) and doubles (41), drawing 100 or more walks (126; 3rd in the league), notching 100 or more RBIs (110) and Runs scored (116), and stealing 20 or more bases (25).[22] He was also walked intentionally 18 times; 2nd in the league, and his .633 slugging percentage was 4th best in the NL. A major factor in his selection as MVP was his performance against the Braves’ chief competitors, the New York Mets. The Braves led the National League East by only one game as they entered a three-game September series against the Mets, the team that was right on their heels. Atlanta swept the series at Turner Field, though, largely thanks to Jones, who hit four home runs and drove in seven of the thirteen runs that the Braves scored. For the season, he hit .400 with a .510 on-base percentage, a 1.000 slugging percentage, and seven home runs against the Mets. During the 1999 NLCS, Jones drew the ire of Mets fans by saying, “Now, all the Mets fans can go home and put their Yankees’ stuff on.”[23] In the playoffs, Jones led the Braves to the World Series against the New York Yankees.

AGTFan

September 7th, 2012
2:24 pm

I just read a story where an Irish Pub in Manhattan is changing it’s name during the 3 days of this series to Chipper’s Pub. All in all, a pretty amazing tribute.

[...] Also, this weekend marks Chipper’s final games in NYC. Give ‘em hell, Larry! [...]

Yogi Berra

September 7th, 2012
3:03 pm

NY fans love their teams. They also respect and love great players in all sports. Chipper loves NY and they love him…it also brings out the best in both. I hope Chipper and NY fans have a great three games and the love shows from both. God Bless America.

bill

September 7th, 2012
3:05 pm

It was this series last year that began the slide. We went to New York and the hurricane caused an extra day off and we never recovered. Go Braves

lowcountrylem

September 7th, 2012
3:19 pm

The only thing worse than the Mets……………..is the Mets’ fans. I sincerely hope on this, Chipper’s last opportunity to beat the Metropolitans, he does so once again.

Mike McDonald

September 7th, 2012
3:28 pm

The Braves need a “Miracle on 34th Street” to win the NL East. Try starting with the announcement that Chipper is now Player Manager for the rest of 2012 with a contract as Manager for 2013-15.
Citi Field would be the fitting site to announce this shake up and wake up.

Mike McDonald

September 7th, 2012
3:44 pm

“Chipper the Skipper” has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?

war daddy lightfoot

September 7th, 2012
5:50 pm

Thanks for the memories Chipper

[...] Plenty of memories as Chipper makes final trip to New York [...]

Larry Roan

September 8th, 2012
12:03 pm

Well written Steve H.

http://tiltmonkey.com/blog/25903qkiq/2013/09/06/sac-longchamps-pas-chersac-longchamp-pliage-arbre-de-vi-lomgchamp/

October 5th, 2013
3:41 pm

[...] • What to expect this weekend for Chipper’s final visit? Well, it’s not exactly like Citi Field will be packed. But the retiring third baseman figures to hear a couple of “LAR-reee” chants. Writes Steve Hummer in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: [...]

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