400th HR, ‘97 LCS … Chipper has many Marlins memories

MIAMI – The Marlins began playing major league baseball the same year that Chipper Jones did in 1993, and no hitter has done quite as much damage against them as the Braves third baseman. He leads the Marlins’ opponents’ career lists in almost every major hitting category, including hits (256), doubles (47), home runs (40) and RBIs (165).

They won’t have to – or get to — watch him add to those totals after the three-game series that began Monday at Marlins Park, Jones’ last against Miami. The 40-year-old Braves icon is retiring after the season.

“He was always beating us,” said baseball Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a longtime Marlins special assistant. “He’d come up and always get the big home run or the big hit. He’s a gamer. I’ll be waiting for him [at Cooperstown, N.Y.] in five years. Everybody’s trying to get his autograph. I said I’ll wait till he’s signing it with the ‘HOF’.”

Most Hall of Famers add those letters to their signature after being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Players become eligible five years after their final season in the majors.

Jones is winding up a season-long farewell tour, getting parting gifts and/or video tributes from every team during his last scheduled series in that team’s city. He fought back tears at Washington last month during a gift presentation from two of his closest friends in baseball, the Nationals’ Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa, both former Braves.

The Marlins plan a tribute for Jones before Wednesday’s series finale.

“I’ve had a lot of last trips into cities this year,” Jones said Monday, “but the ones in the East [Division] are more special because I’ve got such a history with the Mets, the Marlins, the Nationals and the Phillies. I’ve got three more cities, and one last homestand. So it’s starting to … it’s starting to get to me a little bit.”

Jones will play his last series at Philadelphia this weekend in the second stop on this two-city trip, then have a six-game homestand before the Braves finish the regular season with a three-game series at Pittsburgh.

This series is his second at Marlins Park, which only opened this season. Jones was on the 15-day disabled list in the Braves’ first visit to Miami this season, and was out of the lineup Monday for a scheduled rest day, after the Braves played Sunday night and didn’t get to their Miami hotel until about 3:30 a.m.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to play Jones Tuesday and Wednesday in the last two games of the series, then either two or all three games at Philadelphia after an off day on the schedule Thursday.

He doesn’t have any history at Marlins Park, but Jones has many memories from games at what is currently known as Sun Life Stadium, the latest in a revolving list of corporate-sponsor names for what was originally Joe Robbie Stadium and remains home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The Braves played the Marlins before massive crowds there during the 1997 NL Championship Series, which the wild-card Marlins won on their way to the World Series.

“We’ve had some epic battles down here,” Jones said. “The years that the Marlins ended up winning the World Series [1997 and 2003], those were some pretty good teams. We had some great battles along the way. What was it, ’97 playoffs? I’ll never forget that. Seeing Joe Robbie, or Pro Player, or whatever the hell that stadium was called, packed for a baseball game, 75-80,000 people. That’s a memory. You don’t get to play in front of that many people at one sporting event very often.”

Livan Hernandez, a Braves teammate earlier this season, had an NLCS-record 15 strikeouts for the Marlins in their Game 5 win  in Miami in 1997, using every inch of umpire Eric Gregg’s exceedingly wide strike zone.

“Let’s talk about that strike zone, why don’t we?” Jones said, drawing laughs from Miami and Atlanta reporters. “I saw that on MLB the other day and I was like, good Lord, you couldn’t hit some of those pitches with a telephone pole. And Livan still thinks they were strikes. I talked to him the other day in Milwaukee, and we were just kind of reminiscing.

“He’s like, ‘Man, I think I could have pitched until I was 80 if I got that strike zone every day.’”

Jones was asked if any of his 40 homers against the Marlins was particularly memorable.

“My 400th,” he said, referring to his 400th career homer, against Ricky Nolasco at Turner Field on June 5, 2008, making Jones the third switch-hitter to hit that many. “Your milestones, they stick out in your mind. And obviously 400 home runs, that’s a lot of trots around the bases. So that’s probably the one that stick out to me the most.”

19 comments Add your comment

Jon

September 17th, 2012
7:20 pm

bravesgrl4life

September 17th, 2012
7:54 pm

Nice article, DOB. Just about brought tears to my eyes. I think I’m going to need about a dozen boxes of tissues for the last homestand. I have tickets to all 3 games that weekend. I’ve never done back to back games, but for Chipper’s last homestand, I’m going back-to-back-to-back.

VP

September 17th, 2012
8:17 pm

My first ever Braves game was the night he hit his 400th of Nolasco. Quite memorable.

ChipperisGod

September 17th, 2012
9:53 pm

bravesgrl4life, I agree. I was getting choked up last night at the game after Chipper hit that single that scored the run. Knowing I only have a few chances to watch him play anymore is very sad, but I’m glad Chipper will be able to spend more time with hi family. I’m just like his dad, I wish he could play forever. He’s a guy who I’ve watched since I was three years old, and the fact that it’s coming to an end is tough for me to accept, as it was when Bobby retired.

I hope we can send him out a winner.

ChipperisGod

September 17th, 2012
9:53 pm

bravesgrl4life, I agree. I was getting choked up last night at the game after Chipper hit that single that scored the run. Knowing I only have a few chances to watch him play anymore is very sad, but I’m glad Chipper will be able to spend more time with hi family. I’m just like his dad, I wish he could play forever. He’s a guy who I’ve watched since I was three years old, and the fact that it’s coming to an end is tough for me to accept, as it was when Bobby retired.

I hope we can send him out a winner.

BOISESTATEBRONCO

September 18th, 2012
3:05 am

Gonna miss ya Chip!

bill

September 18th, 2012
8:15 am

two comments Tony Perez is in the hall of fame because he played on a great team and his real Hall of Fame teammates lobbied for him but he does not belong there. second Eric Greg was selling hot dogs at the stadium in Philly several years ago when I saw him last and as a Braves fan I hope he has to work there til he is 100 years old. He cheated and he did it intentionally because he had a hard on for Bobby and the Braves. The fact that major league baseball and the blind mans union did nothing about it shows how little they care about the integrity of the game. The last at bat by Gallaraga saw at least two pitches a full foot outside called strikes.

Tami

September 18th, 2012
8:41 am

I love what Tony Perez said about Chipper. It’s interested that HOF-ers seek autographs from future HOF-ers, when one would think it would be the other way around.

I’m attending the Chipper send-off night on the 28th, and will be wearing my “Thanks, Chipper!” shirt and a package of Kleenex in one hand with a tomahawk in the other. I know it’s going to be a surreal kind of letdown when this season’s over and we’ve said “goodbye” to Chipper for the last time. But….life goes on, or at least we hope so. We do have a few emerging stars on this talented Braves’ team to cheer on for a few years to come. It’s just….not going to be the same without ole’ Chipper.

Tami

September 18th, 2012
8:43 am

CORRECTION: It’s interesTING that HOF-ers….

Geesh. Apparently I can’t type until I’ve had at least my first full cup of hot tea (caffeinated, of course) inside me first!

Ken

September 18th, 2012
9:49 am

Bill @ 8:15, I think Eric Gregg passed away a few years ago.

[...] 400th HR, ‘97 LCS … Chipper has many Marlins memories [...]

bfred

September 18th, 2012
11:34 am

A few weeks ago I was sure Chipper was going to be sent into retirement with a one-game postseason, making it actually worse than previous departures. With the pitching falling into place and Uggla’s head apparently removed from his rear (.304 w/ .900+ OPS and more BB than K in September) I have seriously revised that prediction. I don’t see anyone out there we can’t match up with right now. I sure don’t see anyone in the NL that scares me.

441North

September 18th, 2012
12:03 pm

Thanks for not signing, Todd Van Poppel ! !

bfour

September 18th, 2012
2:48 pm

Bill, I think that you are off with respect to Tony Perez. His batting average wasn’t particularly high (.279), but he was the greatest clutch hitter I have ever seen (I’m old enough, and from SW OH, to have seen him a lot). If Chipper is a barometer — and I think he’s a first ballot HOFer — then Perez has more lifetime RBI and hits, though is maybe 90 home runs behind Chipper. Doggie shouldn’t have been, and wasn’t, a first ballot HOFer, but I think he truly belongs there. I think Davey Concepcion belongs there too, but that’s another argument for another day.

AZBravoFan

September 18th, 2012
3:05 pm

Check out some of the strike calls to McGriff and Lofton… Would love to see those on K-Zone…

Blake

September 18th, 2012
5:59 pm

@ChipperisGod…..Chipper Is not God and I’m offended when somebody calls anybody on this earth God….the only person that walked this earth who was God died two thousand years ago on a cross for our sins……Chipper never died for anybody….

Chipper Jones

September 18th, 2012
7:25 pm

Blake is God

Kathy

September 19th, 2012
4:06 pm

Went to see Chipper play in person for the last time last night in Miami. It was hard to say goodbye to someone I’ve basically spent the last 15 years of my life with, I cried during his last AB and as he ran off the field after the game ended. It’s been an honor to watch him play with blood, sweat, tears, pride and integrity for so long, and while I will always love the Braves, the team won’t be the same without him. Thanks Chipper, see you in Cooperstown!

And Blake, this is not the forum for your religious blather. Go away.

ChipperisGod

September 19th, 2012
4:22 pm

@Blake. I don’t really mean that, and I’m not trying to offend anyone. Nor do I take my handle seriously as I’m quite aware Chipper is not a god of any type. But I do revere him as my favorite Brave.

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