After celebration, Chipper Jones admits he was ‘emotional wreck’

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 11 p.m.)

The celebration Friday night wasn’t merely for a player and his career. It was for a player who in his final season had managed to will his team to one more postseason.

Imagine if the backdrop was similar to a year ago. Imagine if the Braves found themselves handing out gifts to a retiring legend before a game Friday night, mugging for cameras with forced smiles, knowing that when the ceremonies ended they would have to return to the reality of the standings, their fingers digging into the side of a cliff.

Imagine if Chipper Jones hadn’t ignited a city and a team on Sept. 2. He hit that walk-off, three-run homer against Philadelphia. It punctuating a five-run ninth inning that gave the Braves a miracle 8-7 win over the Phillies. It was like plugging a team into a light socket. The Braves had lost 10 of 14. They were on the verge of being swept at home by the Phillies. They seemed in danger of flat-lining before the postseason — again. But the win sent them into an altered state. They were on a 17-6 run before the first Jones tribute Friday night, and had already clinched a playoff berth.

“I don’t want to think about the last game he plays,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t want to soak it up for at least another three or four weeks. I want him to be in that uniform for a long time, if you know what I mean.”

“He’s the reason why we’re here,” pitcher Kris Medlen said. “It definitely would’ve been a different vibe [in the ceremonies] if we weren’t going to the playoffs.”

That’s what you celebrate. Not just a Hall of Fame career, but a career that will not end after game No. 162 this season — because of him, at the age of 40.

The Braves honored Jones prior to their game against the New York Mets (as if the Mets haven’t seen enough of the guy). There were several speeches during the half-hour ceremony. One came from Bobby Cox. One came from John Schuerholz. One came from Gov. Nathan Deal, who declared Sept. 28, 2012, “Chipper Jones Day” in Georgia. (Only one day? Give him the whole season. Hand him a document reading: “Chipper Jones Days: April 5 to Oct. ?” (Final day to be determined.)

There was a video tribute from the former owner, Ted Turner. (Nobody from the present owner, Liberty Media, made it to the stadium or in front of a camera. Maybe they didn’t get the memo.)

Catcher Brian McCann spoke on behalf of Jones’ teammates, who gave him a pool table and wore Chipper-esque turtlenecks under their jerseys. McCann cracked, “We appreciate you playing every single day, even though we have to wear these turtlenecks.”

Jones embraced every second of it. But it was all a little too much.

Early in his comments during the ceremonies, he said, “We’ve got some business to take care of tonight.” But by the time the game started, he later admitted, “I was an emotional wreck. I was overwhelmed. A little too overwhelmed.”

He said he couldn’t feel his arms. He couldn’t feel his legs. The last time he felt like this?

“Probably when I was rookie.”

He went hitless in four at-bats and didn’t get a ball out of the infield. He couldn’t provide any late-game drama, and neither could his teammates, as the Braves lost to the Mets 3-1, officially inching closer to a second-place finish in the National League East.

“I try to stay as even keeled as possible all the time,” Jones said. “That’s how I play the game the best. But tonight I was just overwhelmed, too emotional to go out there and play effectively. Every pitch they threw up there I wanted to hit 10 rows deep, and you cant do that. Hopefully, it’ll settle down in the next few days.”

Take comfort, Chipper: That’s it for official tributes between now and the playoffs.

There was a positive sign for the Braves: Tim Hudson had a second consecutive strong outing, save one pitch — a three-run homer by Lucas Duda in the seventh, the ninth pitch of the at-bat, that gave the Mets a 3-1 lead.

“It’s frustrating that one pitch put a damper on the evening,” Hudson said. “One pitch cost us the game.”

Regardless, the Braves are guaranteed game No. 163. Jones’ heroics in the ninth inning against the Phillies four weeks ago stopped the slide. Ironically, his homer followed these pre-game comments: “I’d be lying if I said two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth inning, I don’t want anybody else up there but me,” he said. “And that’s never going to stop. I don’t care if I’m 40 or 60. But yeah, we have some guys in our lineup that get paid to hit and we’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable of as a team …”

Jones took it from there, and his teammates followed. There was no such drama Friday, but pre-games should be less emotional from here on out.

By Jeff Schultz

Last dozen blogs from the digital jukebox

Chipper Jones: Braves lose a legend, fans lose a hero, I lose reason to open laptop

Weekend Predictions: No ‘bagels’ but Dogs and Falcons win

Video blog: Are Falcons NFL’s best team (after 3 weeks)? We debate

Falcons are looking special, and it starts with Matt Ryan

Short takes: Resiliency, Ryan and turnovers carry Falcons

Falcons’ defenders preferring Mike Nolan to Brian VanGorder

Predictions: Dogs win cage match; Falcons upset Chargers

Goodell is in ‘fantasy’ world if he doesn’t believe product being damaged

Video blog: On Braves’ sweep of Nats and what it mean’

This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Georgia Tech shows its upside in win — and it’s impressive

A Medlen start, a Braves win and finally a positive sign

54 comments Add your comment

Ekim

September 28th, 2012
8:33 pm

I read the post, then got to the bottom and didn’t see any comments. I’ll bet I’m no longer “first.”

Ekim

September 28th, 2012
8:34 pm

But then again, I could be wrong.

Doug

September 28th, 2012
8:39 pm

Chipper is the man! Keep him involved after this year however we can! I’d hate to see him in any other uniform, even as a coach or a manager.

Mitch Kumstein

September 28th, 2012
8:44 pm

True class from top to bottom. I have the ceremony DVRed and can’t wait to watch it when I get home!

DeepDiver

September 28th, 2012
8:50 pm

If Braves get knocked out in the stupid one game playoff, there is no God.

Answer this

September 28th, 2012
9:22 pm

Even JSS cant mess this up!

JSS

September 28th, 2012
9:44 pm

@ 9:22, your complexes are showing again… Do you ever know when to shut-up?

Mike Bell 790

September 28th, 2012
10:10 pm

Vampire Bill

September 28th, 2012
10:17 pm

No Glavin, Shultzie or Maddox ?

Chris

September 28th, 2012
10:29 pm

Agree with Vampire Bill…weird none of those guys spoke.

Quack Quack

September 28th, 2012
10:31 pm

#10 Chipper…..Thanks for all the memories!!

GO BRAVES!!!

Quack Quack

September 28th, 2012
10:32 pm

@Vampire Bill…Who’s Shultzie??

ylojkt

September 28th, 2012
10:34 pm

He’s saving up all of his homers for the rest of the series!

Go Chipper!

Chipper's Canker Sore

September 28th, 2012
11:08 pm

It’s a sad day in our country when a twice-divorced, uneducated white trash adulterer is honored for being paid millions of dollars year after year to play a silly kids’ game while true heroes are killed in foreign lands, buried in unmarked graves or never brought home at all. Shame on you pathetic sycophants for feeding into this sick and depraved idolatry of entertainment.

I wonder what Honey Boo-Boo child would say about this as she eats her “sketti” with ketchup and butter and anticipates her future as another teen-mother/Jabba the Hut impersonator like her own Mama.

Who Me?

September 28th, 2012
11:10 pm

Where is the power for this team going to come from next season?

Ronald Millsaps

September 28th, 2012
11:11 pm

Wow. No one from Liberty Media indeed commented at all. Folks, ownership is complete trash. Bud Selig should push these dregs to sell the team or to show some professionalism. Again, what a bunch of trash.

Congratulations, Chipper. I’m glad we got you over Todd Van Poppel. You’re welcome to return at any time, and you guys need to win this division this year. Yes; do it.

Ronald Millsaps

September 28th, 2012
11:11 pm

Missed a golden opportunity to gain ground tonight…I think Hudson should’ve been pulled. Of course, the offense should’ve done more also.

Jeff Schultz

September 28th, 2012
11:12 pm

Pretty interesting stuff from Chipper after the game. Said, “I couldn’t feel my arms. I couldn’t feel my legs.” Not every day a 40-year-old. 19-year vet admits he was an “emotional wreck” in the game. Column was updated.

DP

September 28th, 2012
11:18 pm

To the author of the pathetic 11:08 post, you are a piece of human garbage.

Braves #17 Fan

September 28th, 2012
11:23 pm

@Canker – I catch your drift to an extent. However, you bring one of those soldiers to the baseball field and stick a microphone in front of him and I guarantee you he’ll get as much, if not more applause. It’s just that we all know Chipper and we’re all wishing him well while we’ve got our baseball caps on and while we’re in baseball mode. Tomorrow, I’ll be in dad mode rooting on my daughter in soccer and not thinking at all about baseball. Like love… there’s no shortage of applause we’re capable of giving, so lighten up a bit.

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
11:24 pm

Thank You Chipper!!

hit a single

September 28th, 2012
11:34 pm

Canker- Who are you to call Chipper uneducated? So everyone that doesn’t go to college is uneducated. What about all the military that didn’t go. Are they uneducated? Yes Chipper is a hero to all of us that grew up enjoying America’s game. He has brought alot of pleasure to many of our military. Did you see the video from Afganhistan with officer Bailey thanking Chipper for the many memories. You need to get a life, or at least try enjoying it.

Really?

September 28th, 2012
11:47 pm

Poor little canker. He was never shown any love as a child or adult for that matter so he is angry at the world. He doesn’t care about our soldiers he just wants everyone to be miserable like he is.

Probably a north avenue trade school fan.

Argentina Blue

September 28th, 2012
11:49 pm

@Braves#17Fan – What is your point? It’s ALL bread and circuses for the boob herd that inhabits this doomed land…the sports “hero” worship and the military worship.

not a pitchng coach

September 28th, 2012
11:53 pm

Timmie must have left his phone in the dugout. Whomever his agent is, that would let him make this self-aggrandizing radio ad for AT&T, needs to have his “agents license” revoked. Could this person not have anticipated the outcome of tonight’s game? THe biggest night of the year,future Hall of Famer, and Mr. “Perfect” gave up a 3-run homer that cost the Braves the game. (Washington also lost, but we just wasted another opportunity to close the gap.)

We could have caught up another game on the Nat’s, but again, we blew it.

This is not encouraging.

Argentina Blue

September 28th, 2012
11:58 pm

My above comment is also a response to the “Canker Sore” poster.

drbasic1

September 29th, 2012
12:44 am

@canker

you are the canker sore….more so a dredge to society that our other heros’ have fought and died for, so you can have the freedom to spew that sh** out of your mouth….just as I can. You are pathetic!

cloudodust

September 29th, 2012
1:02 am

Maybe it was best nobody from Liberty Media got the memo….I was there and even paid for my ticket. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Now that his is behind Chipper and the Braves, they can get back to business. Too bad Hudson threw one in Doo-Da’s swing zone. Otherwise, a great nite. Kudos to Heyward for one hellava snag. Fitting the first out of the game was 5 to 3.

cloudodust

September 29th, 2012
1:09 am

Canker- As a father of a vet (101st, Iraqi Freedom) who sat in attendance with me tonight at the park : Glass houses and a pox on you…

Paddy

September 29th, 2012
3:28 am

canker………..I am a vet and your words add no meaning or represent!!!
Vets don’t feel like you do and you have no right to express that crap as a complement to our service. And I spent 23 years serving my country! Chipper is one hell of a man and a credit to the ATL.

Dr. Warren

September 29th, 2012
4:07 am

A man goes to work for one organization for nearly 20 years, and he does his job better than 99.9% of everyone who has ever attempted to do that job over the past 100 years. He is well-paid sure, but so what. Isn’t that what we all want? And as for the soldiers, they risk their lives to protect our freedom and our lifestyle. And most feel honored to do so. Baseball is the national pastime. Chipper Jones personifies all that is good about the sport. I don’t see your logic, Canker. But I do see your self-hatred.

Dr. Phil

September 29th, 2012
8:13 am

Chipper has certainly been moved by the respect he has been shown in Atlanta and elsewhere. I hope it continues into Oct.

aw

September 29th, 2012
8:47 am

Great Memories !

Kirk

September 29th, 2012
8:49 am

I get the same lump in my throat watching Chipper bow out as I do watching and thinking about our Vets’ sacrifices. Both feel the same and I don’t think that’s bad.

Go Braves!

Karen

September 29th, 2012
9:08 am

It was a great night, loved all the video tributes through the game. When Chipper took the field, you could tell he was ready for the ceremony to end and it just be baseball. He wanted the rest of his team out there, waving his hat to get them out.

Great night!

Charming Delight

September 29th, 2012
9:31 am

More hate-filled vitriol from an “unworthy” fan: Chipper Jones Night was just one more misguided distraction with the team 4 games back in the division with 6 to play . . . and how did it turn out? The LoveFest could have waited. Let the team focus on the issue at hand, catching the Nats instead of romancing Chipper. Oh, wait. They’ve made the “playoffs” already – that’s what the “Playoffs” caps say. Soon, they’ll be playing for a wild card and that means the organization’s goals have been reached already. This is not a winning organization because they won’t allow themselves to win. Focus last night should have been on gfreatly enhancing their chances for a pennant by winning the division. That was quite a cup of tea being served last night. And, whose “family” is going to Hawaii? Mom and Dad?

bitman

September 29th, 2012
9:40 am

@Charming Delight: Sometimes it’s wiser to keep your trap shut rather than open it and demonstrate to the world how lacking in wisdom and charity you really are.
@Canker: That goes double for you. Nothing better to do than bad mouth your betters.

Larry

September 29th, 2012
9:41 am

“(Nobody from the present owner, Liberty Media, made it to the stadium or in front of a camera. Maybe they didn’t get the memo.)”

Jeff,

Terry McGuirk, Chairman of the Board, and John Schuerholz, President of the Atlanta Braves were in Attendence.

When you retire, would the top brass of the AJC be sufficient or do you expect the CEO of Cox Enterprises to speak on your behalf?

Lighten up, man!

reality

September 29th, 2012
10:12 am

The nature of a “hero” is that they are whomever we say they are. There is no specific list of qualifications. Some one that has stepped up and performed when his team needs him most, whether in combat or in sports, seems a good example. Professional sports IS hypocritical and jaundiced by personal gain for performance but it allows us to cheer achievement, together, as a community. We ALL feel like winners when Chipper and the braves win even if it is for a short time. Some of us become losers again all too quickly (talking to you Canker) . So congratulations to him, he will be missed.

Charming Delight

September 29th, 2012
10:20 am

bitman, I don’t think wisdom and charity will win a pennant and I bet you don’t either. The organization brags on itself again and again yet they lack the final purpose to win. And in defense of Canker let’s hope Chipper is not his “better” in anything but baseball. Such is the stuff of heroes. I enjoy baseball and I appreciate good play but I am almost as well entertained by Bart Simpson as by Chipper Jones.

Ron

September 29th, 2012
10:25 am

I’ve been watching Chipper since day 1. What he has done during his career, and ALL for the Braves, is amazing. You can’t find his level of skill and loyalty in a single player anywhere in the recent past. As a Braves fan, you wish you could have 24 other players of the same standard.

Any you jerks get on here and bash a celebration of a grand career? Nobody is bowing and kissing his feet. They are just letting him know how much he has meant to the team and fans. He deserves no less for what he has done for this team.

I look forward to the day that, as he said, he doesn’t take the uniform off forever. Just leave the spikes in the clubhouse and coach them at the cages.

Now, let’s hope we don’t have that 1 bad inning on Oct 5th. Let’s get into the NDS and make some noise.

tootough4464

September 29th, 2012
10:40 am

Hey canker sore scum person 1108 ….save it! Cast the first stone if you havent sinned…..
In opinion Chipper Jones is Mr. Atlanta Brave, loyal to Atlanta, Chipper, Hank and Dale my favorite Braves of all time! Thanks for your dedication to the Braves fans Chipper!

Charming Delight

September 29th, 2012
10:46 am

Without change, we will get again what we have gotten before – another team celebrating on our field. At least Chipper will have been feted, though. Then, the “jerks” of us can wait until next year to see if the team sets its course differently to try and win a pennant. By the way, the old usher along first base is just as loyal as Chipper for less money.

Charming Delight

September 29th, 2012
10:52 am

I enjoy rankling the masses on here. You can wear your Chipper shirts today and let everybody know you were at the Chipper celebration last night and by the way they played a baseball game afterwards. You can recount how nostalgic and misty eyed everyone was even though the Nats were losing and the team might have focused a bit more and moved up in the standings. Never mind. They have “clinched” the playoffs according to them. We’ll see.

The Austrian Brotherhood

September 29th, 2012
11:11 am

Chipper’s Canker Sore is a statist boot-sucking bed wetting empire humping w-hore and symbolic of everything that’s wrong with this country.

Kenny Fincher

September 29th, 2012
11:13 am

Best Player to wear Braves uniform, since team came to Atlanta. Chipper us old fans since 1966 very much appreciate and will miss you every game going forward. Enjoy your retirement, Well deserved my friend.

Old Fulton County Stadium

September 29th, 2012
11:48 am

In a town that only has one World Championship in any major sport, we all should relish Chippers last trips to the plate as a first ballot hall of famer and take note that not many athletes in this city have given us something to be proud of when Atlanta professional sports are mentioned. (Henry Aaron being the first). In response to the hero discussion above, everybody can be a hero at what they do; Chipper happens to be a baseball hero. To be able to tell your grandkids one day you saw a hall of famer is nothing to be taken for granted. I saw Henry Aaron many times in the old stadium and will always remember those games with my dad taking me there. Younger fans should feel the same about Chipper. Thanks, Chipper for the memories.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
11:53 am

It was emotional.

not to change the subject, but I can’t believe no one in the AL has clinched yet. That has to be some sorta record. Where’s a stats guy when you need him.

Kevin Yang

September 29th, 2012
12:15 pm

Dum-Bass

September 29th, 2012
2:42 pm

“The last shall be first, and the first shall be last”. (Author unknown)