ATLANTA -- As he welcomed the newest member of the Braves Hall of Fame, Chipper Jones reminisced about that Spring Training night in 1994 when he blew out his knee and then quickly learned of Terry Pendleton's ability to mix compassion with tough-love motivation."He was the one guy who took
ATLANTA -- As he welcomed the newest member of the Braves Hall of Fame, Chipper Jones reminisced about that Spring Training night in 1994 when he blew out his knee and then quickly learned of Terry Pendleton's ability to mix compassion with tough-love motivation.
"He was the one guy who took it upon himself to come and comfort me at a time when I needed it most," Jones said. "I needed to be lifted up. Here I am on the training-room table, I'm bawling and I'm crying. He took me by the hand, prayed with me, cried with me and he looked at me and said, 'Buck up, kid.'"
Whether serving as that player who fueled Atlanta's unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive division titles or the mentor who enriched the careers of Brian McCann and the organization's other stars from this century, Pendleton was a fierce competitor and highly respected leader. His contributions were honored Friday night, when he and dead-ball-era star Hugh Duffy were inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame.
"I've never been around a man who was a better leader of men," Jones said. "I've seen many, including myself, try very, very hard. I've never seen anyone do it as perfectly as TP did. We're talking about a game we play that has gigantic egos. It's hard to police a clubhouse. I tried to do it for many years. Freddie [Freeman] will tell you, I messed up many times. But I never saw Terry Pendleton mess up once."
Many current and former Braves were present for the induction ceremony, which highlighted the Chop Fest Gala, an event that celebrated last year's accomplishments and welcomed this offseason's signees -- McCann and Josh Donaldson, who both flew to Atlanta and then returned to Orlando to resume competing in a celebrity golf tournament.
"You're the man," McCann said as he pointed toward Pendleton. "I'm so happy to be here."
Pendleton spent four years (1991-94 and '96) playing for the Braves and he has spent each of the past 17 years serving as either a Major League coach or instructor within Atlanta's system. He has significantly influenced an organization that will never forget what he did during the memorable worst-to-first 1991 season that ended one win shy of a World Series title.
Historians will always recognize Pendleton that won the 1991 National League MVP Award and then finished second the following season, when the Braves made a second straight trip to the World Series. Those who saw him influence David Justice, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, Jones and countless others during the early '90s will forever remember that his MVP credentials included far more than what he provided with his glove and bat.
"Terry Pendleton's fingerprints are all over this organization," Jones said. "Starting in 1991 as a player, as a leader and as a MVP, he was the one who changed the culture around the Braves organization. He let it be known, 'Finishing in last place ain't going to work anymore, brother. We're going straight to the top.' Fourteen years later, we had 14 straight division titles."
As Pendleton accepted this honor, he thanked those Little League coaches who showed patience back when he considered himself the worst player in the league. He thanked his coaches at Fresno State, who convinced him to begin switch-hitting. He also thanked his former general manager John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox, who made him one of the Braves' top free-agent targets after the 1990 season.
Pendleton fought back some tears when he last thanked his wife Cathy, who fueled the move to Atlanta by telling her husband if he accepted the Yankees' more lucrative offer he'd be going to New York by himself. His decision was also influenced by his belief the Braves had something special brewing with the likes of Justice, Gant, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery.
But 30 years later, as he now finds himself enshrined with Hank Aaron and the Braves' other greats, he admits he never expected his move to Atlanta would prove to be this special.
"I do understand what we accomplished and what we started," Pendleton said. "It's special; it's been special. I guess the [New England] Patriots are at 10 [consecutive division titles] now and everybody is hoping they'll eventually lose. But to do 14 is something special. To be the start of that 14 is even more special."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.