COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Chipper hit like Mickey, played a few rounds with Tiger and proved wise enough to gain intellectual praise from Mad Dog, the legendary pitcher who understood the art of pitching much like Einstein understood physics."When we would play cards before games, we would always talk baseball," Greg
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Chipper hit like Mickey, played a few rounds with Tiger and proved wise enough to gain intellectual praise from Mad Dog, the legendary pitcher who understood the art of pitching much like Einstein understood physics.
"When we would play cards before games, we would always talk baseball," Greg Maddux, aka Mad Dog. said.
"I wish I remembered the name of this pitcher, but anyhow, Chipper said, 'If this guy throws me a 1-0 changeup tonight, I'm going to take him deep.' A couple hours later, he drilled a 1-0 changeup over the left-center-field wall. Not many hitters can do that. I think I waited five more years before I saw it again, when I was playing for the Dodgers with Manny Ramirez."
Many former teammates and now fellow Hall of Famers have stories to tell about Chipper Jones, who will realize his sport's greatest honor on Sunday afternoon, when he becomes the latest product of the greatest era in the Braves' storied history to be inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Live coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network, and the program will be simulcast on MLB.com.
With Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Jones, the Braves stand as the only team in MLB history to have four teammates who were elected to the Hall of Fame after playing at least 10 years together for the same club. This will be the foursome that everyone will remember when reminiscing about Atlanta's record-setting 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and World Series championship between 1991-2005.
"We appreciated what we accomplished during that time, but in a strange way, [these inductions] have served as validation," Glavine said. "When you think about what we did together, it puts a smile on my face and gives you a sense of pride."
This weekend will provide time to celebrate the accomplishments of Jones, who stands with Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth as the only players in MLB history to hit .300, compile a .400 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage, 2,700 hits, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,600 RBIs.
Hall of Famer George Brett marveled at Jones' career from afar, and he wondered what might have happened had he taken his father's advice to become a switch-hitter at a young age. Jones heeded the urging of his father, Larry Wayne Jones Sr., who idolized Mantle and then watched his son earn his place with Mickey as one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history.
"It didn't matter who was pitching. He looked very, very comfortable in the batter's box," Brett said. "[Highly regarded former hitting coach] Charley Lau and I used to have a word -- even when I made an out or even if I struck out, he'd say, 'George, you looked hitterish, it looked like you were going to hit the dog snot out of the baseball.' Chipper Jones in my mind always looked hitterish."
Jones' ability to crush a ball extended beyond those made of rawhide and stitches. His power caught the attention of Annika Sorenstam, back when she and Tiger Woods easily stood as the world's top golfers.
Smoltz's friendship with Woods created opportunities for him and some of his teammates to play with the golfing legend during Spring Training. One afternoon, the foresome consisted of Smoltz, Jones, Woods and Sorenstam.
"I remember Annika saying she had never seen somebody hit a ball that far, but she also had never seen someone hit it to so many places," Smoltz said. "We used to marvel at how he could hit so many balls [out of bounds] and never run out of balls. It was like he had an endless supply in his bag."
This weekend will provide more opportunities to reminisce about off-the-field exploits and nearly disastrous moments like the one Jones experienced as he made his first career start at third base for the Braves on Opening Day in 1995.
Maddux was making the first start of what would become his fourth consecutive NL Cy Young Award-winning season. He ended the first inning by getting Barry Bonds to hit a popup that would have seemed quite routine had an eager Jones not collided with the veteran pitcher as first baseman Fred McGriff was securing the catch on the right side of the mound.
"I think I called him a piece of [expletive] rookie and said something like, 'You know, we have 161 more of these to play, so relax,'" Maddux said.
Fortunately, the two celebrated a World Series title at the end of that season, and they had the honor of calling each other teammates through the end of the 2003 season, when Maddux last wore an Atlanta uniform.
Now, the two can call each other fellow Hall of Famers.
"It's just cool to have another teammate go in," Maddux said. "Just to have had a chance to watch him be that steady hitter every day during the first decade of his career was pretty special."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.