In 30 minutes, Chipper Jones can cover a lot of ground. He’s 45 now and well past his most nimble days, so we’re talking rhetorical ground here, not actual.
Following are just a few of the sound bites from Jones’ Wednesday night news conference after his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame that deserve being heard:
Q. How about that first autograph he signed as a Hall of Famer, now that he could officially graft the initials HOF to it?
A. My dad told me about a week ago I want to have the first baseball you sign with HOF on it. So, I signed two baseballs. One to my mom – I didn’t address it “Mom,” her nickname is Blondie, that’s what I call her. And my dad’s nickname is Hawk. I put their names on them and said, ‘We Did It,’ and signed HOF ’18. A pretty special feeling.
Q. How about the battle of the walk-up tunes between incoming Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman (Hells Bells) and Jones (Crazy Train)? (An editorial aside here – I got to go with the San Diego closer’s song - it was cool every time he came in from the pen.)
A. I often said (Hoffman) had the second coolest walk-up song of anybody in baseball. As Bobby can attest, whenever Trevor came out of the bullpen and there were 80,000 people in Qualcomm Stadium (maybe a little over-estimated there) and “Hells Bells” came on, it was pretty darn intimidating to you as an opposing player.
Q. How about weighing in on whether PED users such as Barry Bonds should join him in the Hall of Fame? On this issue, Jones came down strongly – on both sides.
A. I have no problem saying that Barry Bonds was going to be a Hall of Famer whether there was cloud of suspicion or not. Same with Roger Clemens.
There have been some really, really good players come along in this era. But we were all fighting to be All-Stars, and Barry was a charter member of the Galactic All-Stars, that’s how good he was. I wouldn’t have a problem voting for Barry. Anybody who does, I completely understand. On the flip side, I get the whole PED thing, as well. I guess I’ll leave it at that.
Q. How about getting into the Hall with the 11th highest vote percentage ever, eclipsing such players as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Willie Mays?
I’m honored that I was one of the top three guys on most people’s list. A tremendous honor. I know I’m not the best player on that ballot, by any means. Until the day they lay me in the ground, I’ll say Barry Bonds was the best baseball player I ever saw don a baseball uniform. It’s unfortunate that some of the best players in our era have a cloud over them. It doesn’t change anything for me. I know this and Bobby (Cox) can attest – because I’ve seen him tear up a clubhouse in San Francisco after Barry Bonds beat us, when Bobby said we don’t let this guy beat us under any circumstance. Whenever you have that respect from other teams you’re a pretty damn good player.”
Q. How about being able to play with one franchise for the entire 19 years of a career – almost unheard of now?
A. It’s extremely gratifying to have the rapport with your boss for so long. I can honestly say it never got close to free agency. I don’t think I ever went into the spring training of a free agent year that I wasn’t re-upped. Not many people can say that. It was because I had that relationship with the city, the organization, the general manager, the manager, the players on the club. I’m extremely thankful they wanted me this long.
I never wanted to play anywhere else. I’m a Southern kid. It was one of the things that was so attractive to me when I signed with the Braves that most of their minor league affiliates are here in the Southeast. It was within driving distance for my family and then ultimately getting to play on the Superstation when I finally made it to the big leagues.
You still have to have that relationship, that give and take. Now the Braves gave an awful lot more than I gave, but there comes a time in every person’s career when you say, how much is enough? I above everything else wanted to stay competitive. I wanted this organization to stay competitive as long as I was here. So, I would do various things to help make that happen. I was happy to do it, and proud to do it.”
Q. And, for the road, how about a Mickey Mantle story? As a switch-hitter himself, Jones regarded Mantle as an almost mythic figure. When he finally met him at a card show in 1992, Jones was like any other tongue-tied fan. He did manage one exchange with The Mick, though.
A. I asked him, “Mickey does this (adulation) ever get old? How do you deal with this? How do you keep this in perspective?” He goes, “Son, I have a recurring dream. I’m standing at the pearly gates and God walks up. Apparently, I have this worried look on my face. He says, ‘Mickey, I’m going to let you in, but can you sign these dozen baseballs first?’” I died laughing when he said that.