AJC Best of Chipper: Memories over two decades

Braves legend Chipper Jones is set for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. This article is the first of a 10-part series that traces the career of the iconic Braves third baseman. This article appeared in a retirement tribute to Chipper in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. 

By Carroll Rogers

Staff writer

Pitcher you loved to face: Shane Reynolds. He was a hunting buddy of mine, and I think I got the most homers off him of anybody (six, second most behind seven he hit off Steve Trachsel). He tipped. Whenever he kept his glove parallel with his belt all the way through his motion he was throwing split. Whenever he changed his grip, his glove would tip up slightly and I knew fastball was coming.

Pitcher you hated to face: Kevin Brown. Lot of elbows and kneecaps coming at you. The 93-, 94-mph two-seamer, 92-mph cutter, 96-mph four-seamer and the 88-mph split will do it to you every time.

Best fastball you ever saw: The hardest pitch I think I ever saw was from Wags (Billy Wagner). It was 101.

Best curveball: Strasberger (Stephen Strasburg).

Best change-up: Trevor Hoffman.

Best slider: Kerry Wood.

Best split-finger fastball: Hideo Nomo.

Best cutter: The inventor of the cutter, Mariano Rivera.

More on Chipper Jones

» When Braves signed Chipper Jones to record bonus 
» Jones' September 1993 call-up 
» The raising of a Hall of Famer 
» Hank Aaron reflects on Chippers' career 
» Chipper and Atlanta share memorable bond

Longest home run you ever hit: It went in the third deck at Coors Field in right center, probably 470, 480 (feet). It was off (Jason) Jennings for the Rockies. (Closer to) sea level, I hit a ball off Javy Vazquez at our place just right of center field that hit the back railing behind the seats there in center field that I still think probably went 450 feet, but I never got a tale of the tape.

Most embarrassing moment: Coming in for a slow roller in Miami and throwing the guy out at first and running off the field and taking my hat and glove off and sitting down on the bench and then realizing there was only two outs. I made it all the way off the field and sat down on the bench and I looked down and (John) Smoltzie and (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine are sitting there looking at me like, "What the hell is wrong with you?" And I looked up and everybody is still out there and I was like "Oh, no."

Welcome to the big-leagues moment: My first start (in 1995), somebody popped one up and I wanted to be aggressive and take charge and was a little too aggressive and ended up running over Maddux and had to listen to him cuss and swear at me the rest of the day because apparently I frogged (kicked) him in the calf.

Proudest moment in a game, with your parents in the stands: Winning the World Series, seeking them out amongst all those people and blowing them a kiss after the game, acknowledging them right after we accomplished something that we had rehearsed for 15, 20 years. There are only three people that were there that know everything that took place. All the preparation and all the countless hours on the field, preparing me for each and every situation before it happens. Everything came to a head right then and there.

Pitcher of the "Big Three" you'd hate to face: It was always Doggie (Maddux) for me. Smoltzie was right up my alley as a hitter. And I always refused to believe that Glav could get me out, most comfortable 0-for-4 I've ever gotten. I got three hits off Doggie, 3-for-9. Granted when I faced him, he wasn't the four-time Cy Young winner. But I learned a lot from watching. I watched those guys operate for a long, long time and anybody who tells you it doesn't help you or doesn't mean anything is wrong.

What are you most proud of you've done with money you've made: That I've still got some (laughs). I've been able to give back. I've been able to help people less fortunate than myself. I have taken care of numerous family members along the way, whether it's being able to give my mom and dad avenues to be able to do things they want to do after retirement. Or take care of grandparents, whatever they may need. They gave me so much. I think it only fitting that I give something back in a time of need.

A charity you did the most with: The Chipper Jones Family Foundation, we give to a lot. 65 Roses (for cystic fibrosis) has been probably the most constant. Stetson University, with whom I'm on the board of directors for the athletic department. Boys and Girls Clubs in Florida and Georgia. Inner City Youth, we've spanned it. Camp Twin Lakes was another one.

If there's a fire in the man cave, the first thing you grab: I have a case that has 11 (autographed baseballs) of the original 13 500-home run hitters.

A pitcher from history you wish you could face: Cy Young. I want to see how hard he was throwing. I don't doubt that there were people that could throw in the low 90s back in the day, but that wasn't the norm. I'm sure that most of the pitchers who were worth their salt were the guys who were locating mid- to high-80s. In this day and age, that just ain't going to cut it. I think everybody now throws 95 to 100. I think it's harder to play now. I think the competition has been ramped up and it's not a knock but the game has evolved. Guys in their era were still the studs of their era. I wonder like everybody else how Babe Ruth would have hit if he were playing today. And I wonder how many home runs Barry Bonds would have hit back in the '20s.

Toughest lesson you've learned on the field: Staying patient. That's everybody's Achilles heel. Let the game come to you, don't try and do too much. There's cliche after cliche after cliche that you can use, but patience and staying within yourself. When your team is struggling to score runs, you can't hit a grand slam if the bases aren't loaded. That's what's great about baseball. Sometimes less is more, especially when you're hitting. (In Milwaukee) we were facing a guy throwing 95, 96 and I was talking to Freddie (Freeman) about it and I was like, "You don't swing harder. You swing easier because the easier you swing, the quicker your swing is going to be. The harder you swing, the later you're going to be, the more times you're going to miss." Sometimes it's better to go at it 90 percent than 100 percent.