The complete text of Chipper Jones’ Baseball Hall of Fame speech on Sunday:
How we doing? What a day. All my friends have been telling me for the last week or so: Relax, take a deep breath, you'll do just fine. My reply: You stand up here in front of 40 or 50,000 people and 60 of your favorite baseball players sitting behind you, and let me know how you do. Would like to thank the Baseball Writers for this incredible honor. I also want to thank Jane Forbes Clark, Jeff Idelson, and the entire Hall of Fame staff. Since we got the call in January, you've done nothing but make this the most unbelievable experience for the Jones family, and we thank you.
I want to start by congratulating each of the guys I'm being inducted with today. Jack Morris, one of the best big-game pitchers that I've ever seen, as we found out in Atlanta watching you and Smoltzy pitch Game 7, 1991 World Series. Tram, coming up as a shortstop, there was nothing better than watching you and ‘Sweet Lou’ Whitaker turn that double play up in Detroit. I'm sure the city of Detroit is beaming with pride today upon yours and Jack's induction. Vlad, I'm not sure you ever saw a pitch you didn't like, but, man, you always seemed to put it in play hard somewhere. You've been an inspiration to all Latin players, and it was a pleasure to watch you roam right field, brother. Trevor Hoffman, I hated facing you, bro'. Hated it. You had the most devastating changeup I've ever seen in my life. You've been a great ambassador for the city of San Diego and baseball in general. Congratulations. Jim Thome, I've got to tell the story one more time, old buddy. First time I met Jim, 1993, Richmond, Virginia. Ryan Klesko walks off a homer, as he usually did. Charlie Manuel didn't like that too much, and brought in the closer, first pitch behind Klesko, here we go, nice little donnybrook there at the diamond in Richmond, Virginia. So I go diving into the pile. Next thing I know, what can only be described as the hand of God grabs me around the throat, pins me up to the backstop netting. All I can hear is: Don't move. So thinking God had me by around the neck, naturally, I obliged.
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I did manage to glance up and see my mother and father in the third row, Mom's eyes about this big. J.T. whispered in my ear. He said, You done? I said, Yes, sir, I'm done. We've been buddies ever since. I'm glad I'm hear sharing this day with you, buddy.
You know, every person on this stage has had a group of people who believed in them from the start, whether it was before they had achieved much in baseball yet, or whether they just needed a little extra kick in the butt; that person that believed in them when the game or life had humbled them or had them down. Those are the people I want to thank here today because they are the ones responsible for me being on this stage. You all made this possible. For me, it all started in a little town of Pierson, Florida. I was just a country kid from a town with two caution lights, the self-proclaimed fern capital of the world. How do I, of all people, end up here on a stage with these iconic players, my childhood heroes, the best players in baseball history? I think, for me, it came down to being focused on a goal, never losing sight of that goal, and being surrounded by people who believed in me.
That belief started at home. My dad was a high school teacher and a coach; my mom a professional equestrian. Pops was a huge Mickey Mantle fan. Started challenging me to hit left—handed when I was only seven years old. Dad and I would watch the Saturday game of the week, then, after it was over, head out into the backyard with a piece of PVC pipe and a tennis ball. His favorite team was the Baltimore Orioles. Me, I was a die—hard Dodger. We go in the backyard and mimic the lineups. Reggie Smith came up to bat, had to hit left— handed. Same with Kenny Landreaux and Mike Scioscia. Pretty soon I took it as a challenge. I started stacking my lineup with lefties. I loved it. Little did I know my dad was planting the seeds of belief, even back then, molding me into the switch hitter, like his idol, Mickey. The rest of Pierson was a big extended family for me. I wasn't just raised by my parents. I was raised by the Hagstroms, the Abbotts, the other Joneses in Pierson, and my godfather, Pete Dunn, who was the head baseball coach at Stetson University for nearly 40 years. You all taught me discipline, respect and the value of hard work. Without even knowing it, you taught me to believe that a kid from Pierson, Florida, could make it. I wouldn't be here without you. Thank you so much.
When my parents made the tough decision entering my 10th grade year to send me to a boarding school two hours away, I learned how to stand on my own two feet. At The Bolles School, there were a whole host of lifelong friends and families that touched my life. And two men in particular were instrumental in making my dream come true - my football coach and dorm advisor, Charles Edwards, and my baseball coach, Don Suriano. Thank you both for all you and your families did for me. Thank you, Coach Suriano, for teaching me to believe that I could play the game at a new level. Thank you, Coach Edwards, for helping me realize I could make it on my own, and thank you to all my Bolles family and friends for giving me a home away from home, and thank you for being here today.
Coming out of Bolles, the Atlanta Braves did me the distinct honor of drafting me number one overall in the 1990 draft. I properly went into rookie ball and got overmatched pretty badly. It was the first time I had ever really struggled in the game of baseball. After a season in instructional ball, I got the chance to meet Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, and it could not have come at a better time for me. Pops was a roving instructor for the Braves back then, and he walked up to me and he picked up my bat, said to me, Son, I pick my teeth with bigger pieces of wood than this. He also suggested that I swing the biggest bat I could get around on 90 miles an hour, start letting the pitcher supply all the power. He looked me dead in the eye, and he said, We'll have you hitting 30 homers in no time. I thought he was crazy, but I'll be dammed if he wasn't right. I swung that heavy bat until the day I retired. To him, Frank Howard, Glen Hubbard, Grady Little, and all my Minor League coaches, thank you for helping me believe that my dream could be realized.
Four years after being drafted after a couple pretty good Minor League seasons, I came to camp in 1994 on the cusp of making the Big League roster, but it wasn't to be. Two weeks before opening day, I blew out my left knee. There were no guarantees that I would ever be the same player again. In those days, you just didn't know. But one man never stopped believing in me, never. That man was Bobby Cox. Bobby, you believed in me before I truly believed I belonged in the Big Leagues, and on Opening Day 1995, Bobby put me in the three—hole in front of Fred McGriff and David Justice. You knew hitting me in front of those two dudes would give me a lot of fastballs, and it worked. Thanks to you the big guys around me on the lineup and the pitching staff, we won the World Series in 1995. Sorry, Jim. Bobby, next to my parents, you had the biggest inﬂuence on my career of anybody. Thank you for drafting me. Thank you for never hesitating to put the bat in my hands with the game on the line, and thank you for never hesitating to believe in me. Not only did you always instill confidence in me when I needed it the most, you made our entire organization believe year after year during our 14-year run of division titles. I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone who donned a Braves uniform during your tenure. I'm so glad you were the man leading us on the field every night. Thank you, Skip. We love you.
No team was ever built on the field alone. John Schuerholz, our general manager, instilled the same kind of belief throughout our organization as Bobby did on the field, and he showed me the kind of trust you don't often see between player and general manager. He kept the lines of communication open, and not once did he let me get to a Spring Training of a free agent year without an extension in place. John, thank you for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career in one uniform. Playing in Atlanta from start to finish is something I'll always proud of and grateful for. And without the relationship you and I established, it wouldn't have been possible. Thank you. You're a Hall of Fame GM and a class act.
Bobby and John always made sure we had great mentors in the Braves clubhouse, and I wanted to thank several of mine today. Terry Pendleton, fellow third baseman, switch hitter, MVP, and a consummate pro. I want to thank this man for teaching me how to lead by example. Thank you to Fred McGriff and David Justice, our four and five hitters. Taught me so much about studying pitchers, setting up pitchers, teaching me how to hit the ball from foul pole to foul pole. Everyone has that one hitting coach in their career that they just kind of click with. For me, it was the late, great Don Baylor. I only got one year with Don in 1999. We had a little sitdown in spring training, and he convinced me that I could be just as powerful from the right side as I was from the left side. All we did that year was go out and win the National League MVP in l999. Groove, I miss you, buddy. Not a day goes by that I don't miss our rigorous cage sessions.
I would not be standing here if not for my teammates and all the winning we did with the Braves. That starts with the big three. Greg Maddux, while being the king of the practical joke, most of which I cannot recite in front of all these kids today, was to me the greatest pitcher of our era. I can't tell you how fun it was to watch you carve up a lineup every fifth day, dog.
Tom Glavine epitomized toughness, pitched on guts, guile. There is nobody more fitting to have on the mound for our crowning moment in 1995 than him. And contrary to what you hear, Glav does smile every once in a while. Look, take a picture. Might not see it again.
Then there is John Smoltz. Oh, Smoltzy, Smoltzy always pitched like his hair was on fire. Makes sense looking at him now. As an Atlanta brave, I'd like to apologize for the whole wig thing a couple years ago that was - well, that was embarrassing. Seriously, though, Smoltzy is a tremendous athlete. He can do anything he sets his mind to, whether it's starting, closing, or even making the U.S. Senior Open in golf. What's up with that 85 in the first round, though? There is nobody you'd want to have the ball in a big game more than Smoltzy. The brighter the lights, the better John Smoltz was. It was a pleasure to play behind the three of you, and it's an honor to join you, Bobby and John here in Cooperstown.
The onus of the offense had to fall on somebody. Next to myself, Andruw Jones. Druw, I hope you'll be joining us here soon. Nobody played a better centerfield than you. You've got 10 Gold Gloves to back it up. For a lot of years, pitchers had to go through the Jones boys in the three and four holes to beat us, and we took a lot of pride in that. Druw, I am so proud to call you my brother from another mother.
My support system off the field was just as important to me as the one I had on. These people helped me be a better dad, husband and son. As an only child, that was so important to me. B.B. Abbott is as close to a brother as I'll ever get. He was my next-door neighbor in Pierson. We were inseparable from the time he was five and I was three, whether we were following our dads around to hunt, fish, or we were playing whatever sport was in season. We dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues together. While it didn't work out that way, B.B., you're still one of my best friends. And since the year 2000, he's also been my agent. I couldn't be prouder of the work he's done with Jet Sports Management out of Tampa, Florida. B.B., there is nobody I trust more with my money, my family or my future. Thank you for always being there, brother.
I didn't meet my wife, Taylor, until I was 40 years old, playing my last year with the Braves in 2012, but she changed my life forever. Took me 40 years and some major imperfections in me along the way to find my true perfection. Now we've taken our two families, blended them together, and it's given me what I've been searching for my entire life, true happiness. The last six years have been the best six years of my life. Tay, you made me believe in love again. You changed me forever. I thank God for you every day. You will always be the queen of my castle, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the king of yours. I love you, boo.
Taylor is due any minute with our second boy. We decided to name him Cooper in honor of this occasion. Cooper will give us seven boys altogether, joining Cooper, Matthew, Trey, Shea, Tristan, Bryson, and Ridge. I love you all. You're my pride and joy. I want you to step away from my shadow and blaze your own trail in whatever you're passionate about. Believe in what you do, love whatever you do, and know that I love you unconditionally and will support you in whatever path you choose.
The fact that I'm standing here today is a testament to what you can do when you have parents who believe in you and inspire you to believe in yourself. Mom, Dad, you are the single biggest reason why I'm on this stage. In fact, you're all my reasons. Congratulations on just celebrating your 48th wedding anniversary. I simply could not have imagined a better support team to grow up with. Dad, you never stopped being my hitting coach, my sounding board, my golf partner, and my best friend. Mom, from day one you've been my rock, my biggest fan. You taught me how to be mentally tough, and there is not one person in the world that taught me to believe in myself more than you did. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for all both of you have done. I love you both beyond words.
I have one regret this weekend, Dad, and it's that Mickey Mantle could not be here so you could meet him. I got to meet Mickey one time. It was 1992. I had just finished up my Double-A season, and we did a card show together in Atlanta, Georgia. I was so nervous to meet him, I found myself practicing in the mirror how I was going to meet him the next day. Hey, Mick. Nice to meet you Mr. Mantle. When the time came for me to meet him, completely tongue tied. Nothing came out. Luckily, I was eventually able to carry on a conversation with him, and at one point after a half hour of sitting there and watching grown men, grown women cry, fawn over meeting this man, I got up enough courage to ask him this question. I said, Mick, you ever get tired of this? He gave me a little chuckle. He looked at me and said, Chipper, I have a recurring dream. He said, I'm standing at the Pearly Gates. I must have had a pretty worried look on my face because God walked up, looked me up and down for about 15 seconds, and He said, Don't worry, Mick, I'm going to let you in, but can you sign these dozen baseballs first? I now understand a little bit of what Mickey went through on a daily basis.
I've never considered myself to be in the same realm as Mickey, Hank, Clemente, Cal, and the other greats on this stage. These guys are baseball royalty. But I know none of us would have had the privilege of playing this game or receiving these accolades without people in the stands believing in us. For me, that's Braves Country. Atlanta Braves fans showed me almost every night what it meant to believe in something unconditionally. I want to thank Braves fans that are here today and the ones who are back home. As a player, traveling is the hardest thing to do, being away from our families and our fans. But with you, whether we were in St. Louis, Colorado, or here in New York, when I stepped out of the dugout for batting practice and saw Braves fans ten deep, sometimes stretched down to the foul pole, you made us feel like we never left home. You are the fans I imagined in my head playing in the backyard all those years ago. You're why I love coming to the plate with the game on the line, "Crazy Train" blaring in the background. And why I wanted so badly to come through for you. You have believed in me since I was an 18—year—old kid, and you were still there for me during my swan song in 2012. You cheered me on through the career highs, you stuck by me through life's lows. I will never forget that. You're the reason I never wanted to play anywhere else. I couldn't be prouder to go into the Hall of Fame today with an Atlanta A on my cap. I love you guys. Thank you.
Transcript provided by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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