The last time I wrote about Chipper Jones for doing something other than contributing to the demise of the English language with his “Twitta!” account, he had just gone 5 for 5 and been selected to his final NL All-Star team.
He’s had plenty of big moments since early July and has continued to amaze Braves fans with his exploits at the grand old age of 40. And when there’s a big stage, no one comes through bigger than Jones.
So there he was again on Chipper Jones Bobblehead Night at Turner Field on Thursday night. The fans came to watch Chipper – and grab one of the 20,000 souvenirs modeled after him – and left bobbing their heads in agreement that Jones is not only one of best Braves hitters of all-time, he’s one of the best in MLB history.
They barely had time to pull the Mini-Me Chippers from the box before the real Chipper started the Braves toward a 6-0 victory over the San Diego Padres with a two-run homer to right in the first inning.
Jones then managed to propel his old body diving to his left to glove a ball and rob a hit, finishing the play with an improvised backhanded throw for a force at second.
And then in the fifth, Jones went deep again, smacking a ball that landed off the radar screen somewhere beyond the center-field fence for his 2,700th career hit.
“I was so jacked up my first at-bat, I came back in and got a drink of water and I almost spilled it all over myself because I was shaking so bad,” Jones said. “I wanted to do something special.”
This season already had been a remarkable swan song for Jones, who is defying his body and graying hair by hitting .315 with 12 home runs and 53 RBI.
His average leads the team, and this was just another of a string of memorable nights for Jones this season.
• He homered in his first game off the DL to help defeat the Astros on April 10.
• There was a three-run bomb to knock off the Brewers 7-4 in his first home game on April 15.
• Jones hit another one on his 40th birthday to beat the Dodgers on April 24.
• He hit a game-winning, 11th-inning home run to beat the Phillies 15-13 on May 2.
• He had five hits, four RBI and a stolen base on July 3, just hours after he learned he was headed to one last All-Star game.
“You always want to make a splash and bring people to their feet,” Jones said. “This is just another of a handful of games this year that have been awfully special to me.”
He’s taken two trips to the DL and enjoys a night off every now and then, like he did on Wednesday, but he has been able to provide unexpected and sometimes spectacular offense – and defense.
“I know he’s real, because I’ve touched him,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Some of the stuff that he’s done is incredible. Good for him. And he’s having fun doing it.”
And the way this season has gone for Jones, you almost expected something special on his bobblehead night. The premonition was assured right away, when the rickety Jones went “yicketty” (one of his Twitta! terms for home runs) off former teammate Jason Marquis in the first.
And just in case anybody had forgotten his skills, Jones victimized Marquis again in the fifth. If they made a Marquis bobblehead, would its head go sideways, instead of up and down? Because that’s what his did watching Jones’ two blasts.
“That old man over there is really good,” said Braves starter Kris Medlen, who was as impressive with his five-hitter. “I need a bobblehead night so I can hit a couple of home runs.”
The Braves didn’t need all the offense Jones provided, but they should have expected it. It was his night, after all.