They were both young and full of vigor in 1996, two guys
barely in their 20s and just starting careers full of promise.
Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter met on the field that year as the Atlanta Braves
and New Yankees played in the World Series.
They both had the talent and tools and seemed destined for greatness, but it
would have been tough for anyone to predict that they would play for the same
teams for their entire careers and that they’d be headed to the Hall of Fame.
Jones and Jeter had a longstanding mutual admiration and respect for each other
throughout their many seasons, but didn’t get to know one another other until
they played for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
That’s when they bonded, two superstars, well into their 30s, both with the
knowledge — by that time — they were Cooperstown bound. Jones was struck by
Jeter’s humility, and Jeter by Jones’ dedication and consistency.
It’s safe to say they have a mutual admiration society. Basically, they’re
“He has the world by the tail,” Jones said Tuesday before the Yankees
and Braves met at Turner Field. “He’s the captain of the Yankees. He’s won
1,000 championships and played in a World Series seemingly every year. He has
every right to have his head in the clouds, and he doesn’t. He’s probably one
of the most down to earth superstars that I’ve ever run across.”
Said Jeter: “If you watch him play, he looks like he should be playing
baseball. I don’t know, really know how to explain it. He just looks like a
baseball player. The way he carries himself. The way he runs. The way he
swings. Everything about him just defines a baseball player in my mind.”
Their names now dot baseball’s record books, not only for active players, but
also the all-time lists.
Jones will go down as one of the top switch-hitters and third basemen in
history. With 1,585 RBI, Jones will likely soon have more than any other third
baseman who’s played the game – he trails Mike Schmidt by 10 and George Brett
by 11. Jones has also been the face of
the Braves through 14 consecutive division titles and one world championship.
Meanwhile, Jeter is one of the best shortstops in history, one of 28 players with
3,000 career hits, the cornerstone of a franchise that has won five World
Series titles since he’s been there, the first coming with a win over the Jones’
Braves in ’96.
Together, they have played in 4,905 games and have 5,818 hits, all while
wearing a total of two jerseys.
Jones has been a Brave basically forever, since being drafted No. 1 in 1990.
Jeter was a first-round pick in 1992 and has worn the pinstripes ever since.
“For them to be on the same teams their whole career is pretty cool,”
Braves backup catcher David Ross said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit
to the front office to keep those guys, to keep paying them. I think that shows
a good organization when you have a staple player you can stay with and you
have new guys who can come in and say, ‘This is how the Braves do it’ or ‘This is
how the Yankees do it.’ You see how that guy carries himself throughout the day.
It helps younger players and it helps the brand of an organization.”
Jones said he was once envious of Jeter, who led the Yankees to four World
Series titles in his first five seasons in the majors. The Braves had won
in’95, but lost to the Yankees in ’96 and ’99 and haven’t been back since,
despite their long run of postseason appearances.
Jeter continued to accumulate fame, rings and endorsements while Jones grew
older quicker as injuries began to take a toll on him. Jeter passed the
3,000-hit mark last summer and has 3,169 through Tuesday; Jones, with 2,649, will
fall short before he retires at the end of this season.
“I can’t tell you the jealously throughout the beginning of my career,
that I had for DJ,” Jones said. “Once I got a chance to know him and
play with him, my view of him completely changed.
“This guy is such a great face for the game of baseball. I
put him in that Cal Ripken type of league, as far as an ambassador for the
league, an ambassador for the game, an ambassador for his team. He deserves
everything he gets. I’ve come to respect him a heck of a lot over the last 10
to 15 years. Not just for the player he is, but for the person he is.”
Jones and Jeter will meet on the field again next week, when the Braves play at
Yankee Stadium. With Jones’ impending retirement, it would be the last meeting
between Jones and Jeter, unless the Braves and Yankees face off in the World
That would be a fitting end to this long and friendly rivalry.