His last season

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig. It’s a short list of some of the greatest players baseball has ever seen. What unites them are stats: during their illustrious careers, all four recorded at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 walks, 1,500 runs, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,500 RBIs, all while hitting .300 with a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.
If you’re not a baseball fan, those numbers may seem meaningless. Basically, what they boil down to is that these guys were good — really good.
On Sept. 12, another player joined that short list: a 40-year-old third baseman who has played all 19 seasons of his career with one team — the Atlanta Braves.
Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. takes the field for the last time in a regular-season game today as the Braves and Pirates cap off the season with a regular-season-ending game in Pittsburgh. At the start of the Pittsburgh series, Pirates fans gave Jones a standing ovation as he came up to his first at bat. It’s been that way most of the season as fans of the game pay tribute to Jones’ stellar career, even as he hit yet another home run, added an RBI, or was walked to first base, yet again.
But no one hates Chipper Jones more than Mets fans.
Jones was always known as a Met-killer — never failing to somehow rout the New York Mets and bring home a win for the Braves regardless of how well the Mets played. For nearly two decades, Jones was greeted by Mets fans with the caustic, singsong chant of “Larr-ry, Larr-ry!” every time he stepped to the plate in New York.
In return, Jones would smile a cheeky grin and hit the ball out of the park, or a line drive into the gap, or do something else that would infuriate the New York fans. Jones even named his fourth son Shea in honor of the great success he had at Shea Stadium (the Mets’ former home) throughout his career.
Most remarkable was Jones’ last outing at Citi Field against the Mets. Oh, the fans still chanted “Larr-ry, Larr-ry!” but they did it while giving Jones a standing ovation — acknowledging a great player, a fierce competitor, but still razzing their biggest, baddest and best rival, a requirement of Mets fandom.
Jones always left that razzing on the field at the end of the day, chalking it up to just another part of the game. And it’s a game that will sorely miss Chipper Jones, modern-day baseball hero.