Jun 28, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Fans hold up the number ten in honor of former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (not pictured) as his number is retired before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA -- The "Crazy Train" rolled into Turner Field one last time on Friday.
The famed refrain that accompanied him to the plate throughout his career with the Atlanta Braves blared through the speakers one more time. Chipper Jones, wearing a gray suit instead of the home whites, walked to the front of the platform in the middle of the field and reveled in the adoration of another standing ovation.
It was a lovefest all around. Both dugouts were lined with players who stood on the top step and applauded. Most of a near-capacity crowd arrived early to watch the ceremony, as the club officials retired the famed No. 10 that Jones wore for 19 seasons. A chant of "Chipper, Chipper, Chipper" broke out. It was that kind of night.
"He's been a Brave in his heart all his life," club president John Schuerholz said. "Now he'll be a Brave for all his life. No one else will wear No. 10."
It was another chance for the Atlanta baseball fans to say their thanks to a man who helped the team win 12 of its 14 consecutive division championships and the 1995 World Series. He already had been honored by a large crowd during a luncheon at a downtown Atlanta hotel Friday afternoon, where he was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.
"It's been an unbelievable day for the Jones family," said Jones, who was accompanied on the dais by his mother and father, as well as his four sons. "I dreamed about having my number up there. I truly believed I was going to do something special in my career."
Jones made a few brief remarks, thanking his former teammates and managers, some of the opposing players, and the fans -- those in attendance and those who listen on the radio. Jones then threw out the ceremonial first pitch (wide and inside) to former teammate Dan Uggla before getting in the back of a convertible and taking a victory lap, disappearing into the right-field corner.
An argument can be made that Jones is the second-greatest offensive player in the club's long history, exceeded only by Hank Aaron. That includes Eddie Mathews, who Jones will likely join in the Hall of Fame in five years.
"Few players have ever had such a profound influence on one franchise as Chipper Jones," Schuerholz said. "He dedicated his life to greatness on the field."
Jones was an eight-time National League All-Star who won the league's batting title in 2008 when he hit .364 and was voted N.L. MVP in 1999. Jones wound up with more career walks (1,512) than strikeouts (1,409) and is the all-time career RBI leader among players who spent the bulk of their time at third base.
"He'll be remembered as one of the greats of all time," former manager Bobby Cox said.
Jones has a special place among the game's elite switch hitters. He's the only switch hitter with a .300 career batting average and more than 300 home runs. He's third all-time with 468 homers and second all-time with 1,623 RBI. He's one of three switch hitters with 400 homers, joining Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.
"When the conversation starts with, 'Along with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray,' you know you've done something," Braves broadcaster Jim Powell said.
Above everything else is the consistency that Jones showed over his career. He had 25 or more home runs 10 times, 100 or more RBI nine times and scored 100 or more runs eight times. He never failed to hit double-digit home runs in his 18 full seasons.
"I went up there with no fear of failure," Jones said. "When the game was on the line, I wanted all the chips on my shoulders."
Jones might not have been a Brave had it not been for the hard-headed stand taken by pitcher Todd Van Poppel, who was considered by many the top prospect in the 1990 draft. Van Poppel insisted he would not sign with Atlanta and if drafted by the club would instead go to college.
So the Braves drafted and signed Jones, who had a 19-year Hall of Fame career. Van Poppel played for seven teams in a 13-year career and never won more than seven games in a season.
Jones was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame at an afternoon luncheon. His is the 10th number retired by the organization, preceded by: Warren Spahn (No. 21), Eddie Mathews (No. 41), Hank Aaron (No. 44), Phil Niekro (No. 35), Dale Murphy (No. 3), Greg Maddux (No. 31), Tom Glavine (No. 47), Bobby Cox (No. 6) and John Smoltz (No. 29).