By Ed Coleman
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As I watched Chipper Jones doff his cap for the final time to a mostly appreciative crowd late Sunday afternoon at CitiField, I couldn’t help but think of the late, great Del Shannon.
“Runaway” might have been the pop legend’s greatest hit, but “Hats Off To Larry” was a pretty good follow-up.
It was great to see the two protagonists in a two-decades-old drama – Met fans and Larry “Chipper” Jones – finally come to terms on a love-hate relationship that has produced some tremendous baseball moments over the years, which, truthfully, is what it’s all about.
Jones – who named one of his sons after Shea Stadium – always appreciated the competition between the Braves and the Mets, especially here in New York.
For the first 10 years or so of his career, the small-town southern kid was overwhelmed by the city, and was pretty much hotel-bus-ballpark-bus-hotel every time he visited the Big Apple. But later on, he ventured out more often, the city and its people grew on him, and he even developed a pretty good “Nu Yawk” accent.
Out of all the memorable games, the moments, was there one in particular? Well, that was easy for Jones – and probably everyone.
No one is exactly sure when the love-hate relationship actually began, but Chipper has a pretty good idea when the seeds were sown.
And that would continue for quite some time. Right up until the present, for one thing Jones is extremely pleased about – he’s having the kind of season any player would love to go out on.
It’s natural for any athlete to wonder whether the grass might be greener in some other city or region – but Chipper is eternally grateful he was, is and will remain an Atlanta Brave.
Whenever Jones has pondered the great rivalry that has existed between the North and South, the Mets and Braves, there’s a question that he’s had to consider often.
Chipper has stated often that he always has felt an obligation to carry on the Braves tradition after breaking in with Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, etc. He feels very fortunate and extremely proud to be a one-team man for his entire illustrious career, like Cal Ripken, Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn and others that preceded him. And he wouldn’t mind seeing his good friend David Wright follow in those footsteps as well.
Chipper gets it – always has – and he gets an “A +” for his career as well. And hats off to Larry – for personifying what sports and competition is all about.
C U soon
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