Very early this year, Chipper Jones announced he will retire at the end of the season. At the age of 40, the Brave who defined the successful run of the 14 division titles, would finally hang up the cleats. If you’ve been curious as to why I’d call a blog “The Bandwagon” and only talk about Penn State- which is not a bandwagon I jumped on but a religion I was baptized in to, well, let’s go down the rabbit hole to Atlanta.
I have been a Braves fan for about 21 years- approximately as long as the Braves have been good; getting the name of the blog now? - and Chipper has been a star for three quarters of that time. Larry Wayne Jones, Jr has an MVP to his name, came up as a shortstop, moved to third base, then to left field briefly, then back to third base to finish his career. He is a switch hitter and once took a .400 average into the month of July. This year it seems almost every day brings another stat that Chipper has accomplished in the annals of switch hitters, or players who primarily play third base, or some other stat. If you want a bunch of stats that require research- you’ll have to look elsewhere- we here at The Bandwagon are all about doing as little work as possible. In easy to research stats, however, Chipper has (as of this writing) 151 tweets.
Wait, what? Yep, let’s talk Twitter- or the twitta- as Chipper calls it. Sure, there have been some athletes who have been twitter sensations. Chad Johnson (I think that’s what his name is this week) immediately jumps to mind, Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins is probably worth the follow to read him slam twitter tough guys, and Brandon McCarthy joked about his recover via Twitter. Many young athletes have jumped on Twitter, just as many of us have, in less notable fashion. Chipper is different, as he is the antithesis of young. I am not sure if he was shamed into it, as several Braves such as relief pitcher Peter Moylan and good luck starting pitcher Kris Medlan are fan favorites in the twitterverse. Fellow Braves, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are among other teammates of Chipper that have been on Twitter. Supposedly, catcher Brian McCann secretly has twitter, but no one knows what it is.
The man Mets fans have chanted Larry at for many years, only to have him crush them at the plate, announced his presence to Braves fans on July 24. Immediately, perhaps related, perhaps not, the Braves reeled off a seven game win streak. Also, Braves fans had to learn a new language, as Chipper has channeled his inner Tolkien and, in providing his post-game recaps, began to refer to things like the road runner, #yicketty, and #mammo. And the Old Man- or Battle Ax- has not been without his own form of Twitter controversy. When he tweeted about an appointment with Doc (Halladay), manager Fredi Gonzalez (who, while not on twitter himself, has inspired a rather interesting parody account) was notified and had to call his aging star to see if there was anything he should be aware of. A few days after he began tweeting, the star had to tweet definitions of the words he was using.
Generally the Braves third baseman has settled into a simple system of providing a post-game recap after each game. He also keeps his followers up to date on when he sits out, something he does a bit more frequently than the average everyday player. Hey, he’s 40, and coming off some major injuries in the past few years. We clearly want his bat in the lineup daily, but on his farewell tour, this just isn’t possible. Generally, he takes off against right handed pitchers, which is a better situation for the left handed Juan Francisco, who serves as his primary back-up and apparently is the one known as Road Runner. Chipper’s strange twitter language has even prompted a line of T-shirts for sale in the Braves team store.
Some guys are absolutely terrible to follow on twitter, either by being boring, blowing up your timeline with useless crap, or generally being weird. Chipper is one of the best pros to follow, despite recently discovering the retweet button a couple days ago, and saturating the twitterverse by retweeting every mention of @realCJ10. He redeemed himself the following day, taking the blame for an error that led to a big inning for the Brewers. I don’t think Braves fans were blaming Chipper for the error, but he stepped forward like the leader he is.
Baseball will always be a bit of a different animal for fans. The frequency of the games means you connect on a deeper level with the players of a baseball team. You spend much more time watching them than you do for your other favorite teams. Generally, baseball games are on at least two and half hours every day. Twitter has deepened that connection between fans and players, providing an open line of communication between players and fans, outside the approximately three hours a day we spend watching the game and highlights.
On May 2, the Braves out slugged the Phillies in a comeback win that started off terribly for the Braves. A grand slam by McCann to tie the game, and a Chipper walk-off highlighted an improbable win on a random weekday night. Four months later, on September 2, Chipper did the same thing- jacking a three run shot to walk off another improbable comeback win against the Phillies. This one, however, was commemorated on Twitter, in another refreshing glance into the psyche of a first ballot Hall of Famer.
In five years (or six, whatever, depending on the count from now until he is on the ballot for the first time), Chipper Jones will be in position to live tweet his Hall of Fame speech into Cooperstown. He has spent this year being an outstanding interview, and providing great insight into the game of baseball. He provided an excellent speech to the National League All Stars. The attention paid to him by his peers was intense, and then his teammates for the day delivered, guaranteeing the National League team in the World Series will have home field advantage. He is a post-strike star, unblemished by the stink and bad taste that year left with baseball fans. Now that MLB.TV has filled the gap left from TBS no longer showing Braves game on a daily basis, the internet is becoming more pervasive, and our beloved Chipper is on board. His farewell tour has seen him given various items from bases to surfboards. As he plays his final games professionally, he has deepened the connection between Braves fans and their favorite player. He has blessed us with those two walk off shots, and has stepped up on some special nights. When the Braves got off to an atrocious offensive start, it was Chipper who kicked started the offense one night in Houston, with his parents in the crowd. Lately, the offense has begun to the similar to last September and Braves fans are looking to @RealCJ10 to carry the team on aching knees into the post season. We want, more than ever, Chipper’s final game to be a victory.