Chris Allen Brown
It was a Sunday night — September 2, 2012 to be exact.
Philadelphia Phillies closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon had a history of blown saves (BS) against the Atlanta Braves. But this time … this time there was more than just a fourth BS next to Papelbon’s name in the final box score.
With the Braves trailing 7-5 with two runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Jones, a switch hitter batting from the left side of the plate against the right-handed Papelbon, drove a 95-mile-per-hour fastball nearly three-fourths up the stands in right-center field. It was the 75th win for a playoff-bound Braves team — one which would eventually be swept in three games by the Pittsburgh Pirates a month later. It was Jones’ second game-ending home run during his farewell season with the first coming in the bottom of the 11th inning in a 15-13 win against the Phillies on May 2nd.
But those weren’t the only fireworks for Atlanta during Jones’ 19-year career with the Braves.
After missing the 1994 season recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Jones launched his first career home run on May 9, 1995 en route to a 3-2 Braves win over the New York Mets. It was the first of 42 career home runs for Jones against the Mets.
Fast forward 13 years and Jones became just the third switch-hitter all-time — Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray — to hit 400 career home runs when he took Florida Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco out of the ballpark. (Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira have become the fourth and fifth members of the exclusive club since the end of Jones’ playing career.) By the end of the 2012 season, Jones had 468 career home runs, which would surpass Murray for the most by a switch-hitter in the National League.
With 8,984 at bats, Jones finished his playing career with more walks (1,512) than strikeouts (1,409). From 1995 to 2012, he recorded 12 seasons with more walks than strikeouts, including a span of six straight from 1998 to 2003. As of his election to Cooperstown, Jones remains one of just three players, who primarily played third base, to drive in more than 1,500 runs. He also hit above .300 from both sides of the plate en route to finishing his career with 2,724 hits.
With last Wednesday’s announcement of Jones joining the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, there’s no bigger satisfaction to those who follow professional baseball religiously than seeing one of the all-time greatest switch-hitters take his rightful place among the best players to ever jump over the foul line while taking the field.