Topic: "Chipper" (6)
One does not have to know very much about baseball in order to recall that the Atlanta Braves were, for a very long time, the absolute worst team in the game. The benefit of consistent ineptitude is that the worst teams get to select first when amateur players become eligible to sign with professional teams, but poor selections and injuries meant that the Braves were on a treadmill that offered hope, but little change.
One year however, something changed. The Braves were torn between a pitcher from Southern California who appeared to be the revitalization of both Dizzy Dean and Christy Mathewson, and a shortstop named Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. The pitcher, in his arrogance, stated that he had no interest in being drafted by a losing team, so he would be most pleased if the Atlanta Braves looked elsewhere. Thus opportunity came in the name of a shortstop, known then, and now forever, as "Chipper."
Chipper suffered a torn ACL soon thereafter, but surgery, and rehabilitation restored his ability, although his speed afoot notably decreased. The Braves management, most notable Manager Bobby Cox, asked "Chipper" if he wouldn't mind giving third base a try, a position which requires quickness, but puts a lot less demand on the knees. It wasn't long until he became the regular third-baseman, and it seemed to miraculously occur at the same time that the guys around him started to play a whole lot better, as a team.
Today, "Chipper" is the last player on the gallant Braves regular line-up who was a regular performer on the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves. During his tenure, the gallant Braves won 10 of their 14 consecutive league championships, a record unmatched by any professional sport, anywhere, ever.
Frodo fell in love with "Chipper" for a couple of reasons. First off, the fans in New York who attended baseball games at Shea Stadium (home of the Mets) thought they were getting his goat by chanting "Larry, Larry, Larry" whenever he strode to the batter's box. Unfortunately for them, "Larry" has hit more home runs, driven in more runs, and had the highest batting average attained by any regular opponent in Shea Stadium. He also named one of his sons "Shea." How cool is that?
The other reason has to do with Frodo's father, who died before Chipper ever made it to the big leagues. Frodo's dad loved Dale Murphy, the gentle giant who tried harder than anyone but always came up smiling. Frodo's father was very ill, but he would call Frodo and ask "What's wrong with Murphy?," seemingly every time his favorite player failed to hit three or more home runs per game. Frodo truly wishes he could've talked about "Chipper" with his dad. That would have been cool, too.
This past week, while leaping for a batted ball off the bat of a Houston Astro, Chipper fell to the earth upon his injured leg after throwing the baserunner out in a brilliant play. He had the tendon of a cadaver implanted to replace the newly-torn ACL in an operation yesterday. Recovery will take six months, so his further participation in the pennant run of the first-place gallant Braves is ended.
"Chipper" says he will come back for one more season. He is 38 years old, and no player, at age 39, has ever come back to play again after such a debilitating injury. In addition, the only manager he has ever had in the major leagues, the irrepressible Bobby Cox, has already announced his retirement upon the completion of this season. The will, and the determination of the athlete, may simply not be enough, for one more year.
P.S. That pitcher from Southern California was a "coke head" and he has been in drug rehabilitation programs for more than a dozen years.