- Gabriel Burns
New Braves first-ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is a hero to (and partly responsible for) a generation of Braves fans.
He understands what it’s like to be revered, and in the case of Mickey Mantle, to revere someone else.
Speaking with the media after getting the long-awaited call, Jones recalled his first time meeting Mantle, with whom he’s often compared as two of the greatest switch-hitters of all-time.
It was 1992. Then a Double-A prospect, Jones attended a baseball card show in Gwinnett County. He saw Mantle – and the grown men staring at him in awe – and couldn’t find the courage to speak.
“It’s one of the only times where I ever found myself the night before practicing how I was going to meet somebody in the mirror,” Jones said. “I literally threw up on myself when I met him. I couldn’t say a word. That’s how high a pedestal this guy was on.”
Jones clarified to the AJC’s Mark Bradley that he didn’t literally throw up, but was truly at a loss of words upon seeing a man whom he idolized.
“He had been signing for like an hour when I got there, and he stood up and he held his hand out and he said ‘Son, it’s nice to meet you” and I went,” Jones cut himself off with a throwing-up gesture. “Nothing came out. I wanted to say ‘Hello, Mr. Mantle. Nice to meet you,’ but nothing came out. It took me a little while to work up the nerve.”
The two did end up talking. Jones was fascinated by how captivated the crowd was by the Yankees Hall of Famer. He asked Mantle if being constantly adored ever gets tiring.
“How do you deal with this? How do you keep this in perspective,” Chipper remembered asking. “(Mantle) goes, ‘Son, I have a recurring dream. I’m standing at the pearly gates and God walks up. Apparently I have this worried look on my face. He says, Mickey, I’m going to let you in, but can you sign these dozen baseballs first?’”
Jones said he “died laughing.” Twenty-six years later, he can probably relate.