- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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Chipper Jones has driven in 148 runs against the New York Mets, shy only of the career RBI totals accumulated by Willie Stargell and Mike Schmidt. Jones thrived so much at the Mets' former home, he named a son "Shea" after the stadium. He even obtained a pair of seats from the old ballpark (retail $869) after it closed.
Yet Jones -- aka Larry, if you've heard the chants -- did not mind being the foil on one occasion against the Mets. Nor did his Atlanta Braves teammates.
On Sept. 21, 2001, Jones and the Braves were the opponents at Shea Stadium for the first major league game in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And when Queens native Steve Karsay served up the game-altering two-run homer to Mike Piazza in the eighth inning that lifted the Mets to a 3-2 win, Jones said he could not help but welcome the result.
Legendary manager Bobby Cox, upon his retirement last year, cited the game -- a loss -- as his favorite Mets-Braves moment.
"I didn't mind a bit," said Jones, whose Braves make their final 2011 visit to Citi Field this weekend. "I think each and every one of us will tell you if there's been one game in our entire careers that we didn't mind losing, it was that one. You just felt like divine intervention was in New York's corner that day. We didn't mind it a bit. We thought it was our duty to go out and take a city and a country's mind off something terrible that had happened. If it was up to us to go entertain people for three hours, then that was our way of giving something back."
Said his former Braves teammate John Smoltz: "It was like a game that wasn't really a game. It was a healing. It was everything it turned out to be -- great for the country, great for New York. Sports was irrelevant at that point, winning and losing. It was just an incredible day. It was surreal. And then when Piazza hit that home run, typically as a competitor you realize you're going to lose that game. But it was magical. You didn't even mind it for that moment.
"I had so much anger, I couldn't go to the site. It was just going to stir up way too much anger," Smoltz continued, referring to ground zero. "[The game] released it in a way where this is what we were doing. It was a weird week, or however long we were off. And what better place to come back and open it up than the place that was affected the most, here in New York?"
Jones, it turns out, was running out to left field to take his position in the first inning when he spotted shell casings from the pregame Marine Corps honor guard 21-gun salute. Ten years later, he still cherishes those mementoes.
"It was something that I really didn't plan on. It was just something I happened across," Jones said. "I happened to be playing left field. That's where the 21-gun salute took place. And I just happened to look down at the right time, and my first inclination was like, 'Man, that's not going to be real safe having those cartridges out here, if I come sliding in headfirst diving across a bunch of cartridges. That could be pretty dangerous.' And then it hit me that this is something I could take with me as a memento forever and have something that was part of a 9/11 ceremony.
"I guess I'm sentimental like that. It was probably my most memorable moment at Shea Stadium, probably my most memorable moment in this city. And there have been a lot of memorable moments."
Chipper Jones reflects on the one time he was happy to leave Shea a loser.