PITTSBURGH -- As the Chipper Jones Farewell Tour pulled in to PNC Park on Monday, it electrified the Pirates clubhouse on what otherwise would have been a dreary, dull day on the last laps of a stretch to nowhere.Lost on everyone was a sobering connection: Jones' first season in the Major Leagues (1993) was the first season of the Bucs' ongoing streak of losing seasons. It has been a long ride for both, and Jones has taken it in considerably more glory. The players and their manager all had their own memories of the likely Hall of Fame outfielder/third baseman. From contrasting perspectives, to be sure. The young Pirates, predominantly in their 20s, recalled a boyhood idol. "I think everybody in here grew up watching Chipper. I still remember getting his rookie card, and how excited I was," said reliever Jared Hughes, who was seven when he unwrapped that pack of 1993 cards. "I really hope I get to face him in this series." Hughes hasn't yet pitched to Jones. Pittsburgh's other pitchers have a smattering of history against the switch-hitter, and A.J. Burnett, who is scheduled to pitch in the final regular-season game of Jones' career on Wednesday, has probably seen too much of him: 46 at-bats, in which Jones has hit .350. Manager Clint Hurdle's memories are more haunting. "I go way back to his first Florida instructional league [in 1990]. To jump back there and remember that photo," Hurdle said, "and jump ahead to being able to write his name in the lineup for the All-Star Game in 2008. "He has made a difference in the game, and obviously in that organization. He belongs in the discussion of which players had the most iconic careers, with the likes [of] Al Kaline and Brooks Robinson. There's some beauty for me in flipping over his card and seeing Atlanta from top to bottom. It's a special card, "He's been somebody I've enjoyed watching play from afar ... he's made me cringe in the other dugout numerous times. It's another passing of an era. He has done the game well -- and the game has done him well."
In a brief pregame ceremony commemorating Jones' final playing visit to Pittsburgh, fellow All-Star Andrew McCutchen presented him with one of the specially branded bases that will be used during the series, and club president Frank Coonelly presented him with a $5,000 check to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, one of the charities close to Jones' heart.
The Last Word
"Nobody saw it coming." - Garrett Jones, on the Pirates' slide from postseason contention to finishing the 2012 season with a losing record.
The Pirates will finish this season with the second-highest attendance in club history. The 106,233 taking in the weekend series against the Reds boosted the season total to 2,040,567, and the club will surpass the Three Rivers Stadium attendances for 1990 (2.065 million) and 1991 (2.049 million). No. 1 is safe: 2.464 million in PNC Park's first season, in 2001. Pirates pitchers fanned 226 batters during September -- the highest haul for any one month in club history. But Pittsburgh's own batters struck out even more times during the month: 237. On Aug. 6, the Braves (63-46) and the Pirates (62-46) had virtually identical records. Since, the Braves went 30-20 and clinched a playoff berth, to the Bucs' 15-36.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.