Chipper Jones fondly remembers his Queens love affair

Chipper Jones bats during the fifth inning in Chipper Jones bats during the fifth inning in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on Friday. (Sept. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Despite all the punishment he dished out to Mets fans over the years, Chipper Jones' favorite memory of playing in New York came on a night of healing. For all of his triumphs, the game that will resonate long into retirement ended in defeat.

For one night -- Sept. 21, 2001 -- Jones didn't mind.

"That will be a game that will be etched in my memory forever," Jones said Friday before the Braves beat the Mets, 3-0.

It was at Shea Stadium where the 40-year-old Jones bolstered his Hall of Fame credentials, hitting .313 with 19 homers, including the first of 468 in his major-league career. And it was at Shea where Jones watched as Mike Piazza hit the homer that gave the Mets a win in the first game played after the attacks of Sept. 11 -- still his fondest memory.

"We had done our jobs as baseball players to entertain people," Jones said. "But we had gone, I feel, above and beyond the normal day's work in that we owed it to the City of New York and the Northeast United States to help heal a little bit, help take people's minds off a terrible tragedy for a couple of hours."

It was just another slice of the nostalgia that Jones brought with him to begin his final visit to Flushing. He finished 0-for-4 with a throwing error, hardly a vintage performance, but the Braves didn't need one.

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The Mets were shut out for the ninth time, and for the eighth straight home game, they were held to three or fewer runs. The lineup's failings wasted a strong effort by Jonathon Niese (10-9), who allowed only a solo homer by Jason Heyward in six strong innings.

"I don't know if you can narrow it down to one thing," Mets manager Terry Collins said about his offense, which stranded 11 against starter Paul Maholm (12-9) and five relievers.

Clearly, these Mets-Braves confrontations hardly resemble the intense rivalry that Jones once dominated. Even fans offered hints that their disdain for Jones has cooled somewhat. When he was shown on the video board before the first pitch, applause drowned out what had started as a chorus of boos. Jones tipped his cap.

Though Shea is long gone, Jones' affinity for the Mets' former home lives on. Jones famously named his son Shea. Now 8, the boy has grown to understand the significance.

"Whenever a stadium flashes up on TV, he goes, 'Is that my stadium, Dad?' " Jones said.

With that in mind, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon reminded Jones of the heartache he's caused the team, then presented him a gift depicting the special venue of those moments. He gave Jones a framed rendition of Shea Stadium by 3-D pop artist Charles Fazzino.

Said Jones: "The New York experience is one like no other."

Notes & quotes: Righthander Matt Harvey will make two more starts this season, Collins said. The 23-year-old, who is bumping up against his innings limit, will take the mound one more time after facing the Nationals on Wednesday. Harvey has thrown a combined 1571/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo and the Mets . . . In his first big-league appearance since 2010, righthander Jenrry Mejia, 22, allowed a solo home run by Dan Uggla in two innings. Tommy John surgery sidelined the prospect for most of last season. Collins said Mejia will make starts for the Mets down the stretch . . . Collins gave tiring shortstop Ruben Tejada just his second full day off since June 24 . . . Centerfielder Andres Torres is day-to-day after twisting his left knee while making a running catch.

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