COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Remember when Mets fans used to chant “Larry, Larry” at Chipper Jones at Shea Stadium and Jones would answer by hitting a home run?
“He loved facing the Mets,” John Smoltz said in introducing Jones as part of the Class of 2018 at the baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
“That was a little motivator to him. Not many people called him Larry. So for the whole New York crowd to be chanting at him, I think he’s like, ‘OK, you’re going there? Let me show you a few things.’ ”
Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. did not mention the Mets during his speech. His career numbers — and the fact that one of his sons is named “Shea” — spoke for themselves.
Jones hit .303 with 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs in a 19-year career, all with Atlanta. Against the Mets, he hit .309 with 49 home runs and 159 RBIs in 245 regular-season games.
In 88 games at Shea, Jones hit .313 with 55 RBIs and 19 homers, including his first in the majors in 1995 off Josias Manzanillo — the game-winner in the ninth, of course.
Jones was joined by Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris, Jim Thome and Alan Trammell as the Class of 2018. Jones gave his speech first because his wife, Taylor, is nine months pregnant, and the couple has been planning for a quick getaway if needed all weekend.
Taylor, who was in the crowd at Clark Sports Center, has a due date of Monday.
“Taylor is due any minute with our second son,” Jones said. “We decided to name him Cooper in honor of this occasion.”
Jones didn’t thank the Mets or their pitchers, but he did thank his family, former teammates and mentors. He told of how his father wanted him to be a switch hitter because his idol was Mickey Mantle.
“It goes God, Mickey and then Mom and Dad,” Jones had said Saturday. “That’s the family.’’
Jones became one of the most devastating switch hitters in baseball history. He spoke Sunday of the time he met Mantle, at a card show in Atlanta in 1992, when Jones was 20.
“I was so nervous to meet him, I found myself practicing in a mirror,” Jones said. ‘Hey, Mick, nice to meet you, Mr. Mantle.’ When the time came for me to meet him, completely tongue-tied. Nothing came out.
“Luckily, I was eventually able to carry on a conversation with him. At one point, after a half-hour of sitting there and watching grown men and grown women cry [and] fawn over meeting this man, I got up enough courage to ask him this question: I said, ‘Mick, you ever get tired of this?’ He gave me a little chuckle. He looked at me and said, ‘Chipper, I have a recurring dream. I’m standing at the pearly gates. I must’ve had a pretty worried look on my face. God walked up, looked me up and down for about 15 seconds, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, Mick. I’m going to let you in. But can you sign these dozen baseballs first?’ ”
Braves fans were well-represented in the estimated crowd of 53,000. Fifty-one Hall of Famers sat on the stage behind the six new ones.
Guerrero was introduced by Pedro Martinez and was joined by his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 19-year-old infielder is one of the top prospects in baseball, hitting .402 in Double-A for the Blue Jays’ organization. Sunday was Father’s Day in Guerrero’s native Dominican Republic. A Dominican contingent (with flags) showed up for him.
Morris and Trammell were elected by the Modern Baseball Era committee after not making it on 15 years on the writers’ ballot. Hoffman was baseball’s all-time saves leader before he was eclipsed by Mariano Rivera. Thome, the wholesome slugger who hit 612 homers in a 22-year career, gave the final speech.
First-timers Rivera and Andy Pettitte and holdover Edgar Martinez (in his 10th and final year of eligibility) lead the players on the 2019 ballot.