Atlanta sports icons depart

Chipper Jones announced his retirement before the 2012 season. Jones, who turned 40 during the season, issued a statement through the team Thursday, March 22, 2012, saying he would retire after the season. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pouya Dianat)

Chipper Jones announced his retirement Thursday afternoon (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

I remember the only time I spoke to Chipper Jones like it was yesterday.

Well, it was only two summers ago. I was privileged to occasionally cover an Atlanta Braves game for my old employer, 790 The Zone. I’d get to the stadium an hour early, set up, socialize with the few people I knew in the press box, grab some food and then take in a ballgame. When the game was over, I went to the locker room to talk to a couple of players.

Before Chipper Jones tore his ACL and had to miss a large chunk of the 2010 season, I got to hear him talk baseball in one of those postgame visits from the media. It was everything you’d think it would be. It was candid. It was honest. And it was chock full of baseball knowledge.

The Braves, and Braves fans all over the planet, are definitely going to miss Chipper Jones.

Jones announced today, after more than 20 years in the Braves’ organization, that the upcoming season will be his last. He’ll leave the Braves better than they were when he arrived — he was a major piece in the most successful Braves teams of all-time. He instilled a culture of winning with a club that was so darn famous for losing.

Hopefully, he won’t be gone for long. I sincerely hope there’s a coaching role in his future, because he knows more about the game than most coaches. I fully believe that, and I fully believe that if he isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2017, there’s something very wrong with the voting process.

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Even sadder news than Chipper’s retirement came earlier in the week when sportswriting legend Furman Bisher passed away at the age of 93. Having lived through generations of sports, Bisher interviewed everyone from Ty Cobb to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson to Hank Aaron, and I strongly encourage you to read this story by Jeff Schultz when you are done reading this.

I also remember the only time I saw Bisher at a sporting event, but unlike Chipper, I was way too nervous to walk up and speak to Furman (it also wasn’t my job to interview Furman, whereas I needed to talk to Chipper to get quotes for my job).

It was like a rock star had just walked into the Georgia Tech press box during that afternoon in the fall of 2010. Furman’s here. People surrounded him immediately to say hello again, which was another reason why I didn’t approach him. People wanted to see their old friend, and it sounds like he had plenty of them.

Bisher stopped writing in 2009 — I’d say he earned his retirement, at the age of 91. And if you ever get the chance, go buy one of his books. In 93 years, the man saw a lot of sporting events and had so much knowledge about the history of sports.

Atlanta is a city with very few sports heavyweights. It isn’t easy to see the finest sports writer in the town’s history pass away, and it isn’t easy to see arguably the best Brave since Hank Aaron walk away from the game.

Luckily, for us, the legacies of Chipper Jones and Furman Bisher will be around forever.

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