Although he is still awaiting what seems like a certain call to Cooperstown, Andruw Jones will receive another coveted honor first.
The No. 25 he wore during 12 seasons playing center field for the Atlanta Braves will be retired by the team on Sept. 9.
Only nine previous Braves players, plus manager Bobby Cox, have been so honored, while Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was universally retired in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his integrating the major leagues.
“It’s a great honor getting your number retired. You don’t think about things like that while you’re playing,” said Jones, one of only five outfielders to win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves for defensive excellence.
“I’m thankful to the Braves for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love. “Being the first kid from Curaçao to have his jersey retired is also an honor. So many kids who grew up there watching me play and this will give them hope on what they can do in their careers.»
Jones will join Dale Murphy (3), Cox (6), Chipper Jones (10), Warren Spahn (21), John Smoltz (29), Greg Maddux (31), Phil Niekro (35), Eddie Mathews (41), Hank Aaron (44), and Tom Glavine (47). All but Andruw Jones and Murphy are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Support for Jones has been growing in recent elections by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
He drew 58.1% of the voting for the Class of 2023, which will have just two inductees in July: third baseman Scott Rolen, chosen by the writers, and former Braves first baseman Fred McGriff, unanimously elected by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Players panel last December.
Jones finished fourth behind Rolen (76.3%), Todd Helton (72.2%), Billy Wagner (68.1%), another former Brave. To win election, a candidate must receive at least 75% of the vote.
According to Terry McGuirk, Braves chairman of the board, that gap needs to be closed.
“Andruw Jones was one of the most dynamic, beloved players to ever wear a Braves uniform. His impact on this organization far outlives his playing days, and this number retirement is a well-deserved honor.”
A native of Curacao, Jones was a five-time All-Star whose peak season was 2005, when he hit a club-record 51 home runs and was named Sporting News Major League Player of the Year and winner of the annual Hank Aaron Award.
He finished second to Albert Pujols in voting for National League Most Valuable Player. Jones won Gold Gloves from 1998-2007, all with Atlanta, but later played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees.
With Jones in center field, Atlanta won a record 14 consecutive division titles that some insiders consider the team equivalent of Cal Ripken, Jr.’s consecutive games playing streak.
In addition, Braves pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz combined for six Cy Young Awards they might not have won without their exceptional center-fielder.
Jones played a shallow center field and was not only a master at getting a jump on the ball – sometimes moving the minute the pitch was made – but also had a powerful throwing arm atypical for his position.
He finished with 434 home runs but his .254 career batting average has delayed his election to Cooperstown even though his voting percentages have risen in recent seasons. Some writers remember him struggling with weight and personal issues during his later years.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers gave him a two-year, guaranteed $36.2 million contract after the 2007 campaign, only four players were earning more. He was released before that contract ended, on Jan. 15, 2009.
Jones is remembered fondly in Atlanta, however. Twice the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, he reached the majors at age 19 in 1996 and homered in his first two World Series at-bats against the New York Yankees, tying a record long held by Gene Tenace. But he also became the youngest man to connect in the Fall Classic, topping Mickey Mantle.
Jones later became the only player in the three-city history of the Braves franchise to have a 50-homer season. Even Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews never hit that many in one year.
The only other outfielders with 10 straight Gold Gloves are Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey, Jr. plus future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, who is not yet eligible for election [players must be retired for five years].
Jones, now 45, is the father of Druw Jones, a blue-chip outfield prospect in the farm system of the Arizona Diamondbacks.