The Durham Bulls have another accomplishment to celebrate after winning the International League and the Triple-A National championships last season – a second former player has been selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Chipper Jones’ election to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday follows that of former Astros and Reds legend Joe Morgan, who played in Durham during the 1963 season and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1990.
Jones had a short but memorable stay in Durham. He played only 70 games for the Bulls during the 1992 season when the team was affiliated with the Atlanta Braves. His potential was apparent at the time, though.
Tony Riggsbee, who now is the PA announcer at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the Bulls, covered Jones as a radio reporter for WPTF-AM 680.
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“You could see his talent,” Riggsbee said. “He was a heralded player even before he played a game for the Bulls. I didn’t know if he was going to be a hall of famer but I thought he’d be a star.”
Riggsbee said he remembers Jones taking his pregame workouts very seriously.
“He took infield every day and he took it very seriously,” Riggsbee said. “He would go all out. He was very competitive, which great players are.”
A switch-hitter who batted .303 with 468 home runs, Jones was an eight-time All-Star third baseman during a 19-year career for the Atlanta Braves.
He was a force for most of the Atlanta teams that won 14 straight division titles – his election put another member of those Braves clubs in the Hall, along with pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz.
Joining Jones in the Class of 2018 were Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. Pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell were picked last month by a committee that considered older players and executives. It will be the largest lineup of inductees since 1955 when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance, Home Run Baker and Ray Schalk were honored.
The new members will be inducted on July 29. There are now 323 people in the Hall, including a rush of 23 elected by the BBWAA and veterans panels in the last five years.
Jones drew 97.2 percent (410 of 422) of the vote, which put him in the top 10 for the percentage of votes received. Ken Griffey Jr., who previously was the lone overall No. 1 draft picks to reach the Hall, holds the record with 99.32 percent (437 of 440).
He wasn’t the only former Bulls player on the ballot. Outfielder Andruw Jones, no relation, was on it for the first time. He was named on 7.3 percent of the ballots – far short of the required 75 percent needed for election.