ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) -- In October 1996, the Atlanta Braves eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series. It would be the final game of Ozzie Smith’s Hall of Fame career.
The Cardinals will have the chance to exact revenge on the Braves this Friday during the NL wild-card game in Atlanta, which would mark the end of Chipper Jones’ career before he heads to Cooperstown.
Jones, 40, has been a fan favorite and a pitcher’s worst nightmare for 19 seasons in Atlanta. As one of the greatest switch-hitters of all-time, Jones has compiled a career .303 average, hit 468 home runs, played in eight All-Star games, won an MVP award and is a World Series champion.
In March, Jones announced his retirement at season’s end and began a farewell tour which passed through St. Louis in May. At the time, the Cardinals organization gave the Braves star a photo of himself swinging at Busch Stadium signed by Tony La Russa, former teammates Adam Wainwright and Rafael Furcal, and others. He also received an autographed Stan Musial jersey.
The Cardinals will have the chance to give him one more parting gift -- an early exit out of the playoffs.
It isn’t the ideal ending for Jones and the Braves, who failed to make the playoffs last season despite having a 10 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in late August. It was enough to get the Cardinals in the playoffs and win their eleventh championship.
One year later the Braves will have the chance to face the same team that capped the monumental collapse. It could have been the Braves and not the Cardinals last season. All of that won’t matter come Friday when the teams meet in a one-game battle with the winner advancing to play the Washington Nationals, the top NL team, in the National League Division Series.